The best short walks near Melbourne.

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Cape Schanck walk on the Mornington Peninsula, Melanie Ball

Cape Schanck walk on the Mornington Peninsula, Melanie Ball

Going on a hike doesn’t always mean strapping on hiking boots, mega backpacks and ten litres of water – there are short walks near Melbourne that showcase some of the best scenery in Victoria without requiring the skills of an Everest mountaineer. Here are our picks for the top five walks near Melbourne, from Melanie Ball’s Top Walks in Victoria.

Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula

This 8km, 3-hour walk of moderate difficulty gives hikers an unbeatable package deal of beach and cliff walks, wildflowers and birds, interesting history and remarkable geology on a visit to one of Australia’s most spectacularly sited lighthouses. Beginning in Cape Schanck Lighthouse carpark, you’re on the cliffs for much of this scenic walk to Bushrangers Bay.

For more info on Cape Schanck, purchase the PDF of the walk here.

You Yangs, Western Plains

The You Yangs is the strange looking set of mountains that rise abruptly out of the plains between Melbourne and Geelong. It takes 2–3 hours to complete the moderately difficult 7.1km loop track to the pinnacle which will give spectacular panoramas of plains, Melbourne’s skyline, Port Phillip Bay and the peninsulas. It’s recommended for new bushwalkers, families and other hikers.

For more info on the You Yangs walk, purchase the PDF here.

Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

Pink granite cliffs, mutton-bird rookeries, wild-ride surf and safe swimming; the many wonders of Cape Woolamai, on Phillip Island, are revealed on this easy and stunning 9.2km coastal loop.

Hanging Rock, central Victoria

This fun short walk promises rugged, labyrinthine rock formations, sweeping views and more than a touch of mystery – this is the rock made famous by the Picnic at Hanging Rock, where schoolgirls disappeared at the rock and where never seen again. Hopefully that won’t happen to you; the walk should be only be around 2 hours long.

For more info on the Hanging Rock walk, purchase the PDF here.  

The Great Ocean Walk from Aire River to Johanna Beach

Arguably the best day walk in Victoria, this 14km, 6-hour walk means you’ll be able to really appreciate the incredible views of unpredictable ocean and tranquil river, surf beach and honeycombed cliffs, tall forest and flower embroidered heath, this wonderful walk shows off the Great Ocean Walk’s diversity of landscapes and flora.

Best free campsites in Tasmania.

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Cockle Creek camping area, Kerryn Burgess

Cockle Creek camping area, Kerryn Burgess

Tasmania, Australia’s smallest state, punches above its weight when it comes to good camping and especially free camping. You can camp everywhere from national parks to beaches to forests – and all for free free free!

Apsley Waterhole camping area, Douglas–Apsley National Park

As you swim in the Apsley River swimming hole near your free campsite in Douglas–Apsley National Park, you’ll ask yourself: does life get any better than this?

Boltons Green camping area, Southwest National Park

Boltons Green is the end of the road in Southwest National Park – from here it’s all walking tracks and endless ocean vistas. You need to get a permit for this camping area.

Dago Point camping area, Lake Sorrell

Set on the shaded banks of Lake Sorrell, camping doesn’t get much better than this. And since fishing is banned, it doesn’t get as crowded as you’d expect.

Green Point camping area, Marrawah

Water, water everywhere at Green Point camping area. This unprotected camping area (bring a strong tent!) overlooks the wild and beautiful Southern Ocean.

Hastings Forest Picnic Area camping area, Southern Forests

You might expect a free camping area to be ugly, with bad facilities and nothing to do. Well, may we introduce you to Hastings Forest Picnic Area camping area, which is nestled beside Esperance River on soft, mossy ground with toilets and all the activities you could want nearby?

Lake Barrington West camping area, Lake Barrington

Come here for the angling (permits required) and stay for the views and peace and quiet.

 

 

 

The best free campsites in New South Wales.

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Ingar Waterhole camping area, Kerryn Burgess

Ingar Waterhole camping area, Kerryn Burgess

If you want to camp for free, don’t look past New South Wales. New South Wales now has more free campsites than any other state … and more than that, these campsites are good.

Bendeela Recreation Area, Kangaroo Valley

This campsite in the Kangaroo Valley is a hidden and picturesque gem! The sites are on a large, shady area next to the river.

Big River camping area, Goulburn River National Par

This campsite rocks. Set among rocks above the Goulburn River, you’re only a hop, skip and a leap away from some great swimming holes.

Blackbird Flat Reserve camping area, Macleay River Public Recreation Reserve

Free, dog-friendly, spacious camping next to a river in summer? Count us in.

Bodalla Forest Park, Bodalla State Forest

The perfect stop off the Princes Highway, this picnic spot also doubles as a shady and spacious camping area.

