Bush CampingA different kind of Paradise
I look out towards the 20 metre expanse that distances me from the riverbank on the other side of the Murray River. It is not as beautiful as I’d imagined. The water is a murky brown and the surface below triggers squeals of emotions as my kids (usually) steady feet give way to a muddy, quicksand like substance which have them scrambling for some kind of sure-footed security.
“It’s like quicksand Mummy!” J9 squeals as she flaps about attempting to find stable ground underneath.
“It’s kinda fun” says J11 as he succumbs and accepts the fate of his muddy feet in what is the 3rd most navigable river in the world.
This is the Murray River and this is Bush Camping at its best.
We’ve set up camp for the night amongst a forest of red gums that line its steep banks. Located approximately 20km north of Swan Hill, Nyah State Forest is the quintessential bush camping site with absolutely no facilities to rely on. It is midweek, so the place is completely deserted, yet according to comments left on ‘Wikicamps’ – this place is pretty much deserted most of the time anyway. This is where our Spinifex caravan really shows off its capabilities, although there’s part of me that wants to ditch my comfy queen-sized bed, roll out the swag and have billly tea and damper under the stars.
For me, bush camping conjures up a sense of rawness, a sense of vulnerability that makes me realise how small I am in such a dynamic world.
I love places that make me realise how tiny my problems really are….
“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live life a lot differently”
Hello again from SPINO88
So here are some of the latest stats from our travels so far as day number 81 slowly draws to a close.
Distance from home (Gold Coast, Qld): 1,812km
Total Distance travelled: 9,200km
Where are we now?
Today I find myself battling the hourly computer ‘time-out’ reminders at the local library in Berri, located in the Riverlands District of SA. My husband has bravely volunteered to take-on home-schooling duties with our two kids aged 11 and 9 back at home base (SPINO 88) which is positioned at a bush camping site known to locals and ‘Wiki Campers’ as “Martins Bend” on the Murray River (about 5km out of town).
Since my last blog (Melbourne) we’ve travelled along the Great Ocean Road, experiencing amazing weather at the Twelve Apolstles, Chai Teas and walks along the beach at Apollo Bay and a few rocky barrels at Bells Beach. After being at the receiving end of some nasty windy road carsickness we decided that it was time to head due north towards the Murray River. Along the Murray we experienced some near perfect, totally waterfront camp spots that we’d failed to experience before. Cohuna was a definite highlight but it wasn’t until we reached the secluded bush settings along the Murray that we really felt completely detached from the need to do anything but absolutely nothing…..
A Different Kind of Paradise
Since leaving the familiar security of the NSW and Victorian coastal towns we decided that it was time to experience the sights and sounds of the more quintessential Aussie ‘bush-style’ of camping. We have (after all) the perfect off road caravan to allow us to do it in ‘style’. Let’s call it “Spinifex Style” amidst the backdrop of a Burke and Wills expedition. That’s not to say that we haven’t rolled out the swag and slept under a sky full of constellations before…. yes I’ve done that numerous times before (I used to live in Winton), although admittedly…not in recent years.
For those of you who have a Spinifex – you would already know what I mean by “Spinifex Style” Having a Spinifex really does mean that you get the full experiences of bush and off-road camping pleasures without the need to brave fly infested drop toilets or shower queues on a busy Easter long weekend. You really do get to experience nature in all its glory after waking up from a queen-sized slumber in ‘dare I say it’….. Air conditioned comfort.
But it’s not just the gentle humming of the 12 volt fan that filters the night noises that makes this type of camping more bearable…..It’s way more than that.
It’s being in the bush… and experiencing nature as god intended.
It really is a different kind of paradise.
So where to next?
So you haven’t really planned your Easter long-weekend thus far… You’ve been way too busy to consider the perfect place to relax and unwind after a crazy 1st term of school or work. You didn’t quite get a chance to take a holiday over Christmas and you think you’ve left it too late to book the perfect location that will satisfy even the pickiest of holiday makers.
Your next ‘get-away-from-it-all’ break could well be in a quiet, bush retreat not too far from the hustle and bustle of the life you have now. They really do exist and according to some of the bush camp websites – they still have vacancies this Easter Long weekend.
Go on… give it a go.
