Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to make the most of the country’s campsites. From the remote outback of the Northern Territory to Western Australia’s wine regions, we look at the top spots to pitch your tent.
Best for scenic drives: Cumberland River, Victoria
Victoria’s Great Ocean Road delivers wild scenery, windswept surf beaches and winding coastal roads. You’ll have all this on your doorstep at Cumberland River Holiday Park, set on the banks of its namesake river about seven kilometres from Lorne.
Swim or fish in the river – the salmon is, reportedly, delicious – or stroll to a private beach to swim, snorkel or surf. You can pitch your tent at unpowered sites and make the most of the fact that this is one of the few places in the region where you can have your own campfire.
Or, book a cedar wood cabin with its own fireplace, kitchen and comfy beds.
Unpowered campsites from $30 a night.
Also try: The road trip from Cairns to Cape Tribulation takes in some of Tropical North Queensland’s most celebrated scenery. Punsand Bay campground is one of the country’s most northerly addresses, and is the ultimate base for Cape York adventures. Unpowered campsites from $34 a night. capeyorkcamping.com.au
Best for beach lovers: Whitehaven Beach, Queensland
The powdery sands of Whitehaven on Whitsunday Island often see it take home the title of the world’s best beach. It stretches for seven kilometres and the sand couldn’t get any whiter, the water any bluer, the temperature any warmer.
It’s a popular spot during the day, when visitors from neighbouring islands arrive by boat or helicopter to make the most of the picture-perfect pocket of Queensland. But once the crowds depart in the afternoon, you’ll have the place all to yourself.
Set up for the night at Whitehaven Beach Camping Ground – it’s basic but just steps from the water and is a great base to enjoy peaceful walks and swims as the sun sets over the Great Barrier Reef. There are only eight sites here, so get in fast.
Unpowered campsites from $6.35 a person a night.
Also try: Along the white sands of Jervis Bay, NSW, there are a number of beachside campgrounds to choose from, all with sea views. From $21 for an unpowered campsite. visitnsw.com
Best for families: Lake Keepit, NSW
You could camp at this holiday park, on the banks of Keepit Dam between Tamworth and Gunnedah, for a week and still not tire of the offerings.
Many visit for the fishing alone, with the dam home to silver and golden perch, Murray cod and even catfish, while other water activities include kayaking, water-skiing and sailing.
On dry land, children are well-catered for with a skate park, waterpark, volleyball and tennis courts, and a playground. There are also great trails in the neighbourhood for mountain biking and hiking.
Book one of the cabins, caravan sites or unpowered campsites and you’ll also have access to an on-site cafe, laundry facilities and an open fire in the evenings. Even better? It’s pet friendly.
Unpowered campsites from $16 a night.
Also try: Discovery Parks – Barossa outside Adelaide is not only in the heart of the state’s wine country, but also comes with kid-friendly facilities including a water park, pool and activity room. Unpowered campsites from $31 a night. discoveryholidayparks.com.au
Best for wildlife: Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Set amid the towering eucalypts of Flinders Chase National Park, the Rocky River Camp Ground is the perfect perch for exploring the western corner of Kangaroo Island.
Private bush sites with access to toilets, showers and gas barbecues are within easy reach of some of the island’s most spectacular wilderness areas, including the Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch and Cape du Couedic – the latter is home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals.
It’s also a short drive to Kangaroo Island’s resident sea lions, although you won’t need to leave the camping ground to spot other native wildlife including kangaroos and wallabies, echidnas and koalas.
Unpowered campsites from $30 a night.
Also try: Billabong Camp tents at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, from $450 for a family of four. You have after-hours access to the animals, and get to sleep in style. taronga.org.au
Best for stargazing: Ormiston Gorge, Northern Territory
Big cities are not a thing in the Northern Territory, and the lack of light pollution means endless opportunities for gazing at the night sky. At Ormiston Gorge, ghost gums cling to the soaring red rock cliffs, reflected in waterholes so still they act as mirrors.
And then when the sun sets the stars come out, creating a dazzling overhead display like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
If you’re hiking the legendary Larapinta Trail, this is an overnight must and, while sites are unpowered, the campground has gas barbecues, showers and toilets. Still, there’s nothing quite like a dip in an icy waterhole to wake you up.
Unpowered campsites from $6.60 a person a night.
Best for food and wine: Margaret River, Western Australia
You’ll love Big Valley Campsite as much for its base in Margaret River – just minutes from wineries and artisan producers – as for its expansive grounds amid native bushland.
Set on the hills of a working sheep farm, the estate offers everything from caravan sites to powered and unpowered camping plots.
They also partner with Wild Goose Camping, who, on request, will set up a luxe bell tent on the grounds and fit it out with a double bed, fur throws and everything else you need for a sound night’s sleep under the stars.
After a day exploring the best of the region, be sure to bring home a bottle of wine to enjoy by the nightly campfire.
Unpowered campsites from $14 a person a night.
Best for a staycation: Cockatoo Island, NSW
When the sun is shining in Sydney, there’s nothing better than being out on the water. But you don’t need to charter a boat to experience the harbour up close.
A short ferry ride from Circular Quay, Cockatoo Island delivers camping spots overlooking the water. Bring your own tent, or opt for ready-to-go basic or deluxe camping accommodations – the latter see you arriving on the island with your tent prepared for you with a stretcher bed, luxe toiletries and deck chairs primed for sunset views.
There are communal showers and barbecue facilities, so be sure to pack a picnic rug and your favourite wine-time nibbles.
BYO campsites from $45 a night.
Best for hiking: Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
The Wineglass Bay panorama is what draws most hikers to Freycinet National Park on the east coast of Australia’s Apple Isle.
And for good reason – with the backdrop of the Hazards mountains, trails here take you through some of the state’s most jaw-dropping wilderness, along white-sand beaches, past secluded coves and to lookouts that offer unbroken views over the island.
The campground is a small coastal strip on the dunes of Richardsons Beach and the granite knoll of Honeymoon Bay, just metres from the sea.
During peak seasons, spots here are so popular that a ballot system is in place. But if you do get lucky, you can enjoy summertime perks including an outdoor theatre at the visitors’ centre.
Unpowered campsites from $13 for two people.