You won’t believe you can camp with your dogs at these five camping areas.

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Dog friendly campsites

It can be tough to go camping with dogs in Australia. National parks are mainly out, and sometimes you can’t even stay at caravan parks. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave your dog at home. There are some great dog-friendly camping areas around the country – you just have to know where to look! Our favourite place to start? State forests, which generally welcome pets. Here are our top picks for a camping experience the whole family – yes, even lassie – can enjoy (and there’s even a spot in a national park).

Johanna Beach camping area, Great Otway National Park, Victoria

There’s a reason Johanna Beach is one of the most popular camping areas in Victoria – it comes pretty close to being perfect. Just off the Great Ocean Road near Johanna, the camping area is in a seriously beaut spot behind the beach, in a grassy clearing with plenty of space to spread out amidst the coastal shrub. And even though the camping area is officially a part of Great Otway National Park, you can still bring your dog. A camping area this good can (and does) get booked out, so remember to book well in advance.

Johanna Beach

Johanna Beach, Tourism Victoria

Chowilla camping area, Chowilla Game Reserve and Regional Reserve, South Australia

If you’re after a spot of relaxation with your dog at your side, you can’t do better than the camping at Chowilla Game Reserve, which protects the Murray River floodplains near Renmark. While you can’t camp alongside the Murray itself, there are sizeable creeks – all of them feeding into the Murray – throughout the park where you can set up your tent under the trees or among the river shrub. The main activity at Chowilla is relaxation, but you can also indulge in some bushwalks, a spot of wildlife watching, canoeing or angling.

Murray River

Murray River, Tourism South Australia

Alexander Bay camping area, Esperance Shire, Western Australia

Alexander Bay camping area is Lucky Bay camping area’s less famous cousin. Luckily the scenery is just as spectacular, with long, pristine white beaches and turquoise water. The campsites are just behind the beach in the shrub, so you’ll have easy access to the ocean – which is why everyone comes here, of course! The site is managed by the local council, and dogs are welcome.

Recherche Archipelago

Woody Island, Recherche Archipelago

M.V. Sarawak, Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area, Queensland

M.V. Sarawak camping area is the sort of place tourism brochures are made of. The northernmost campground in Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area, the sites here are just behind the beach. You can set up wherever you find space; most of the sites are under coastal trees and a few have views out to Fraser Island. It’s pretty basic camping, as the only facilities are toilets and fire sites. Apart from being dog-friendly, the camping area is also suitable for large groups and can be accessed by 2WD.

Inskip Peninsula

Inskip Peninsula, Tourism and Events QLD/Nick Boustead

Manning River camping area, Barrington Tops State Forest, New South Wales

You’ll find this basic camping area in the dense rainforest next to the Manning River near Henry’s Bridge. It’s a picturesque spot that looks kind of wild, almost like the sort of place a bushranger might have made his hideout. These days the site mainly attracts fishermen on the hunt for trout and four-wheel drivers – as well as people looking for an excellent spot to camp with their dogs.

Barrington Tops

Barrington Tops

Best camping along the Great Ocean Road

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Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road, Roberto Seba

The Great Ocean Road has some of the best camping areas in Victoria stretched along its length: there are campsites next to rivers, behind beaches, hidden in forest gullies, near waterfalls … And we’ve done the hard work of finding the best five camping areas along this classic route. Even though you can drive the Great Ocean Road in four hours, these camping areas will make you want to spend a week.

 

Cumberland River Holiday Park

Cumberland River Holiday Park, cumberlandriver.com.au

Cumberland River Holiday Park, Cumberland River

Just south of Lorne you’ll find Cumberland River Holiday Park, where campsites, powered and unpowered caravan sites and cabins are casually strewn alongside the Cumberland River at the base of bushy hills. The park is literally just off the Great Ocean Road, tucked in a nook behind a hairpin corner bend, on the other side of the road from the beach. The park feels a bit old-school – everything moves at a slower pace here, and it’s all about swimming, fishing and relaxing. We can’t think of anything better.

