Camping near Melbourne: The best campsites

Sorrento Foreshore, courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Sorrento Foreshore, courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Feel like going camping, but don’t want to travel too far from Melbourne? We’ve found the best campsites within one or two hours from Melbourne, so you no longer have any excuse for not taking that weekend camping trip.

Nioka Bush Camp, Plenty Gorge Park

Nioka Bush Camp is a casual site on the banks of the Plenty River. Close enough to Melbourne, yet far enough away that it still feels like a break, this campsite is in Plenty Gorge Park. The reserve is maintained by Parks Victoria, and has a good selection of facilities, including toilets, hot-water showers, drinking water and a camp kitchen (so you can try out some of our camping recipes!). It’s not the most scenic site in the world, but it is great for a weekend getaway from Melbourne, as well as a testing ground for longer camping adventures.

Anderson Reserve camping area, Anderson Reserve

The spacious campsites at Anderson Reserve camping area are stretched out along the foreshore at Indented Head on the Bellarine Peninsula. The campground is only open over the summer months, so you’ll need to get in quickly. As you’d expect, the focus here is on the water, and swimming, fishing, canoeing and waterskiing are all possibilities. The facilities here are also good. You’ve got hot showers so you can wash off the sand, drinking water so you can wash out the sand, and barbecues so you can roast up a few snags and then sit back and enjoy the view – on the sand, of course.

Kurth Kiln camping area, Kurth Kiln Regional Park

Kurth Kiln camping area is a short distance east of Melbourne. It’s  named for the remains of the Kurth Kiln, a chimney that was used in WW II to make charcoal. The kiln is no longer operating but remains an interesting centrepiece for the reserve. The camping areas are spacious and surrounded by a pretty bush setting. It’s one of the best camping spots close to Melbourne, and has opportunities for cycling, horseriding and bushwalking. Facilities are limited – you’ll basically only find fireplaces and toilets – but the trade-off is that you can bring your dog and the camping is free.

The Gums camping area, Kinglake National Park

The Gums camping area is in the heart of the land that was scorched by the 2009 bushfires. Around 10km from Kinglake, in the Great Dividing Range, the 18 campsites here are set amongst the natural bush setting, next to a stream, and are great for families. You might think that this means there’s drinking water at the site, but it’s not provided, so you’ll have to bring your own. This is quite a simple camping area, and you’ll only find barbecues, toilets and caravan access. There’s a camping fee, and you have to book a site before you arrive.

The main activities within easy access of the campsites are fishing and bushwalking, although you might be interested in travelling a bit further to see the fantastic regeneration work underway in the rest of Kinglake National Park.

Andersons Garden camping area, Mount Disappointment State Forest

Don’t let the name fool you; Mount Disappointment State Forest is not disappointing. In fact, we’d say the camping at Andersons Garden camping area is quite the opposite. Only around 9km from the Hume Highway, this easily accessible campground is in a charming spot, under the mountain ashes and with wattle abounding around the sites. Being in a state forest, the facilities are limited, with toilets being the only real amenity provided. Yet you can bring your dog and camping is free, so it’s a case of you win some, you lose some. Be prepared to bring your own entertainment too – walking is really the only activity around here.

Sorrento Foreshore camping area, Sorrento Foreshore Reserve

Sorrento is one of the most popular holiday towns in the already popular Mornington Peninsula. That means that hotels here can cost more than you want to pay for a short weekend away. Luckily, there’s Sorrento Foreshore camping area, which has hundreds of sites. This camping area can get rather hectic, so if you’re after some peace and quiet, this is not the place for you. But if you’re after a family-friendly site with proximity to many of the attractions of the Mornington Peninsula and great facilities, you can’t do better.

Fairhaven camping area, French Island National Park

Fairhaven camping area is on French Island, just a hop, skip, jump, ferry ride and bus trip away from the Mornington Peninsula. It’s almost as isolated as Sorrento Foreshore camping area is accessible. French Island isn’t as famous as neighbouring Phillip Island, but it is a beautiful natural spot where you can kick back for a few days, if you’re after some peace and quiet. The only amenities at the campsites are a drop toilet and water that needs to be purified before you can drink it. You’ll have to bring your own stove. After you’ve had enough of kicking back, take a walk around the island and keep an eye out for the native wildlife.

Nash Creek camping area, Bunyip State Forest

Don’t worry. As far as we can tell, there aren’t actually bunyips roaming between the trees at Bunyip State Forest. Even if there were, we doubt it would be enough to turn people off camping at Nash Creek camping area, which has peaceful campsites spaced out in the bush. Bunyip State Forest was another section of the state severely affected by the bushfires in 2009 but, as with Kinglake, the forest has experienced a spectacular regeneration, and is a place where Melburnians can enjoy abundant nature and wildlife. Nash Creek camping area is in the heart of the forest, and has access to the forest’s great walking paths and mountain-biking trails.