After all, (along with the Spino) “nature” never really goes out of style.
Waves Campground (NSW)
Best for: Surfers, beachgoers, couples, families, shorter vans (single axle).
Address: 954 Point Plomer Road, Via Crescent Head, NSW.
“Bush Camping at its best by the sea” (Review on Trip Advisor)
Waves Campground is set amongst the bush opposite the beautiful beaches, approximately 20km south of Crescent Head, NSW. This is where you can experiences pristine camping in a comfortable way.
- Laid back friendly staff;
- Lots of wildlife;
- Food truck with awesome coffee (in summer months)
- Hot showers, shady sites and camp kitchen
- Uncrowded beaches for surfers
- Yoga classes (in holiday periods)
Why I put this on my list: I loved this place because of its laid back vibe. It was almost a little bit hippy-ish, but I don’t mean this in a negative way. People were friendly, but they also left you alone. Sites were private and shady and the surf was pumping. Would suit smaller vans, but larger vans can definitely fit into some of the sites. Expect to see lots of younger families and surfers. It’s a fun place to be and only 20km from Crescent Head. You can also test out your 4wd capabilities and drive to Port Macquarie (via beach at low tide or sandy track beyond the dunes).
Downside: you can’t book…Fly by the seat of your pants. After all, there are plenty of other places you can stay nearby if it’s full. E.g. Crescent Head or Port Macquarie. Check to see if you can take dogs. I’m not sure.
Tidal River Campground, Wilsons Promontory (VIC)
Best For: hikers, bushwalkers, photographers, surfers, families, couples, small and large Spinos.
Address: Wilsons Promontory Road, Tidal River, VIC
“Scenery to die for and amazing coast and views” (Trip Advisor Review)
Located at the end of Wilsons Promontory Rd, Tidal River is a large, well-equipped campground back behind the dunes of stunning Norman Bay, and yes there’s even some fun waves if you want to take your surfboard.
- Powered and unpowered sites (a variety of locations to choose from);
- The perfect base for a myriad of bushwalking, hikes, surfing, sanduning and photography.
- Hot showers, café and kiosk to purchase basic supplies;
- Buzzing with folks from all over the world;
- Children’s playground;
- Beautiful unspoilt beaches nearby for surfing and swimming;
- Modern amenity block with laundry facilities;
Why I put this on my list: This is such a great location if you’re planning a few days of hiking, especially if you want to tackle the 42km round trip to Australia’s most southernmost point on the Australian mainland. There is such a variety of hikes in terms of distance and level of difficulty. I can highly recommend the Mount Bishop Hike if you have kids. The 3.5km hike up the mountain is definitely worth the effort. The campground had plenty of space and lots of privacy in some areas if that’s what you’re after.
Downside: Not all sites are bushy and it’s super busy on weekends and during school holidays/long weekends. It’s definitely best to book ahead if planning to visit during these times. Another down side is that you can’t take your pooch (NP rules), but I can definitely recommend another bush camp location nearby if you don’t want to leave your dog/s behind.
Gordon Country, QLD
Best For: 4wd enthusiasts, families, large groups, couples, small and large Spinos.
Address: 2081 Inverramsey Road, Goomburra QLD
“Relaxed free to choose your own spot camping grounds amongst the trees & creeks next to the amazing Main Range NP” (Trip Advisor Review)
Located about 160km SW of Brisbane towards Warwick, Gordon Country is set amongst 4000 acres of pristine landscape. There’s plenty of space for everybody at Gordon Country, meaning that they specialize in accommodating large groups, clubs and families. There’s plenty of shady grassy spots which makes it suitable for caravans and tents alike.
- Creek frontage;
- Plenty of 4wd tracks for the off-road enthusiast ($30 fee);
- Kids adventure mecca, catching yabbies’, swimming in rockpools;
- No phone or internet so everyone is free to engage with each other rather than distracting devices; (that’s a good thing);
- Firewood available for campfires;
- Dog friendly
- Dump Point;
Why I put this on my list: To be perfectly honest, I’ve never stayed here before however, everyone I know that enjoys camping (off the beaten track) highly recommend this place as the perfect getaway. I’ve actually got this on my bucket list once I return to the Gold Coast.
