If you're prepared to head off the beaten track and discover these off-the-grid campsites, we promise you'll be rewarded with spectacular scenery, an abundance of wildlife and - most importantly - some peace and solitude.
1. BOAT HARBOUR
On a windswept stretch of coastline, about an hour’s drive east of Albany, this beachside camp provides a haven for anglers and beachcombers. There’s 4WD access onto to the sand to launch small boats or to discover your own beach fishing spot. Boat Harbour has excellent facilities for such a remote location.
Campsites are nestled in lovely private nooks protected by the surrounding heathland. Boat Harbour’s old beach hut acts as the camp shelter with picnic tables, a free gas barbecue and a rainwater tank, and the adjacent toilets have proper wheelchair access with a ramp.
The fishing is reputedly very good and there’s a long beach to walk. If your rig isn’t up to the sandy access track, a second bush camp just behind the dunes provides lots of individual sites alongside a small creek that shares a large picnic shelter with a rainwater tank, tables and a nearby toilet.
While you’re here, don’t miss a visit to Fitzgerald River National Park, famous for being inhabited by more animal species than anywhere else in the state’s south.
Location: 127km east of Albany via South Coast Highway and Boat Harbour Road
Camping: Free, dogs on leads permitted
Facilities: Wheelchair-accessible toilets, picnic shelter with tables, free gas barbecue and water tank (no bins, no campfires)
2. GIWINING/FLORA RIVER NATURE PARK
Victoria Highway, NT
Attracting anglers and paddlers to its vivid, lime-green waterway, Flora River Nature Park provides a scenic riverside camp and lots of ways to discover its lush, savannah landscape. A boat ramp and unique slide for canoes and kayaks helps get you onto the water to angle for barramundi, bream, catfish and grunters.
Easily spotted freshwater crocodiles have little camouflage along the Flora River as it tumbles over limestone tufa dams to fill swirling, jade-coloured spas. Little red flying foxes congregate in the treetops above Djarrung and Kathleen Falls, accessible via riverside walking trails that lead out from camp.
Quite apart from the dynamic riverside scenery and all the ways you can experience it, what makes this spacious camp a cut above the rest are its hot water showers and big shady sites that come with picnic tables and fire pits for just $6.60/person (kids half-price).
Because estuarine crocodiles are capable of making their way up the mighty Daly River to feed on freshwater fish in the Flora River, swimming is off the cards, and boaties and paddlers need to take care, too.
Location: 132km west of Katherine via the Victoria Highway. Access via an unnsealed road that is generally suitable for 2WD vehicles April to October
Camping: $6.60/person/night (kids half-price), no pets
Facilities: Hot showers, wheelchair-accessible toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, fire pits, a boat ramp, canoe slide and walking trails (no bins, generators or firewood collection)
3. SURRY RIDGE CAMPGROUND
Cobboboonee National Park, Vic
Towering gum trees cradle sleepy koalas by day, while dense heathlands nurture spotted-tailed quolls and bandicoots that appear only on the edge of darkness. Shining a torch along an easy trail from camp, we search for long-nosed potoroos and yellow-bellied gliders emerging from treetop nests, spooked en-route by powerful owls hooting in the distance.
Ambling around after dark is the best way to encounter the wild things that thrive around Surry Ridge Campground, a wild spot deep in Victoria’s Cobboboonee National Park. This scenic, shady campground permits campfires (except on total fire ban days) and provides good facilities: picnic tables, fireplaces, wheelchair-accessible composting toilets and a rainwater tank for handwashing.
There’s a grassy, walk-in camping area for those with tents and an adjacent parking area for caravans, motorhomes and buses. If you go, don’t miss a stroll along Tim’s Loop Walk, an easy 30-minute track (1km) that leads through a forest of messmate stringbarks, swamp gums and blackwoods to the Surry River.
Location: 33km north-west of Portland
Camping: Free, no pets
Facilities: Wheelchair-accessible toilets, picnic tables and fireplaces
4. GORGE ROCK POOL
For travellers venturing inland from Perth to ‘ride’ Hyden’s world-famous Wave Rock, Gorge Rock Pool provides a lovely place to relax en route, just outside the small wheatbelt town of Corrigin. In a bushland setting at the base of an enormous granite outcrop, this free campground welcomes travellers and their pets, and imposes no restrictions or limits on how long you can stay.
Generations ago, a small natural pool fed by rainwater flowing off the granite flanks of Gorge Rock was dammed to create a permanent swimming pool for locals. This historical, pioneer-era pool quickly became an important picnicking place, and although you can’t swim in it today, it continues to hold water.
It’s an easy climb up this enormous rock to the dam and you can push on up some immense slabs of gently rising granite to reach the obvious, distant summit for expansive rural scenes. There’s no trail here so just pick a path up the rock and enjoy the ever-improving views as you gain altitude. The rock’s history, told via information boards in the campground below, makes interesting reading.
One of my most memorable campfires took place at Gorge Rock, in part due to some excellent dry timber, but no doubt also because it followed an excellent day of adventures as the crisp winter’s night amplified the immense pleasure of huddling around the fire, poking at the coals and stirring the camp oven.
Although small, the camp provides level ground for all kinds of rigs, a picnic shelter, rainwater tank and fire pits. The lack of toilets means you’ll need to be self-contained.
Nearby Corrigin is famous in traveller circles for its unique Dog Cemetery, established in 1974. Wildflowers bloom across the region in September and October and a wildflower walk that winds to a scenic lookout is signposted off the Brookton Highway, 15km west of Gorge Rock.
Location: 250km east of Perth. From Corrigin, follow the Brookton Highway 20km east
Camping: Free, pets welcome
Facilities: Picnic shelter, fire pits and rainwater tank
5. SALVATOR ROSA
Carnarvon National Park, Qld
Known as ‘The Roof of Queensland’, central Queensland’s most spectacular national park protects a towering tangle of craggy peaks and weathered spires, flat-top mesas and glowing escarpments. Springs and streams trickle and gather strength, eventually forming three of Australia’s major river systems. In a less-visited corner of this rugged, sandstone watershed, the Salvator Rosa section showcases some remarkable scenery: eroded outcrops, flower-fringed springs and towering white cliffs that turn rosy at sunset.
From a grassy campground and across the Nogoa River, offroad adventurers can explore Spyglass Peak – an arcing bluff with a 10m-wide peephole eroded just below the summit. A short trail leads up Homoranthus Hill for 360-degree views, and a trio of lovely springs might tempt you with a swim: Louisa Creek, fern-fringed Belinda Springs and Major Mitchell Springs nestled against rugged sandstone cliffs.
Salvator Rosa’s free-range camp is a quiet, grassy haven with picnic tables and toilets, and wildlife in abundance. Visit from July to August to catch vibrant wattles in flower.
Location: 135km from Tambo and 168km south-west of Springsure
Camping: $5.95/person or $23.80/family/night
Facilities: Wheelchair-accessible toilet and picnic tables (no fires, pets or generators permitted)