Coachwood camping area, Chichester State Forest

We like Coachwood camping area so much we almost don’t want to tell you about it. This pretty-as-a-picture campsite is next to a river in Chichester State Forest, which neighbours the magical Barrington Tops National Park.

Daisy Plains Huts, Carrai National Park

These remote huts are left unlocked for campers to use. It might not be ‘proper’ camping with a roof over your head, but as you wake up to the black cockatoos squawking in the eucalypts, you won’t care so much about those pesky details.

Frying Pan Creek camping area, Chichester State Forest

On the other side of the Telegherry River to Coachwood camping area, this picturesque campsite is justifiably popular.

Glen Davis camping area, Glen Davis

It’s a campsite with a view – and then some! This free camping area overlooks the beautiful Capertee Valley in the Blue Mountains.

Ingar Campground, Blue Mountains National Park

What makes Ingar camping area so good? It’s near Wentworth Falls AND a swimming hole, has toilets and easily accessible walking tracks. There are only eight sites though, so if you snooze on the morning you’re meant to leave, you may lose out on a spot.

Jacob’s River camping area, Kosciuszko National Park

Only a short drive from Jindabyne, Jacob’s River camping area gives you more than enough reasons to visit the alpine area in summer. It’s an attractive camping area set next to Jacob’s River. While away the time swimming and fishing.

Manning River camping area, Barrington Tops State Forest

Cool down by camping on the banks of the Manning River under the temperate rainforest. The fishing’s not bad, either.

Newtons Crossing camping area, Yambulla State Forest

There are only five sites, but chances are people will overlook this lovely inland spot in favour of a place on the beach. Their loss – situated next to the river in the midst of the forest, Newtons Crossing camping area is a winner.

Paddys River Flats camping area, Tumbarumba

You’ll fall in love with this simple camping area near Paddys Falls, where you can swim, fish or go bushwalking.

Pindari Dam camping area, Pindari Dam

You don’t have to pay to camp here, but you’ll probably enjoy this small, casual camping area with its view over the dam so much you’ll be happy dropping a few coins into the donation box.

The Pines camping area, Olney State Forest

Give us a campsite among the pine trees at Olney State Forest, with good facilities and lots of shade.

Rocky River Fossicking Area camping area, Uralla

You’ll strike gold at this free campsite – maybe even literally! You can hire fossicking equipment at the visitors centre. Otherwise you can just relax at the shaded campsite and cool down in the swimming holes in the river.

 

 

Best rest areas around Australia

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Highway, Tourism Australia

Highway, Tourism Australia

Have you ever planned to stop at a rest area, taken one look at the facilities, and just decided to drive on?

A good rest area can make a long drive that much smoother (and a bad one can add a few more rocks to the road). That’s why we asked Paul Smedley, author of Budget Rest Areas around Australia – which lists all of the rest areas along major highways in Australia – to nominate his favourite places to stop along Australia’s highways.

So whether you want to stop and stretch your legs or save a few dollars by staying the night (if permitted) these rest areas are always worth a stop.

Sea Lake park area, Calder Highway, Victoria

Near new, well designed and very well maintained, this rest area is at the entrance to the caravan park – but you won’t have to pay a cent. While you can’t stay here overnight, there are toilets, showers, barbecues, water, picnic tables, as well as being dog friendly.

Highly recommended in Victoria: Greenhill Lake camp area, Plantation camp area, Genoa rest area and Minyip rest area

Mundoonan rest area, Hume Highway, New South Wales

This rest area on the southbound side of the highway is matched by a twin area on the northbound side. Both are excellent, with toilets, drinking water, barbecues and shade. You can stay overnight for free. We’re not sure what it is about the rest area on the southbound side – but it’s slightly better than its twin, luckily for the people travelling towards Melbourne.

Highly recommended in New South Wales: Gol Gol park area, Ardlethan park area, Kempsey park area, Diamond Head camping area, Mulligans Hut camping area and Wallabadah rest area

Waikerie park area, Sturt Highway, South Australia

A picture-perfect rest area on the banks of the Murray River, this rest area is overflowing with facilities. But don’t worry, the facilities themselves aren’t overflowing, with clean toilets, showers, picnic areas, a playground and caravan access.

Highly recommended for South Australia: Port Neil park areas, Wilpena Pound camping area and Mambray Creek camping area.

Ellendale Pool camping area, Brand Highway, Western Australia

Ellendale Pool camping area is 27 kilometres from the highway, so it’s only worth the drive if you’re planning to stay overnight. It’s a scenic spot next to a pool, with showers, toilets, shade, picnic tables, barbecues and disabled access. There’s a small fee to stay here.

Highly recommended: Big Brook Dam park area, Walpole park area and Shannon camping area.

