Top 4WD-only campsites in Australia

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4x4 Australia

Drivers, start your engines; we’ve selected the best 4WD-only campsites in Australia. You’ll find these five camping areas at the end of bumpy roads in some of the most spectacular corners of the country, from the croc-patrolled beaches of the Northern Territory to the challenging mountains of Man From Snowy River land in Victoria. This is no-frills camping, and you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient – but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

Smith Point camping area, Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, Northern Territory

This is just about as remote as you can get, and just about as beautiful. Garig Gunak Barlu National Park is at the very tip of the Cobourg Peninsula, and can only be accessed by boat or by a long and bumpy 4WD trek through Arnhem Land. You’ll need three permits: one to enter Arnhem Land, one to enter the national park and one to stay overnight. Oh, and you’ll have to be entirely self-sufficient. If that all sounds like a lot of effort, there are rewards aplenty for those intrepid enough to tackle the trip – including a jaw-dropping view of the Arafura Sea towards East Timor (don’t forget to keep an eye out for crocs as you stand there gawping).

Port Essington, Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, David Kirkland / Tourism NT

Port Essington, Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, David Kirkland / Tourism NT

Flinders Beach camping area, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland

If you like your beach views slightly more accessible, Flinders Beach camping area on North Stradbroke Island, a tropical paradise only a short commute from Brisbane, might fit the bill. The camping area can only be accessed by a dirt road, or along the beach at low tide. There are 200 campsites hidden behind the dunes in the coastal shrub, and forget about the proximity to the city – this is back-to-basics self-sufficient camping. Flinders Beach camping area will provide the stupendous beach views; you’ll have to bring the rest.

North Stradbroke Island

North Stradbroke Island, Tourism Queensland

Coongie Lake camping area, Innamincka Regional Reserve, South Australia

When you think about outback South Australia, you probably don’t think about a lake and wetland system teeming with birds and other wildlife. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at Coongie Lake, about halfway between Innamincka and Birdsville. You can set up tent right next to the impossible-seeming lake; it’s a simple camping area for the self-sufficient, and you need to leave it as you found it, so no fires or generators allowed.

Malkumba-Coongie Lakes, Wrightsair Scenic Flight

Malkumba-Coongie Lakes, Wrightsair Scenic Flight

Youdales Hut camping area, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales

Youdales Hut camping area is deep in the wild country of northern New South Wales, along a 4WD-only gravel track in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. This is a land of deep gorges, dense and misty rainforests, and epic views. You can only imagine what the early settlers who built Youdales Hut must have thought when they first saw it! Not much has changed at Youdales Hut from that time, apart from the added amenities of toilets and picnic tables. Don’t miss a plunge in one of the swimming holes at nearby Kunderang Brook.

Oxley Wild Rivers

Oxley Wild Rivers

Pineapple Flat camping area, Alpine National Park, Victoria

If, after a long day of driving the challenging 4WD tracks along the mountains of Alpine National Park, you’re in search of a spacious and charming site to set up camp, look no further than Pineapple Flat camping area. Don’t let the name mislead you, there aren’t any pineapples or other surprising amenities here – you get toilets, water… and that’s it. Oh, and large grassy sites under shady trees, with easy access to some of the best 4WD tracks in the park.

Pineapple Flat

Pineapple Flat camping area, Lyndon Sparrow

Top 5 coastal walks in Australia

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Zoe Bay Coastal Walks in Australia

Zoe Bay, Hinchinbrook Island

Brush off your hiking boots and set your sights seaward, as we reveal the best coastal walks in Australia. Sure, you could just drive to a lookout, but these epic (often multi-day) hikes reveal views and beaches that only intrepid bushwalkers get to see. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Cape Gantheaume Coastal Trek, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Starting in the car park at D’Estrees Bay, the first section of this walk is along an old vehicle route. But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security, as the walk soon goes off-road, with no defined path from Cape Gantheaume to Bales Bay – you have to pick your own route. But what a route! The 36-kilometre trek, which is only for experienced hikers, crosses the wildest section of the already wild Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park, giving unrivalled views over the Southern Ocean from clifftops and isolated beaches.

