Let’s just keep this between us, eh? Dex wants me to write about my 10 best campsites that no-one knows about. There goes the serenity! So I thought I would just list them off and say nothing else… at least that way my best-kept secrets would stay that way. What’s that, Dex? Yes of course I still want to be a correspondent for Unsealed 4X4. No need to get all uppity… So here we go, keep these places to yourselves folks. This is just between me and you.
Middle Rock Camping Ground, Qld
This campsite isn’t the most hidden or the hardest to get to, but few people will know of it and even those who visit the coast between Bundaberg and Gladstone are generally attracted to the town of Seventeen Seventy with its gorgeous waterways and beaches. Found just south of Agnes Waters in the Deepwater National Park, Middle Rock Camping Ground is small (in fact three campers would crowd it) but it’s generally empty. It is tucked just 100 metres off the unsealed 4WD track that runs north-south through the National Park. The best feature is that just 100 metres over your shoulder is one of the most unspoilt beaches in Queensland which you will have all to yourself. I’ve never seen anyone else on it during my visits… my kind of coastal camp.
Where: In Deepwater National Park just south of Agnes Waters. Campsites do need to be booked.
Facilities: None; shady and sandy campsites only; toilets and cold showers just down the road at Wreck Bay Camping Area.
More info: https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/deepwater/about.html
Hunter Gorge, Diamantina National Park, Qld
We all yearn to explore our remote Outback. When you do, finding a great camping spot can be tricky. After all we all want level ground, a little firewood around, a water view would be nice, and plenty of space in case someone else does lob in just as you sit back to crack the first tinny. Reality is, such places in the Outback are few and far between – especially if you’re way out west around Birdsville and Bedourie. But I’ve got just the spot for you. In ‘country speak’ it is just up the road. It is actually a full day’s drive from both centres through some pretty harsh country. Smack in the middle of the vast Diamantina National Park is a camping area known as Hunter Gorge which ticks all of the above boxes. The view over the large billabong with its birdlife is reason alone to put this one on your bucket list.
Where: Hunter Gorge, Diamantina National Park, about 400km north-east of Birdsville.
Facilities: Drop toilet and some fireplaces; don’t go if wet or you’ll be there for a week.
More info: http://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/diamantina/about.html
You do need to book online, but I’ve never seen the place crowded.
Cocoparra National Park, NSW
I stumbled across this delightful spot a couple of years ago when I took my new 200 Series out on its first shake-down run. Found just 20km east of the town of Griffith in the heart of New South Wales, this camping ground at Woolshed Flat is a stunner. Apart from an abundance of level, large campsites there is even a covered picnic table with gas BBQs, eco toilets and heaps of wildlife and birds to keep you company. Getting there is easy too: Just a few unsealed roads from the town of Griffith. It is just the perfect spot to unwind and relax, but avoid summer as it would be too hot for sure.
Where: Just east of Griffith in central New South Wales.
Facilities: Eco toilets, fireplaces, picnic shelter and gas BBQ; and it’s free!
More info: https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/Cocoparra-National-Park
Willandra National Park, NSW
This is a personal favourite of mine and if I’m heading out west for any trip this is usually my first port of call outside Sydney. It provides one of the best shaded camping areas in Outback New South Wales amidst one of the most desolate landscapes imaginable. Driving west of Hillston the country is dead flat, and by the end of a long day’s drive you do begin to wonder how you will ever find a decent campsite – let alone a ripper like this one. But the National Parks service has done a great job of not only preserving the famous Willandra homestead and its shearing shed but openly inviting people to visit with the provision of a fabulous camping area under the only trees seen for hours… right beside the historic Willandra Homestead. Check it out on your next trip out west.
Where: Just west of Hillston in central New South Wales.
Facilities: Flush toilet, showers, fireplaces and wood supplied; and it’s only $6 each per night and no need to book. Yay!
More info: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/willandra-national-park
Haunted Stream, Vic
You know what, this isn’t the best campsite I have ever stayed in… but it sure was one of the most welcome. In this case it’s all about the journey and not the destination. The Haunted Stream Track is an absolute cracker – it demands low-range high-clearance 4WD, and it makes you work hard to cover its short 17 kilometres (it took us several hours) and as a result not many people venture in here. Oh yes, you will scratch your duco and you’ll probably need to do a recovery or two. The campsite is sloping, it has no amenities other than a shelter over a table, it’s a rough walk down to the Haunted Stream to get water… but it’s a great spot to camp after the drive in and to talk over your adventures with your mates.
Where: Between Dargo and Ensay, deep in the Victorian High Country.
Facilities: Shelter and picnic table, but it is the only clearing along the whole of the Haunted Stream (and you cross the Haunted Stream over 40 times in just 17km).
More info: https://www.facebook.com/DELWPGippsland/posts/929668367107282
Check here before you go, as the track is due for some urgent maintenance.