 

Koala Bear

See Koalas at Kennett River

Kennett River Holiday Park, Kennett River

Stand outside your cabin, camping or caravan site and take a deep breath. Look around and spot the koalas, or feed the native birds with birdseed you’ve purchased from the park. Think to yourself: this is the life. Kennett River Holiday Park is located just off the Great Ocean Road between Lorne and Apollo Bay, with a patrolled beach across the road. Sheltering between the mountains of the Otways, the park is orderly, well-maintained and green, with camping and caravan sites spread underneath the trees, and a few lucky cabins facing the ocean view.

 

Cape Otway Lighthouse

Cape Otway Lighthouse

Blanket Bay camping area, Great Otway National Park

Let Blanket Bay camping area wrap you in the warmth of a seriously excellent camping area. This gem is hidden on the coast in Great Otway National Park, a short drive south of Apollo Bay near the famous Cape Otway Lighthouse. The sites at Blanket Bay are shaded and generous, and you’re also allowed open fires in the allocated fireplaces. It gets so popular here you have to enter a ballot to nab a spot over Easter and Christmas; make sure you plan in advance!

 

Great Otway National Park

Great Otway National Park

Aire River camping areas

The biggest decision you have to make at Aire River, located between Cape Otway and Glenaire, is whether you’re going to camp on the east or west side of the river. At Aire River West camping area, you have a large campground with little shade, a boat ramp, and heaps of space for large groups. And it’s closer to the beach. At Aire River East camping area, you’ll find a smaller, shaded camping area with a river beach. It’s charming and quieter. Both offer excellent kayaking. You choose!

 

Johanna Beach

Johanna Beach

Johanna Beach camping area

You’re not far from the Twelve Apostles at Johanna Beach camping area, a large and grassy campground spread comfortably behind the popular surfing beach. This rustic camping area doesn’t have any facilities apart from toilets, but it’s still very popular – particularly as you can bring your dog, even though you’re in a national park.

Top 8 places to see along the Stuart Highway

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Stuart Highway

Stuart Highway, FROSAT & Singing Bowl Media

It’s a long, long, long, long way from Darwin to Adelaide along Australia’s most famous stretch of road, the Stuart Highway, which travels around 3000 kilometres through the country’s hottest and most isolated country. But don’t worry, there’s way more to see out here than just road trains and the sun – here’s our pick of the top eight places to stop at along the Stuart Highway.

Berry Springs Nature Park, Northern Territory

Berry Springs Nature Park is just 50 kilometres out of Darwin and 10 kilometres off the Stuart Highway. Even though you probably won’t need to cool down at this stage of the journey, you won’t be able to resist this lush oasis, which looks like someone’s dream of the Top End. There are three pools here, all fed by crystal-clear spring water with a distinctive hazy light blue colour, surrounded by verdant and overgrown greenery. Always look for croc warning signs before jumping in.

Berry Springs

Berry Springs

 

Bitter Springs, Elsey National Park, Northern Territory

Ease away the cares of the road at Bitter Springs thermal pools in Elsey National Park, where the water is consistently 32 degrees Celsius. The setting is idyllic, the pools surrounded by ferns and overlooked by trees. If you hire a floatation device, you can drift with the current from the main pool to the secondary pool – it’s a seriously chill way to travel. Just over four hours’ drive south of Darwin, the springs are few kilometres down a side road off the Stuart Highway near the Roper River. Don’t swim here in the wet season – crocodiles have been known to enjoy a thermal dip or two.

Tip: the more famous thermal springs at Mataranka, which are consistently 35 degrees Celsius, are just up the road.

Bitter Springs, Elsey National Park

Bitter Springs, Elsey National Park

 

Daly Waters Pub, Daly Waters, Northern Territory

Daly Waters Pub would be a welcome sight even if it wasn’t famous. Six hours from Darwin, but only two hours from Mataranka, the pub has been pouring beers since 1893 – although it’s perhaps more for famous for the bras and thongs lining the walls of the pub than for its history. This is a classic outback pub, and a drink here is a relief from the outback heat. You can also stay the night (a good idea if you plan on having a few beers).

Daly Waters Pub, NT

Daly Waters Pub, Kieran Murphy

 

Wycliffe Well, Northern Territory

The self-described UFO capital of Australia, the town of Wycliffe Wells is pretty much just a caravan park with a service station on the stretch of highway between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, around 13 hours’ drive from Darwin. Its isolated location makes it the perfect location for UFOs sightings, which are alleged to occur every night. Apart from that, the surprisingly green caravan park is a nice place to stay for a night or two.