Berry Springs park area, Northern Territory

This is Paul Smedley’s favourite spot for a short break that usually lasts for hours. Around 10 kilometres west of the highway, the park area is in Berry Springs Nature Park, so you can take a dip as well as use the facilities (the creek can be shut to swimmers in the wet season).

Highly recommended in Northern Territory: Lake Mary Ann park area, Wangi Falls camping area in Litchfield National Park (another Smedley favourite), Edith Falls camp area (near Katherine).

Scottsdale rest area, Tasman Highway, Tasmania

Scottsdale has the most facilities of all of the rest areas on this list, as this site is a dump point, along with the regular facilities of toilets, showers, picnic tables and water. The setting is also pleasant.

Highly recommended in Tasmania: Swansea park area, Hellyer Gorge and Sisters Beach rest areas, Fortescue Bay camp area in Tasman National Park.

Seaford camping area, Bruce Highway, Queensland

Queensland takes the prize for most rest/park/camp areas with great facilities. But Seaforth camping area is among the best of the best. This is an official campground, so you have to pay to stay here. But we think you’ll agree that the facilities are worth it, with toilets, picnic areas, shade, showers, caravan access and drinking water.

Highly recommended in Queensland: Theodore camping area, Bramston Beach camping area, Bluewater rest area and Rollingstone rest area.

 

 

The best free, no-bookings campsites in Australia.

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Babinda Boulders camping area, Kerryn Burgess

Babinda Boulders camping area, Tourism Queensland

Treat yourself to summer holidays accommodation that won’t even come close to breaking the bank with our list of free, no-bookings campsites across Australia (although you’ll find most camping areas down south).

And Victorians, you haven’t missed out. Even though Parks Victoria has introduced bookings and fees for many of their previously free campsites, the good news is that we’ve found plenty of other free campsites in Victoria (and around the rest of the country, of course!).

New South Wales

Mungo Brush camping area, Kerryn Burgess

Mungo Brush camping area, Bernard Schmitz

Bendeela Recreation Area, Kangaroo Valley

This campsite in the Kangaroo Valley is a hidden and picturesque gem! The sites are on a large, shady area next to the river.

Big River camping area, Goulburn River National Park

This campsite rocks. Set above the Goulburn River, you’re only a hop, skip and a leap away from some great swimming holes.

Blackbird Flat Reserve camping area, Macleay River Public Recreation Reserve 

Free, dog-friendly, spacious camping next to a river in summer? Count us in.

Bodalla Forest Park, Bodalla State Forest

The perfect stop off the Princes Highway, this picnic spot also doubles as a shady and spacious camping area.

Coachwood camping area, Chichester State Forest

We like Coachwood camping area so much we almost don’t want to tell you about it. This pretty-as-a-picture campsite is next to a river in Chichester State Forest, which neighbours the magical Barrington Tops National Park.

Daisy Plains Huts, Carrai National Park

These remote huts are left unlocked for campers to use. It might not be ‘proper’ camping with a roof over your head, but as you wake up to the black cockatoos squawking in the eucalypts, you won’t care so much about those pesky details.

Frying Pan Creek camping area, Chichester State Forest

On the other side of the Telegherry River to Coachwood camping area, this picturesque campsite is justifiably popular.

Glen Davis camping area, Glen Davis

It’s a campsite with a view – and then some! This free camping area overlooks the beautiful Capertee Valley in the Blue Mountains.

Ingar Campground, Blue Mountains National Park

What makes Ingar camping area so good? It’s near Wentworth Falls AND a swimming hole, has toilets and easily accessible walking tracks. There are only eight sites though, so if you snooze on the morning you’re meant to leave, you may lose out on a spot.

Jacob’s River camping area, Kosciuszko National Park

Only a short drive from Jindabyne, Jacob’s River camping area gives you more than enough reasons to visit the alpine area in summer. It’s an attractive camping area set next to Jacob’s River. While away the time swimming and fishing.

Manning River camping area, Barrington Tops State Forest

Cool down by camping on the banks of the Manning River under the temperate rainforest. The fishing’s not bad, either.

Newtons Crossing camping area, Timbillica State Forest

There are only five sites, but chances are people will overlook this lovely inland spot in favour of a place on the beach. Their loss – situated next to the river in the midst of the forest, Newtons Crossing camping area is a winner.

Paddys River Flats camping area, Tumbarumba

You’ll fall in love with this simple camping area near Paddys Falls, where you can swim, fish or go bushwalking.

Pindari Dam camping area, Pindari Dam

You don’t have to pay to camp here, but you’ll probably enjoy this small, casual camping area with its view over the dam so much you’ll be happy dropping a few coins into the donation box.

The Pines camping area, Olney State Forest

Give us a campsite among the pine trees at Olney State Forest, with good facilities and lots of shade.