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland

Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland

Crossing beaches, creeks, rainforests, rocks, waterfalls and mountains, Thorsborne Trail should have enough varying (and spectacular!) scenery to keep your eyes open and your jaw dropped. The trek will take you 32 kilometres along the rugged and beautiful east coast of Hinchinbrook Island, which is just off the coast of Cardwell in the Wet Tropics. The path can be pretty tough going; luckily you can cool off in swimming holes and on magnificent beaches – it’s just another day in paradise.

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland

Thorsborne Trail, Tourism and Events Queensland

Great Ocean Walk, Victoria

While it may not be as famous as the Great Ocean Road, the Great Ocean Walk is just as picturesque, stretching along the south coast of Victoria from Apollo Bay to Port Campbell. Of course, it’s much slower going than the drive; the 91-kilometre hike takes up to eight days. You’ll encounter the classic scenery of the surf coast along the route, from pristine beaches and pounding surf to epic clifftop vistas and the towering mountain ash trees of the Otways. Oh, and did we mention the walk has a loo considered to be the most scenic in the country?

Great Ocean Walk, Victoria

The Coast Track, Royal National Park, New South Wales

Forget about the Bondi to Coogee and the Spit Bridge to Manly – the Coast Track, meandering 26 kilometres along the coastline of Australia’s oldest national park, is the best coastal walk in New South Wales (no matter what Sydneysiders will tell you). The views along this trail will stop you in your tracks. Luckily, you’ve got time to slow down; the hike can be completed in a day, but we recommend taking two and detouring to cool down at the secluded beaches and pausing to admire the panoramic views from the towering cliffs.

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland

Stanwell Tops Lookout, Destination NSW

Cape to Cape Track, Leeuwin–Naturaliste National Park, Western Australia

If you just can’t get enough of coastal scenery, the 135-kilometre Cape to Cape Track in Western Australia’s beloved Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park could be for you. That is, if you also like beaches, rock formations, jarrah forests, cliffs, heathland and – when they’re in season – wildflowers. The walk follows the coast between Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, and, apart from the occasional inland diversion, you’ll be staring at ocean views for around eight days. Sounds pretty good to us!

Sugarloaf Rock, the Leeuwin - Naturalist National Park

Sugarloaf Rock, Tourism Western Australia

Top 5 national parks worth discovering

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Porongurup National Park

Porongurup National Park, Tourism Western Australia

Have you heard of Kakadu? What about the Blue Mountains? Whitsundays? Wilsons Promontory? We’re going to take a guess and say that yes, you have. And for good reason – these national parks are all truly spectacular, and have the visitor numbers to prove it. But what about the national parks that don’t regularly feature in bucket lists? We’ve selected our five favourite national parks that all too often fall under the radar (sorry to all the locals who wanted to keep them secret).

Strzelecki National Park, Tasmania

The wild Strzelecki National Park is on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait, which makes this national park not so much forgotten as hard to get to. Even though Strzelecki was only gazetted in 1967, it’s so remote it remains pretty much as it was when first explored by Europeans. The park itself looks like a cross between Wilsons Promontory and Freycinet national parks, and protects a range of granite mountains stretching down towards sandy beaches strewn with lichen-covered rocks. Oh, and keep your eyes out for wildlife; along with wombats, wallabies and pademelons, you’ll also find species endemic to the park. Hike to the top of the Strzelecki Range for seriously glorious views, or swim in the waters just off the park’s only camping area at Trousers Point (yup, its actual name).

Porongurup National Park, Western Australia

This national park, just 40 minutes from Albany, looks like a giant came and threw a few boulders around, leaving them in remarkable formations rising up from the surrounding karri and jarrah forests. While walking through the towering karri trees is glorious in itself, the true fun comes when you get up onto the granite boulders. There are numerous walking tracks, but the best one has to be around Castle Rock, where a walkway is terrifyingly suspended around the summit. The park also bursts into kaleidoscopic life in spring, when the wildflowers bloom.

