Spend a few nights under the stars to soak up all that Australia’s great outdoors has to offer.
By Katrina Lobley
Even if you don’t know how to pitch a tent, there’s a camping experience that’s perfect for you somewhere in Australia. Choose from glamping in the middle of Sydney Harbour or, if you’re a seasoned camper, set out on a three-day hike in the rugged Victorian countryside. Keep your eyes peeled for the resident wildlife that might hop or amble right past your tent.
North Stradbroke Island, known colloquially as Straddie, is a popular spot to camp – and for good reason. Not only is the island readily accessible from Brisbane but it’s full of natural highlights such as north-facing, sunshine-all-day surf beaches, roaming kangaroos and pretty coastal walks. Pitch your tent at Cylinder Beach Camping Ground – close to Point Lookout’s cafés, shops and restaurants – or head slightly further away to Adder Rock Camping Ground, sheltered by tea tree and pandanus forests.
Noosa is known for its charming beachside town, but trade the ocean for the everglades and you have one unforgettable camping experience. Habitat Noosa Everglades Ecocamp offers a range of accommodation including all-weather glamping tents and powered campsites. The 26-hectare (65-acre) property rests on the Noosa River and under a canopy of leafy trees, giving campers easy access to the unique nature of the Noosa Everglades. Float down the peaceful river on a canoe or cruise tour before pitching your tent under the sparkling stars of the Sunshine Coast.
Cockatoo Island – a post-industrial paradise in the middle of stunning Sydney Harbour – offers one of the world’s most unusual camping experiences. The island, formerly a colonial jail, school and naval dockyard, retains many of its historic buildings. Wander the site and spend the night. Bring your own camping gear, rent a tent or opt for a glamping package. The waterfront campground includes hot showers and a communal kitchen.
Byron Bay is one of Australia’s most beautiful beachside spots, but it can get crowded, particularly during summer and school holidays. Have a more peaceful time at Suffolk Park, seven kilometres (four miles) to the south. Suffolk Beachfront Holiday Park offers safari tents that sleep up to six people, along with spots to pitch a tent that are within earshot of the breaking surf.
Just 190 kilometres (118 miles) south of Sydney is Booderee National Park, where you can squeak your way over pure white sand. The park is home to two basic campgrounds – Green Patch and Bristol Point – that front Jervis Bay, where dolphins regularly frolic, attracted by the bay’s seagrass meadows. A third campground, Cave Beach, is set among tea trees and faces Wreck Bay.
Cooinda Camping Ground is right next to picturesque Yellow Water Billabong, one of the highlights of visiting Kakadu National Park, 150 kilometres (93 miles) southeast of Darwin. Cruise the billabong to look for crocodiles and birds. Afterwards, kick back at Cooinda Lodge’s shaded pool, bar or bistro.
Roll out a sleeping mat at the Fortress, a natural rocky overhang with views across the rugged Grampians landscape in western Victoria. The unusual camping spot is the first stop in a three-day circular hike from Harrop Track car park. Best to pack a tent for the other night on the track and remember to register your trek at the Brambuk Cultural Centre, a striking building with fluid lines that resemble a cockatoo in flight.
The island state of Tasmania is famous for its wilderness and wildlife. The critters at Springlawn in Narawntapu National Park, east of Devonport in northern Tasmania, are comfortable with campers sharing their environment. Watch the wombats nibble at the grass from up close, but don’t feed or touch them. You might also spot Tasmanian devils, Forester kangaroos and Bennetts wallabies coming out to forage, especially around dusk.
El Questro Wilderness Park, 110 kilometres (68 miles) west of Kununurra in the east Kimberley, is a vast expanse of wild, untamed landscapes. It's also home to one of Australia’s prettiest – and most unexpected – hot springs. Loll about in the palm-fringed Zebedee Springs in the morning, when it’s open to all, before returning to the Black Cockatoo Campground or to a Private Riverside Bush campsite.
Uluru is the spiritual heart of Australia. Ayers Rock Resort, 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the striking red monolith, offers a wide range of accommodation, including campsites. Pitch your tent on lush grass underneath native desert oaks. The campground includes a swimming pool, barbecues, an outdoor kitchen, and laundry facilities. Campers can catch the resort’s free shuttle to the onsite supermarket, bars, shops and restaurants.