Rocky River Fossicking Area camping area, Uralla

You’ll strike gold at this free campsite – maybe even literally! You can hire fossicking equipment at the visitors centre. Otherwise you can just relax at the shaded campsite and cool down in the swimming holes in the river.

Victoria

Eight Mile Flat camping area, Lyndon Sparrow

Eight Mile Flat camping area, Lyndon Sparrow

Blue Pool camping area, Briagolong State Forest

Walk down the steep gorge to find a deep blue pool surrounded by trees. You can’t pay for a summer cool-down this good – and at Blue Pool camping area, within easy walking distance of the pool, you don’t have to.

Fort O’Hare camping area, Dartmoor

With clean, tidy, grassy and shady campsites on the bank of the Glenelg River, Fort O’Hare is a pleasant spot to camp.

Horseyard Flat camping area, Alpine National Park

At this simple campsite among the trees, you’ve got access to walking and lookouts (but no actual horseriding facilities, sorry!).

Jones camping area, Toombullup Ranges

A good spot for anglers next to Hollands Creek near Mount Samaria State Park.

Pineapple Flat camping area, Alpine National Park

Bounce in with your 4WD, set up tent on the grassy, shaded sites, enjoy how picturesque it looks, before bouncing off again to tackle some of the 4WD tracks in the park.

Vaughan Springs camping area, Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park

Victoria has less free campsites than it did at this time last year, so expect Vaughan Springs to increase in popularity. The sites aren’t the most scenic, but it is a spacious camping area with swimming nearby.

Waterfalls camping area, Pyrenees State Forest

Pleasant sites under the trees near some excellent bushwalks.

Western Beach camping area, Lake Albacutya Park

On the shores of Lake Albacutya, this camping area is peacefully situated under the river red gums.

South Australia

Port Parham camping area, Port Parham

You’ll find this family-friendly camping area north of Adelaide. Splash about in the shallow waters or try your hand at crabbing – just don’t get crabby if you come up empty handed.

Campsites along the Heysen Trail

These campsites are all well maintained and normally free! There are sometimes huts at these campsites so you can ‘camp’ with a roof over your head.

Tiparra Rocks camping area, Yorke Peninsula Reserves

One of a few free camping areas along the coast in the Yorke Peninsula Reserves, come here for the water-based activities. Permits required.

Western Australia

Campsites along the Bibbulmun track, south-west of Perth

Designated campsites along the Bibbulmun Track are free and no-bookings sites (although the sites are normally small), so go to town and camp all along the track (some of the camps are walk-in only)!

Bidjar Ngoulin camping area, Munda Biddi Trail

This basic campsite is on the Munda Biddi Trail. The peace, quiet and beauty of Bidjar Ngoulin, nestled as it is in a towering forest, more than makes up for the limited facilities.

Wungong camping area, Munda Biddi Trail

A bush campsite surrounded by Western Australia’s remarkable jarrah trees. This campsite is on the Munda Biddi Trail, which is always a good option for free campsites.

Queensland

Babinda Creek camping area, Babinda

This free campsite is 6km from Babinda, near the swimming hole at Babinda Boulders (which rates as one of our favourite swimming holes on the east coast) and has toilets, showers and barbecues. Note: you can only stay for 48 hours.

Caliguel Lagoon camping area, Condamine

Camping in Queensland in summer? You’ll be glad there’s a lagoon nearby where you can cool down. A seriously charming campsite with good, clean amenities and plenty of water-based activities.

Wuruma Dam camping area, near Eidsvold

This increasingly popular camping area has good facilities and great fishing. The view’s not bad either.

Tasmania

Apsley Waterhole camping area, Douglas–Apsley National Park

As you swim in the Apsley River swimming hole near your free campsite in Douglas–Apsley National Park, you’ll ask yourself: does life get any better than this?

Boltons Green camping area, Southwest National Park

Boltons Green is the end of the road in Southwest National Park – from here it’s all walking tracks and endless ocean vistas. You need to get a permit for this camping area.

Dago Point camping area, Lake Sorrell

Set on the shaded banks of Lake Sorrell, camping doesn’t get much better than this. And since fishing is banned, it doesn’t get as crowded as you’d expect.

Green Point camping area, Marrawah

Water, water everywhere at Green Point camping area. This unprotected camping area (bring a strong tent!) overlooks the wild and beautiful Southern Ocean.

Hastings Forest Picnic Area camping area, Southern Forests

You might expect a free camping area to be ugly, with bad facilities and nothing to do. Well, may we introduce you to Hastings Forest Picnic Area camping area, which is nestled beside Esperance River on soft, mossy ground with toilets and all the activities you could want nearby?

Lake Barrington West camping area, Lake Barrington

Come here for the angling (permits required) and stay for the views and peace and quiet.

For more of Australia’s best camping, check out Australia’s Best Camping by Kerryn Burgess.