As the weather warms up and Christmas looms, a lot of families are thinking about upcoming summer holidays. For many Australians, the holidays involve going bush. So, where are some great options for camping in comfort?
I think Australia is the best place in the world for camping. It’s certainly an option year round — when it’s too hot and wet in Tropical North Queensland and the Kimberley, it’s perfect around Tasmania, the NSW South Coast, and Gippsland.
While you may have to work a bit harder than you did a few decades ago, it’s still possible to drive a few hours from Sydney or Melbourne and find a beach you’ll have all to yourself. And nowhere in the world offers such diversity of landscape as Australia — from the perfect beaches to the lush forests, and the expansive Red Centre.
Explore Australia by Camper Trailer by Lee Atkinson (published by Hardie Grant Books) does a good job of revealing the wealth of camping opportunities throughout Australia.
Flinders Chase National Park is perfect if you're a fan of long, peaceful drives
The first question, of course, is why is the book restricted to camper trailers? As it explains, “Camper trailers offer the perfect middle ground between rolling out a swag and hitting the road with a monster caravan in tow”. The advantage over a campervan — the other option — is that you can set up a camper trailer and leave it, exploring with just the vehicle alone. That makes it more adaptable than the alternatives.
The book offers advice on how to select a trailer, looking at considerations such as weight, sleeping arrangements, off-road vs on-road, and hard floor vs soft floor. Prices range from $5000 to $70,000.
The focus of Explore Australia by Camper Trailer is on to where to go. Perhaps it should come with a wire brush to relieve the itchy feet that are sure to result from even a quick browse!
Of course, there are some families who head for the same destination, the same campground, even the same campsite — year after year. But if you want to consider your options, how do you decide between the 320 campsites detailed across 50 regions?
Do you take a couple of days to camp near Narooma, south of Sydney, or Wilsons Promontory out of Melbourne? Or should you leave town indefinitely to spend time at Corner Country — where NSW, Queensland, and South Australia meet? As you read, the romance of life on the road (as a grey nomad!) has growing appeal.
The joy of Atkinson’s research lies in the detail, whether it’s listing “one of the best righthand surf breaks in the country” at Crescent Head, the ever-present wombats by the Kangaroo River (and in NSW), or the difficulty of getting tent pegs into the hard surface by the beach in Western Australia’s Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
If you're thinking of going bush, this book is like a weekend session with a well-travelled friend who has plenty of good, practical advice and endless enthusiasm for everything that rural Australia has to offer.
The Capertee Valley in NSW is the world's second largest canyon, and boasts beautiful scenery to camp in!
Organising a guide to Australia has its challenges. The lazy choice is to organise it by state, but that can be disjointed for someone who simply wants to drive along the coast from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast, for example. Rather, this book divides the country into four topographic regions plus off-road adventures that include some epic drives.
Coastal is the largest section, starting on the NSW Mid-north Coast before heading clockwise through Victoria, SA, WA, Queensland, and finally Tasmania.
Country Heartlands includes the NSW Central West, the Riverland, the Victorian Goldfields, inland Queensland, and Southern Tasmania.
High Country features a lot of NSW and Victoria, plus the Flinders Ranges and Tasmanian Highlands.
Outback covers the vast heart of Australia including the Nullarbor, Kimberley, Kakadu, and the Red Centre.
Finally, there are four great drives: the Oodnadatta Track, Gibb River Road, Western Australia’s Desert Tracks (many of which follow the path of legendary surveyor Len Beadell), and Cape York.
The lonely Gunbarrel Highway in WA can be a challenge to travel on
When you read Atkinson’s description of the Gunbarrel Highway beyond Carnegie Station as “bone-shattering corrugations, deep ruts, rocks, tyre-impaling mulga stakes, and deep, gelatinous bogholes” you’ll understand why each chapter begins with an honest “Why go?”.
Then there’s a good description of the area, details of camping sites, and useful information on local attractions — whether that’s a waterfall, kangaroos on the beach, or a great pub lunch. Even in this GPS era, the book’s detailed maps reveal a lot that electronic devices don’t.
The ultimate accolade for an author is to hear that their book is life-changing. I expect most of us have read a novel that fundamentally changed the way we look at the world. I didn’t expect a travel guide to have such an effect on me but I finished this book with Google searches on 4WD vehicles and camper trailers open on my computer. See you on the road!
Where are your favourite trailer holiday destinations?