Gundabooka National Park, New South Wales

The old saying that ‘back o’ Bourke’ is the start of the outback was probably referencing Gundabooka National Park, an easy 90 minutes’ drive from Bourke in the far north-west of New South Wales. This is a national park on a grand scale. And while there’s plenty of the red desert and sand dunes you’d expect from a national park out here, there are also more surprising landscapes that showcase the varied environs of the outback, such as the lush land around the Darling River, the mulga woodlands and the soaring stretch of the Gunderbooka Range. This is an ancient landscape, and it has a lot of significance for local Aboriginal people; make time for the Mulgowan (Yappa) Aboriginal Art Site walking track to see some magnificent rock art.

Newland Head Conservation Park, South Australia

With wild surf, desolate beaches and sheer cliffs, Newland Head Conservation Park is the sort of place you can imagine a pirate calling home. In fact, it’s so wild that swimming is discouraged and even fishing off the rocks is given a shake of the head. That’s alright though, because the park’s two beaches are rated pretty highly as fishing spots, and keen anglers can fish for mullet, mulloway and salmon. If you don’t fancy throwing a line in, take one of the walking tracks along the beaches or up on the cliffs. More confident hikers (who don’t experience vertigo) can tackle a section of the Heysen Trail on the Newland Head Nature Hike, which meanders along the clifftops.

Crater Lakes National Park, Queensland

Okay, so this national park is more developed than the other ones on this list – it even has gas barbecues! But not many outside of the Atherton region have heard about this national park and the two massive lakes that give the park its name. What’s remarkable about the two lakes? They formed inside ancient volcanic craters and the vegetation surrounding Lake Barrine has similarities to fossilised trees more than 300 million years old. So, basically this is Australia’s version of Jurassic Park, but with slightly more civilised activities, including bushwalking and swimming.

crater lakes national park

Lake Barrine, Crater Lakes National Park, Jean-Paul Ferrero / Auscape International

Top 5 spring campsites

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camping in australia

Hi Explorers,

If, like us, you’ve spent the winter sharpening your tent pegs, checking your marshmallow supply and looking up new camping gear online, the time has almost come. That’s because it’s practically spring, and that means one thing – camping season! We’ve been planning our hit list of spring campsites for the past three months, but if you’re a bit behind on the preparation, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this list of five camping areas you should visit over the next few months.

 

Tidal River camping area, Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria

It can be hard to get a spot at this ever-popular camping area in summer – which makes it the perfect spring campground. Situated behind Norman Beach in Wilsons Promontory National Park, Tidal River camping area pretty much has it all, with views, beach access, grassy sites, excellent facilities (including a kiosk selling fish and chips), hiking trails and even resident food-stealing wombats.

Tidal River camping area

Tidal River camping area, Tourism Victoria

Garnamarr (Jim Jim Falls) camping area, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

Kakadu National Park is the biggest national park in Australia, and is home to big crocodiles, big waterfalls, big wetlands and some big campgrounds, including Garnamarr camping area. The closest campground to famous Jim Jim Falls, Garnamarr can fit up to 200 people and is an excellent camping area with facilities including showers and drinking water. The only catch is that Garnamarr is deep within Kakadu via gravel roads, so it can only be accessed by 4WD, and even then only in the dry season. But the payoff – proximity to some of the most spectacular natural features of the park – is certainly worth the journey.

 

Lawn Hill Gorge camping area, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, Queensland

You’ll need to rattle along 200 kilometres of mainly unsealed roads from the nearest highway in remote north-west Queensland to get to Lawn Hill Gorge camping area, just inside the boundary of Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park. But if you’re up for the trek, the rewards are epic! This national park is a literal oasis in the desert, a lush tropical landscape that feels like it hasn’t changed for millions of years (with the dinosaur bones to prove it). Well, unchanged apart from welcome human intervention at the campground, which has facilities like showers and toilets.

Lawn Hill Gorge camping area

Lawn Hill Gorge camping area, Lyndon Sparrow

Mystery Bay Campground, Narooma, New South Wales

The chill is shaking itself off the south coast of NSW, which means that now is the time to nab a prime spot at the perpetually popular Mystery Bay Campground near Narooma. The camping area is in the bush just behind a gorgeously isolated beach; if you’re lucky, you’ll get a front row spot with an ocean view, as sites here are first come, first served. While the water is still pretty cold at this time of year, you might find the turquoise sea just behind your campsite too hard to resist.