Downside: Not all campsites are near facilities, so make sure that if you choose these, you’re completely self-sufficient (power, water etc). They also only have septic toilets, so don’t invite anyone who only enjoys 5 stars. The nearest hospital is quite a distance away, so make sure you bring your first aid kit.
Cooloola Recreation Reserve (Noosa North Shore)
Cooloola Recreation Reserve (Noosa North Shore)
Best For: 4wd enthusiasts, fishermen, surfers, hikers
Address: Great Sandy Resources Reserve Esplanade Road, Noosa North Shore, QLD.
Photos courtesy of Travellin Kyds
“Beach camping in a National Park is very relaxing, even though you have to take all your water and food supplies – you still come back feeling like you had double the time away than you really had” (Trip Advisor Review)
PERMIT REQUIRED: Must have a permit to camp and drive along beach. See website for permit information.
Located just north of Noosa from Tewantin, the Cooloola Coast spans from Noosa North Shore to Double Island Point, just south of Rainbow Bay. Cooloola offers camping in natural surroundings across a variety of locations from beach to riverside camping as well as designated camping areas with facilities.
- Long beaches backed by high sand dunes,
- tranquil waterways, wildflower heaths, freshwater lakes, woodlands and forests;
- Plenty of sites to choose from (beach and bush behind the dunes)
Why I put this on my list: I’ve been coming to this coastline, located north of Noosa from Tewantin for many, many years. It’s a great spot for anyone who wants to try beach camping without being too far away from major towns. There are also two great campgrounds (Teewah and Freshwater) if you’re needing a place with more facilities. Personally, I love camping just behind the dunes back from the beach. Listening to the sounds of the waves whilst going to sleep is a definite winner for me. There’s plenty of fishing, hiking and surfing once you get a bit closer to Double Island Point.
Downside: Only suitable for shorter Spinos (single axle). Larger ones just won’t handle the soft sand at higher tides (too heavy). Not all campsites are near facilities, so make sure that IF you choose these areas, you’re completely self-sufficient (power, water etc). The stretch of beach is like a highway during busy periods, so make sure children are supervised at all times and drivers stick to the speed limit at ALL times. Dogs are only allowed at designated areas.
Martins Bend Campground, BERRI, SA
Best For: fishing, camping, boating, relaxing, visiting wineries.
Address: Martin’s Bend Road, Berri, SA. TEL (08) 85822423
“A great cheap camping spot, caretaker on site. Great fishing and boating and swimming, bbqs and more on lawned areas with bush walks” (Trip Advisor Review)
Located in the Lyrup Forest Reserve on the Murray River in South Australia, Martins Bend is located around a three minute drive from the well known town of Berri. It offers all the benefits of a camping ground on a river, including swimming, fishing, and boating. The campground is unique as it is managed by a friendly caretaker who cleans the toilets, distributes firewood and ensures the smooth running of the area. Make sure you check in with him as you enter the camp ground. The maximum stay per visit is 21 days.
- Easy access, flushing toilets, dump point.
- 50 shady spots to choose from adjacent to the Murray River
- On-site Manager who keeps it tidy and safe;
- BBQ’s on the river bank and views of the Houseboats.
- Berri only 10min drive away.
- Dog friendly.
Why I put this on my list: Where else can you get flushing toilets for $5 per night? The sites were large enough to spread out and shady enough to escape the summer heat. There are also some sites without shade, depending on what time of the year you’d like to visit. Phil (the caretaker) obviously loves his job and enjoys being part of this little community at Berri. Even though he is unpaid, he truly does bring pride to the area and makes sure people feel safe and secure in a bush environment. He knows a lot about the area and would be happy to answer any questions that you may have. It’s nice and close to Berri, should you need any supplies or a cute little town to explore. There’s also plenty of wineries to visit – if that’s your thing as well.
Downside: There’s no suitable drinking water, so make sure you bring your own if planning to stay a few days. There’s only one toilet block, but it is kept clean. We were there during a quiet time, so not sure how bush it gets at other times. Due to the shady nature of the campsite, this place may be more suitable in the summer months.
I’d love for you to submit your own favourite bush camping location, especially if you live in SA,WA or NT. We’ve yet to travel through these states and hope to experience more bush camping “Spino Style”!