Wycliffe Well

Wycliffe Well

 

Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve, Northern Territory

A few kilometres down the road from Wycliffe Well you’ll hit a remarkable geological formation – massive granite boulders strewn across the ground and delicately balanced on top of each other. These are the Devils Marbles, or Karlu Karlu in the local Aboriginal language. While there are more interesting stories about how these rocks got there, the formations are a result of erosion. Don’t miss sunrise or sunset; the normal beige colour of the rocks can transform into hues of red, orange and pink.

Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve (Karlu Karlu)

Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve (Karlu Karlu)

 

Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Welcome to Alice Springs, the halfway point of your drive at a mere 16 hours from Darwin. This is the heart of the Red Centre, an outback town that’s a cultural (and a bit of a hippie) outpost, originally founded as a telegraph station. There’s so much to do here, from a visit to Alice Springs Desert Park to hiking the West MacDonnell Ranges – or even just an opportunity to have some well-deserved good coffee.

Alice Springs, Kieran Murphy

Alice Springs, Kieran Murphy

 

Coober Pedy, South Australia

We’ve over the border now in South Australia, and it’s been a journey to get here – seven hours from Alice Springs. A popular tourist destination, Coober Pedy has kept its soul as a working opal-mining town, with interesting characters and interesting attractions. The town gets so hot, most people have built their homes underground; don’t miss a night at the unique underground motel. You can visit an opal mine or even try mining yourself (you’ll need a permit).

Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy, SATC

 

Port Augusta, South Australia

Even if you didn’t strike opal at Coober Pedy, you’ll still be able to afford a few roadside oysters at Port Augusta, five hours further south. Situated between a mountain and a natural harbour, Port Augusta is charmingly positioned for a major transport hub. It’s only three hours’ from here until Adelaide, but if you haven’t had enough time behind the wheel, take a detour into the spectacularly beautiful Flinders Ranges.

Port Augusta, Wadlata Outback Centre

Port Augusta, Wadlata Outback Centre

Top 5 free camping areas in Australia

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Broken River camping area

The best things in life are free – and that includes camping. That’s right, we’ve scoured the country to bring you the best free campsites, from a beach just off the Nullarbor to a riverbank in Victoria. With prices (and views) like these, you’ll never want to leave.

 

Blue Waterholes Campground, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW

This campsite is wild and beautiful, situated in a part of Kosciusko National Park not many people make the trek (or drive) to see. There’s plenty of space, and you can sit back and admire the mountain views from your chair, or make the short pilgrimage to the charming waterhole that gives the campground its name.

Landscape scenics of Blue Lake, Kosciuszko National Park, Snowy Mountains

Landscape scenics of Blue Lake, Kosciuszko National Park

 

Woods Point camping area, Snowy River, VIC

Take a road back in time to the Woods Point camping area, located on the banks of the Snowy River. As you look out over the river and the surrounding forests from your campsite, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d travelled back 200 years or so – that is, if you ignore the picnic tables, barbecues and toilets. It’s an idyllic spot.

Snowy River, Gippsland

Snowy River, Gippsland

 

Davenport Creek camping area, Ceduna, South Australia

If the conditions are right, you can camp right on the beach at Davenport Creek, where you’ll have the best view money can’t buy out on to the Great Australian Bight. Of course, this spot for self-sufficient campers isn’t really about the view – it’s about the best fishing and surfing in the state. Camping is free, except for the toll you might have to pay to the midges that come out in droves.

Ceduna

Ceduna by Momama3564

 

Cosy Corner camping area, Bay of Fires Conservation Area, Tasmania

The view from Cosy Corner camping area over the turquoise water, lichen-covered rocks and white sand of the Bay of Fires is priceless. Luckily, you won’t have to pay a cent for the best seats – or campsite – in the house. Bring your own everything, as pit toilets are the only facilities.

Bay of Fires by Klouf87

Bay of Fires by Klouf87

 

Mambi Island camping area, Ord River, Western Australia

Mambi Island camping area is 45 kilometres north of Kununurra in the Kimberley, which is deep outback territory. The campsites are spread out under the paperbark trees on the banks of the Ord River, but don’t camp too close to the water – this is croc territory. Another one for self-sufficient campers, Mambi Island draws campers for the excellent fishing.

