It’s easy to romanticise sleeping under the stars, but the practicalities of camping in the Australian wilderness often see skeptics place it in the “too hard” basket.
Between mosquitos in summer and spiders year-round, getting among nature is all too easy when it’s crawling all around you (and sometimes, over you). But that doesn’t mean you should hide out in hotel suites forever. There’s nothing quite like unzipping your tent in the morning to see the sun filtering through the trees, dew glistening on the grass and the smoky remnants of last night’s campfire wisping away in the breeze. How’s that for romantic?
Top camping spots in Australia
It’s a near-impossible task to whittle the list of Australia’s most gorgeous campgrounds down to just five, but we’ve managed to pick out a handful of our favourites. Some we love for their remote location, others for the excellent facilities available, and other simply because they’re surrounded by unspoilt Aussie wilderness.
Mount Crawford Forest, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Pitch your tent among an old pine plantation in the shadow of Mount Crawford, an hour’s drive from Adelaide. Rocky Paddock Campground features 30 camping sites with accessible toilets, as well as fire pits and picnic tables. There’s easy access to scenic hikes, such as the Heysen Trail, which is Australia’s longest dedicated walking trail and extends 1200 kilometres from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges.
Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek), Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory
Accessible only by 4WD, Tjaynera Falls is a stunning campground surrounded by natural waterfalls, towering magnetic termite mounds, inviting swimming holes and walking tracks. Located within Litchfield National Park, 90 kilometres south of Darwin, the limited-access falls offer a quiet, idyllic weekend away.
Mount Feathertop, Alpine National Park, Victoria
The views from Mount Feathertop, Victoria’s second-highest peak, are well worth the challenging hike up. Part of the Victorian Alps, Mount Feathertop is linked to nearby Mount Hotham ski resort by The Razorback, a high, narrow ridge that can be hiked. Mount Feathertop is often conquered via this 22-kilometre trail and capped off by an overnight stay at Federation Hut, where there’s access to toilets, and camping sites that sit among Snow Gums.
Turon Gates, Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales
Around 2.5 hours from Sydney, Turon Gates Mountain Retreat is splayed across 6000 acres of unspoiled wilderness, humming with native wildlife. From bushwalking to paddling the Turon River and taking a trail ride with one of the property’s horses, a stay at Turon Gates promises a totally immersive experience, whether you arrive for a traditional camping getaway, or opt for a glamping tent or rustic cabin.
Noah Beach, Cape Tribulation, Queensland
For a summer camping trip with plenty of hiking, paddling and beach-bumming, few places compare to Noah Beach. With the Great Barrier Reef on one side and the Daintree Rainforest on the other, this remote beachside campground offers outstanding walking tracks, Indigenous cultural experiences and wildlife-spotting opportunities.
Sure, you forgo a kitchen on camp, but you don’t have to miss out on your favourite meals. A cast-iron skillet works wonders over flames and a small gas cooktop does the trick, too. Grab a single-burner camp stove from Anaconda for as little as $30, then pack a small pot, shallow fry pan, pair of tongs, plus a gas bottle, and you’re good to go.
Bacon, eggs and baked beans always go down a treat. You can even have your beloved smashed avo – just toss a few pieces of sourdough on a grate over the fire.
Forget boring bread rolls and whip up gourmet toasties instead. Pick up a jaffle iron from your local camping store and go to town with winning sandwich combos. Think: chicken, brie and cranberry sauce, or avocado, cheddar and Vegemite.
Burgers, snags and steaks are camping staples, but it’s the sides that really ramp things up. Avoid soggy salads by ditching the leaves. Instead, mix up a southwest salad with corn, feta, red onion and black beans, topped with coriander and a squeeze of lemon. Or go for a pasta salad, opting for pesto or tapenade over cream, in case the heat gets to it before your campers do.
It wouldn’t be a camping trip without toasting marshmallows. But if you really want to impress your campmates, cook up a caramelised banana split. Keeping the skin on, slice open a banana, stuff it with chocolate chips and mini marshmallows, then wrap in foil and place over the fire for a minute or two. Use tongs to remove, then let it cool before digging into the gooey goodness.
Five camping essentials
Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, these foam tiles interlock neatly to line your tent. Providing a layer of insulation, they feel a whole lot more comfortable underfoot than cold tarp. Consider picking up rubber or heavy-duty EVA tiles for your camp kitchen or outdoor space, too.
Regardless of what the weatherman says, every camper should prepare for rain. Easy to set up and pin down, gazebos are your best defense against sudden downpours. As well as shielding you from the rain, they provide a handy spot to set up your camp kitchen or cards table, plus provide shade in the warmer months.
Dread pitching tents? Pop-up styles are an excellent, fuss-free option for those who want to set up camp within minutes of arriving on site. Choose higher-end brands such as Blackhole or Coleman for guaranteed quality and peace of mind.
Head torches aren’t exactly fashionable, but you’ll appreciate being hands-free when nature calls in the dead of the night. Keep nature in mind, too, when you’re shopping around, by choosing a rechargeable torch over battery operated.
Just because it’s an essential doesn’t mean it has to be basic. You’ll be the king of the campfire when you’re kicking back on a reclining camping chair, like this one from Kathmandu. It folds up flat for easy storage and transport and weighs next to nothing.
Five camping extras
The gentle swaying of a hammock instantly sends you into relaxation mode. So much so, you might ditch the tent altogether to sleep suspended in the air. Our top pick would be a hammock from Nakie Co. Not only are Nakie’s nylon double hammocks spacious, they’re made with 37 recycled plastic bottles. Their bug nets and rain tarps are particularly handy if you’re camping up north in the tropics or during rainy periods.
A worthwhile investment for picnic-lovers, these stylish tumblers keep drinks hot for up to three hours and cold for up to six, thanks to vacuum-insulated lining. The 180ml tumblers from Salt and Pepper come with sip lids, ideal when you’re on the move.
Having a jaffle iron in your arsenal will earn you serious brownie points from your camping crew. A boring sandwich becomes a delicious toastie, especially with melted cheese and a few fancy ingredients.
Fishing around the bottom of an Esky for a packet of snags only to find they’re sodden is for chumps. Pack a portable fridge and you’ll never go hungry. At the top of the range, you could spend as much as $2000, but a 14-litre fridge/freezer combo from Engel will also do the trick and only set you back $699.
Portable espresso machine
Can’t survive without your morning caffeine hit? Handpresso’s handheld espresso machine works like a bicycle pump, building up pressure to extract a smooth, creamy coffee either from a pod or ground beans. It’s lightweight, compact and slots straight into your backpack.