Jacksons Crossing, Snowy River, Vic
After a few failed attempts to get to the area thanks to floods, I recently returned to Jacksons Crossing and finally managed to cross the mighty Snowy and explore the campsites around here. The actual camping area on the edge of the river is a little rough and small, but its outlook is fabulous across the river to a large rocky cliff overhanging the fast-flowing waters of the Snowy River. Once again this campsite is as much about the drive into it as the location itself. A well set-up fourby is mandatory for the steep climbs either side of the river. It’s not a well known area and a visit mid-week will almost guarantee you have the place to yourself.
Where: North-east of Buchan in the Gippsland area of Victoria.
Facilities: None at the riverside camping area, but up the hill on the north side of the river there is another clearing which is larger and has fireplaces (although it hasn’t got the views across the river).
More info: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/snowy-river-national-park
Lake Gairdner, SA
A vast salt lake that sometimes has a millimetre of water across it and at other times is a blistering white furnace of reflected heat seems like an odd thing to get excited about – but I haven’t yet had a bad day or night camped beside Lake Gairdner. There is something about it, the third-largest salt lake in Australia and home to the Dry Salt Lakes Racers who visit here every March to go like bats out of hell across its shimmering surface, which just keeps drawing me back. The campsite on the western side of the lake just off the Kingoonya road is free too; and it provides some shade trees and plenty of firewood just a short walk from this amazing landscape. Do yourself a favour and walk out onto the lake’s surface late at night… lie on your back and stare into the universe.
Where: Drive west of Port Augusta past Mt Ive Station and turn right onto the Kingoonya road, look for the Lake Gairdner National Park sign on your right.
Facilities: None; but a large, reasonably level campground scattered amongst low trees on red earth ground just metres from the awe-inspiring salt lake.
More info: https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Eyre_Peninsula/lake-gairdner-national-park#about
Davenport Creek, SA
One of the best beach camps in the country is just west of Ceduna at a place called Davenport Creek. Drive out past Denial Bay around the edge of the Tourville Bay until you reach the small car park with the ocean on your right and the still waters of the mangrove-lined Davenport Creek on your left. Drop your tyre pressures and follow the wheel tracks ahead of you into the vast sand dunes that make this place magic. If you can manage the soft sand you will eventually come to a small camp complete with eco toilet. The fishing in the creek or off the beach in the raging swells of the Southern Ocean is sublime, as is the sand driving in the giant sand dunes or out on the very tip of Point Peter.
Where: Drive west of Ceduna just a couple of kilometres and follow the road to Davenport Creek.
Facilities: There is an eco toilet around a sand dune from the low flat sand clearing that makes up the campsite. No firewood nearby, so bring your own with you (along with your water).
More info: http://www.ceduna.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=530
Deep Creek, Bay of Fires, Tas
A few months ago I did something that is very out of character for me, a dedicated four-wheel driver: I undertook a three-day walk down the coast of Tasmania through the area known as the Bay of Fires. Apart from reinforcing why I prefer to drive rather than walk (my feet are still recovering), I stumbled across a delightful camping spot accessible by road that has you smack in the middle of this amazing coastline. Known as Deep Creek Camping Area it is accessible via Eddystone Lighthouse, which is constructed from the local granite that has made the Bay of Fires so attractive. The campsite is on the shores of Deep Creek, a wide tannin-coloured waterway that empties into the Tasman Sea just minutes from your tent.
Where: Located about an hour’s drive north-east of Launceston; make your way to the community of Gladstone where you hit the gravel roads that lead to Ansons Bay and Eddystone Lighthouse.
Facilities: There’s a drop toilet and six campsites scattered along Deep Creek, with a water bore pump just near the access track to the beach.
More info: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=3622
Sandy Blight Junction, WA
Western Australia is our largest State so I had to squeeze in one of my favourite campsites from this beautiful part of our country. If (like me) you are fascinated by the large stands of beautiful Desert Oak trees that are found in a small band across our harsh interior, you will understand why I have nominated this spot. It isn’t an official campsite at all. In fact I was simply driving up the long and winding Sandy Blight Junction road when it came time to find a camp for the evening and I entered this amazing grove of Desert Oaks… so about 100 kilometres north of the Great Central Road I found a small clearing amongst these beautiful trees and enjoyed an amazing night under the star-filled sky with the wind sighing through the Desert Oak needles. Try it for yourself, the serenity is top-shelf.
Where: Drive up the Sandy Blight Junction road in Western Australia from the Great Central Road. Look for any clearing amongst the Desert Oaks and you will have a memorable camp.
Facilities: Absolutely none. The only way to really bush camp.
More info: http://www.outbacktravelaustralia.com.au/destinations-travel-destinations/sandy-blight-junction-road-june-2015