Ord River, near Kununurra Web, Lanai Scarr

Ord River, near Kununurra Web, Lanai Scarr

Top 7 hidden spots in Australia, as nominated by you and selected by us

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We asked you to tell us Australia’s best hidden places and you delivered, revealing all your favourite spots from a waterhole in Mount Isa to a lookout hidden in a state forest. And while we understand you probably want to keep them hidden, we thought they were just too good not to share – sorry!

 

Nundle, NSW

Nominated by Paula, Nundle is a place of big scenery and big charm at the foot of the Great Dividing Range. The town is on the southern end of the Fossickers Way, 56 kilometres north of Tamworth. Like many other towns, Nundle started life as a gold rush village, but now settles for less flashy attractions, like the historic buildings, the old mill (which is still working) and the great local food. You can’t miss a trip up to the nearby mining village of Hanging Rock, which has second-to-none views over the valley.

nundle new south wales

Nundle Woollen Mill, NSW

 

Cactus Beach, SA

Rumour has it that Cactus Beach got its name after a surfer was disappointed by the conditions – but he must have come on a bad day. Mich nominated Cactus Beach because it has some of the best breaks in the country (apparently Kelly Slater has been known to visit). Just south of Penong on the Nullarbor Plain, Cactus Beach is also somewhat notorious for shark attacks, so we wouldn’t blame you if you’d prefer to watch the action from the wildly beautiful beach.

Cactus Beach, SA

Cactus Beach, Tourism South Australia

 

Meelup Beach, WA

If you’re after calmer waters, you can’t do better than Meelup Beach near Dunsborough in Western Australia, which was nominated by Daisy. We don’t know why this beach isn’t as famous as, say, Whitehaven Beach – it has turquoise water and pristine sand too! It’s also family friendly, as the protected beach makes the conditions perfect for paddling with the kids. Go there before everyone else cottons on.

Meelup Beach, Dunsborough

Meelup Beach, Dunsborough, Neal Pritchard Photography

 

Tnorala (Gosses Bluff), NT

The West MacDonnell Ranges are full of hidden waterholes and majestic vistas, but it doesn’t get more majestic than Tnorala (Gosses Bluff). Nominated by Luke, Tnorala was formed when a 600-metre-wide crater smashed into the Earth more than 14 billion years ago, and it’s one of the most significant crater impact sites in the world. The site also has cultural significance for the West Arrernte people, who manage the site jointly with Parks and Wildlife NT.

 Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve

Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve

 

Josephine Falls, QLD

We all need to thank Yuliya for letting us in on the local secret that is Josephine Falls. Found in Wooroonooran National Park around 74 kilometres south of Cairns, these waterfalls are so picturesque they’ve featured in advertisements (okay, so maybe the locals have let a few other people in on the secret). The water tumbles over granite boulders, and there are multiple swimming holes and even a natural waterslide!

Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls by Tripadvisor user B1ackthesun

 

Little Blue Lake, TAS

Australia is full of blue lakes, found everywhere from Mount Gambier to Kosciuszko National Park. And while the Little Blue Lake between Derby and Gladstone in Tasmania might not be as well known as its siblings, it is just as spectacular, as Sarah pointed out. Little Blue Lake started out as a tin-mining hole, but when the mine shut down, the hole was filled with water. It’s all those minerals on the bottom of the lake that provide its gem-like hue. As there are so many minerals in the water, it’s seriously recommended you don’t take a dip.

Little Blue Lake by Chards5

Little Blue Lake by Tripadvisor user Chards5

 

Darling River Run, NSW

So, you’ve travelled the Great Ocean Road, tackled the Alpine Way and even made it across the Nullarbor Plain. Where to next? Why not drive the Darling River Run, as suggested by Phil? This road takes you deep into the NSW outback, travelling the 730 kilometres between Walgett in northern NSW down to Wentworth on the Victorian border. The drive isn’t just about the Darling River views – you’ll also travel through classic outback towns like Bourke, Broken Hill and Menindee. Don’t miss the detour into Mungo National Park.

Darling River

Darling River