Mystery Bay Camp Ground

Mystery Bay Camp Ground, Paul Smedley

Dales camping area, Karijini National Park, Western Australia

Early spring is Goldilocks territory at Karijini National Park in mid-north Western Australia – it’s not too cold and not too hot. In fact, it’s just the right temperature to go swimming in Fortescue Falls, which is fortuitously found close to Dales camping area. Yup, that’s right. Even though this national park is smack bang in the middle of the dry landscape of the Pilbara, it has verdant gorges with waterfalls and swimming holes, just waiting for those willing to take the plunge. The camping itself is basic, as the only facilities are toilets, barbecues, picnic tables and all the space you could want.

Dales camping area

Dales camping area, Lyndon Sparrow

Top 5 island camping areas in Australia

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lizard island queensland

Lizard Island, Tourism and Events Queensland

How would you like to enjoy an island getaway – without breaking the bank? Luckily Australia has plenty of islands with campsites where you can set up tent and while away a weekend on a budget. Sure, you might be making your own pina coladas, and the vibe might be more Robinson Crusoe than Richard Branson, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Watsons Bay camping area, Lizard Island National Park, Queensland

This is the most isolated camping area on this list – that is, if you can forget about the luxury resort that’s hidden on the other side of the island. Lizard Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, around 93 kilometres north of Cooktown in far-north Queensland, and is only accessible by boat or plane (yup, that luxury resort means there’s an airstrip on the island). But once you’ve waved goodbye to your transport, you’ll feel very Robinson Crusoe; there are only extremely basic amenities (even the water has to be boiled before drinking) and the island is still very wild (keep an eye out for crocs).

Flinders Chase

Fluted Cape, Tim Dub / Tourism Tasmania

Cloudy Corner camping area, South Bruny Island National Park, Bruny Island, Tasmania

If being in Tasmania isn’t island escape enough, then head to Cloudy Corner camping area in South Bruny National Park on Bruny Island. This 4WD-only camping area is on the opposite end of the island to Bruny’s main settlement, Adventure Bay, and can only be accessed at low tide. And, of course, it’s for totally self-sufficient campers. If that all sounds appealing, you’ll be rewarded with excellent fishing, glorious (yet chilly) swimming, and the sort of scenery that’ll have you returning every year.

Flinders Chase

Flinders Chase National Park, Colin Beard / South Australian Tourism Commission

West Bay camping area, Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

During the early days of Australia’s European history, Kangaroo Island was a wild outpost for escaped convicts and pirates. While the island is slightly more civilised these days, you can still see a glimpse of that wild isolation at West Bay camping area, which is in Kangaroo Island’s spectacular Flinders Chase National Park. The camping area is around 22 kilometres from the visitors’ centre, on a west-facing bay with breathtaking views.

victoria campsite

Camping in Victoria, Tourism Victoria

Fairhaven camping area, French Island National Park, French Island, Victoria

Grab your bike or your hiking boots and hop on a ferry to French Island. This island is a relaxed farming community, without the big attractions that draw people to neighbouring Phillip Island. But that means you might just be lucky enough to have the camping area to yourself! Fairhaven camping area is a back-to-basics spot, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient. Once on the island, lean into the slower pace of life and… relax. You might even spot a koala or two.

 

Camping, Rottnest Island, Western Australia

If you like a few more amenities with your island paradise (including hot showers, drinking water and toilets), then this spot might be for you. Of course, you’ll have to leave those fantasies of Robinson Crusoe behind, as this camping area – the only one on Rottnest Island – is extremely popular. Rotto, as the locals call it, is just a ferry ride away from Perth, and the camping area is right next to the main settlement. The camping fee is on the expensive side, but you’re paying for the facilities and island vibes (and beaches!). Word to the wise: avoid this camping area during November, as it’s flooded with school leavers.