Everyone will have a favourite campsite; some may have a few. What is necessary to make the campsite a favourite? Many people return to the same campsite every year, some with groups and some with the family. I’ve got a couple that I keep going back to.
Easter is probably one of the biggest camping times in Australia. The weather is normally pretty good with no real extremes and it also often coincides with school holidays so it is very much a family camping trip. If you’re like me, I’ve pre-booked a campsite at my favourite campsite a year ahead. The waiting list is around seven years for a campsite at my favourite.
Yes, that was seven years. Obviously it is a favourite for those who have been going there for years and don’t want to give up their spot. Where is this highly sought-after campsite you ask? My favourite is a particular campsite at Mt Barney Lodge about an hour and a half from Brisbane. Often a favourite campsite will be one that is within a couple of hours of where you live and work.
ESCAPING THE CROWDS
There are three camping locations with facilities within 15 minutes of each other in the Mt Barney region of SE QLD and they are all full at Easter. What makes Mt Barney Lodge my favourite is that even when it is full, it doesn’t feel crowded. In fact, it feels spacious and friendly… unlike some of the others which feel crowded and a little tense with so much humanity jammed together.
Some people keep going back to them, but not everyone. If you are going to go bush, it’s nice to feel like you have some connection to the bush rather than being in the middle of a sea of tents and vehicles. Outside of Easter and a few other extremely busy times, the experience of a campsite can be totally different. The number of people around can make or break a favourite campsite.
MATES OR FAMILY OR BOTH
Who you go with will also determine your favourite spot. Going with only mates will probably reduce the need for decent bathroom facilities. If the partner and kids are coming along, bathroom facilities are pretty important. In summer a great swimming hole can replace a shower; but in cooler weather, a hot shower can be very nice.
You no doubt have a 4WD and would enjoy stretching its legs on some nice trails. Maybe you need a 4WD to get there or maybe you don’t, but there are probably some great trails nearby. Around Mt Barney it’s the latter – with a 4WD climb to the middle of some spectacular scenery. There is also a favourite trail with 14 river crossings with a pub at the end. You can of course turn the 14 crossings into 28 if you return the same way – and why wouldn’t you?
Open space is important if the kids want to ride bikes or play a bit of holiday cricket or football. All the better if they are within sight of the camp so they can have some freedom with you still being able to keep an eye on them. A creek or beach within walking distance is a big plus for a favourite camp. Even better if you can camp next to the creek and throw a fishing line in while sitting around the fire.
The ability to have a fire is important to many people. There are less and less places that allow fires if you want to camp in National Parks. Being able to feed the fire with locally collected firewood is another big plus. Sometimes though, it’s worth paying the local farmer $10 for a bag of wood.
One thing that can ruin a favourite spot is the proliferation of new fireplaces all within three metres of each other. One of my bug-bears. When people arrive, maybe check out where the current fireplaces are and then set up camp accordingly. I suspect that some people park the 4WD, set up the tent and then look for the fireplace… they will create a new one if the current fireplace isn’t in the perfect spot for them.
A SWIMMING HOLE
Creeks and swimming holes are particularly important for favourite spots. I would take a guess most people go camping in the warmer months which seem to be getting hotter each year. Being able to cool off in a swimming hole is a real bonus. In winter these can become fishing holes.
At Mt Barney Lodge we have an annual boat race down the creek. By boats, I don’t mean human-sized boats – but miniature boats made of sticks, seedpods and other natural materials. A lot of the kids (and parents) spend most of the day creating some incredibly detailed floating (not always floating) contraptions. The chairs are taken down for the 3pm regatta where most of the adults stay until sunset. A definite favourite!
THINGS TO DO
It’s important that there are things to do at your favourite spot. By things to do, I would consider sitting under shade admiring the view a favourite thing to do. It doesn’t have to be an active thing, but the kids will sleep better if you tire them out. Bushwalks to special places (often with another swimming hole) are a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. Visiting the local winery, lavender farm or local café can also add to a place being a favourite.
EVERYBODY HAS ONE
If you think of your favourite campsites, I’m sure it will have some or all of the above. Sometimes you want to find a new favourite spot. Knowing what makes up your current favourite spot will go a long way towards finding a new one.