Words and photos by Vic Widman
Camping adventures are one of my favourite kinds of getaways. Sometimes it’s the thrill of driving to the off-road, rugged location. Other times it’s the serenity of rising in a beautiful spot with not a soul in sight. Either way, there’s something deeply satisfying about camping in nature. The more hidden, the better. So here we go, in the spirit of sharing, below are my top ten secret camping spots in Australia. Keep these to yourself folks, this is just between me and you.
1. Middle Rock Camping Ground, QLD
- Where: Deepwater National Park just south of Agnes Waters.
- Facilities: Picnic tables. Toilets and cold showers are just down the road at Wreck Bay Camping Area.
Middle Rock isn’t the most hidden or the hardest to get to, but few people know of it; those who visit the coast between Bundaberg and Gladstone are generally attracted to the town of Seventeen Seventy with its gorgeous waterways and beaches.
Located 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’s tucked just 100 metres off the unsealed 4WD track that runs north-south through the national park. The best feature is the pristine unspoilt beach that you’ll wake up to. I’ve never seen anyone else on it during my visits so you’ll most likely have all to yourself. That’s my kind of coastal camp.
Book: Be sure to book ahead before your journey.
2. Hunters Gorge, QLD
- Where: Hunters Gorge, Diamantina National Park, about 400km northeast of Birdsville.
- Facilities: Drop toilet and some fireplaces.
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. The 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’, Hunters Gorge is just up the road. In real talk, it’s actually a full day’s drive from both centres through some pretty gnarly country – but it’s worth it. Smack in the middle of the vast Diamantina National Park is a camping area known as Hunters 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.
Book: You do need to book online, but I’ve never seen this place crowded.
3. Woolshed Flat Campground, NSW
- Where: Cocoparra National Park, just east of Griffith in central New South Wales.
- Facilities: Eco-toilets, fireplaces, picnic shelter and gas BBQ; and it’s free!
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. Perched just 20 kilometres east of the town of Griffith in the heart of New South Wales, Woolshed Flat Camping Ground is a stunner. The area, Cocoparra National Park, is a bird lover’s heaven; it’s not difficult to spot heaps of beautiful birds, from singing honeyeaters to eastern yellow robins. The park is also abundant with hiking trails and don’t get me started on the stars – there’s nothing better than the night’s sky in the outback.
Getting there is easy too; it’s just a few unsealed roads from the town of Griffith. It really is the perfect spot to unwind and relax, but avoid summer as it would be too hot for sure.
Book: Bookings are required. There are only six campsites available so don’t leave it too late!
4. Willandra National Park, NSW
- Where: Just west of Hillston in central New South Wales.
- Facilities: Flush toilet, showers, fireplaces and wood supplied.
Willandra campground 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.
Book: It’s only six dollars each per night and no need to book. Yay!
5. Haunted Stream, VIC
- Where: Between Dargo and Ensay, deep in Victorian High Country. It is the only clearing along the whole of the Haunted Stream (and you cross the Haunted Stream over 40 times in just 17 kilometres).
- Facilities: Shelter and picnic table.
You know what, this isn’t the best campsite I have ever stayed in, but it sure was one of the most welcome and adventurous. 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, there’s a high chance you will scratch your duco and you’ll need to do a recovery (or two). The campsite is sloping, it has no amenities other than a shelter over a table and it’s a rough walk down to the Haunted Stream to get water. But that’s all part of the fun! Grab some beers and laugh about your adventure with your mates.
Book: no bookings required.
6. Jacksons Crossing, VIC
- 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.
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 epic. It overlooks the river and a large rocky cliff that hangs over the fast-flowing waters of the Snowy River. Once again, this campsite is as much about the drive as the location itself. A good four-wheel drive is mandatory for the steep climbs on 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.
Book: no bookings required.
7. Lake Gairdner, SA
- 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.
Lake Gairdner, Australia’s third-largest salt lake, is magical; there is just something about it. If the dazzling white salt enveloped by red foothills doesn’t get you excited, the Dry Salt Lakes Races sure will. They visit every February and March for the Speed Week event, one of the only places in the world where drivers can go flat out on a salt lake. Watching them go like bats out of hell across its shimmering surface 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.
Book: no bookings required.
8. Davenport Creek, SA
- 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).
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 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 an 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.
Book: no bookings required.
9. Deep Creek, TAS
- 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.
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 a road that has you smack in the middle of this amazing coastline in the Mount William National Park. Known as Deep Creek Camping Area, it is accessible via Eddystone Lighthouse, which is constructed from the local orange-hued 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.
Book: no bookings required.
10. Sandy Blight Junction, WA
- 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.
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, 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 was time to find a camp for the evening and I entered this amazing grove of desert oaks. After 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.
Book: no bookings required. That’s the beauty of bush camping!