While the top of Australia is absolutely massive, the main campsites still manage to become overcrowded during peak season. While sharing a campsite isn’t all that bad, let’s face it, a secluded camp takes the cake, hands down, any day.
To help you find your own slice of heaven, we’ve done the hard yards to reveal those lesser known gems of the north. If you’ve got a dry season trip planned for the future, read on as we let you in on some of the 4WD world’s best kept secrets.
CHANNEL POINT COASTAL RESERVE, NT
When it comes to the Northern Territory’s coastline, Channel Point Coastal Reserve is one stretch of isolated coast that will dead-set blow you away. Sandy beaches, old woodlands and tranquil mangroves are all protected within the 600 acre reserve and, if you’re a keen angler, you’ll probably have to pinch yourself to ensure you’re not dreaming.
It’s situated between Channel Point and the Daly River Mouth, so if you’ve got a boat, bring it along. The reserve is usually open from May to October, and access to the area is limited to 10 vehicles or 50 people. So there’s always plenty of space. This area is quite isolated, so make sure you’re well prepared.
BUTTERFLY SPRINGS, NT
Limmen National Park is one of the must-see destinations of the gulf and one of its best attractions is Butterfly Falls. Believe it or not, there’s a spectacular free campsite right there as well. But the cherry on top is that this is one of the very few croc-free swimming holes in the gulf, so it’s perfect to jump in for a dip to cool off.
There’s plenty of shade, but if you’re not one to sit around make sure you check out the towering sandstone formations of the Southern Lost City. There’s plenty of top-notch barra fishing in the nearby Roper River and the kids will have a ball following the millions of butterflies in the area.
QUONDONG POINT, WA
For one of the most stunning experiences the Kimberley has to offer, you’ve just got to check out the Dampier Peninsula. Sadly, it’s one of those spots that sometimes gets left out on itineraries due to time restraints, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort.
Quondong Point offers some absolutely magical beachfront camping, but it is 4WD only getting in there. There are no facilities, but that just adds to the experience of pure oceanfront camping. There’s plenty of shade, the fishing is superb and not much of a crowd to contend with – it could literally be one of the most stunning experiences of the north.
PUNSAND BAY, CAPE YORK, QLD
While this place isn’t exactly a secret, it is definitely a must-stay sort of place, especially if you’re after a bit more luxury and comfort. Watch the sun rise out of the Coral Sea in the Pacific Ocean and, while you’re there, you might as well watch it set over the Arafura Sea in the Indian Ocean as well.
It’s a stone’s throw away from the tip of Cape York, and comes complete with some absolutely gobsmacking beachfront campsites. You won’t be roughing it either — there’s full facilities available.
LORELLA SPRINGS STATION, BORROLOOLA, NT
If you’re after the true essence of Australia, you simply can’t go past the family-owned Lorella Springs Wilderness Sanctuary. It’s over one million acres of remote and unspoilt waterfront wilderness that’s really earned the name “The Kingdom of Lorella” for a reason – it’s bigger than some countries. Huge chasms and gorges formed millions of years ago, wetlands and swamps teeming with life are just some of the attractions you’ve got the opportunity to explore. Plus, with 20km of ocean frontage, hundreds of kilometres of river systems, creeks, waterways, swamp lands and billabongs, there’s some of the best fishing on the planet.
There’s full facilities at the homestead, but it’s full remote camping if you venture out. If this place doesn’t get you excited, check your pulse.
SMITH POINT, COBOURG PENINSULA, NT
If you’re heading north, make sure you leave a few days free and make a bit of an effort to visit Arnhem Land, in particular, Smith Point on the Cobourg Peninsula. You won’t see many people, but you’ll see a truckload of wildlife and there’s a heap of indigenous history to indulge in. It really is one of those spots that will leave a lasting impression.
You’ll need to organise access via permits, but it really is worth it. Just walking along the beach is an adventure in itself here. You’ll find seashells of all descriptions, and will likely encounter crocodiles and sea turtles, so keep your eyes peeled.
MINERS POOL CAMPGROUND, DRYSDALE RIVER STATION, WA
One if the lesser known camps in the north is Miners Pool Campground on Drysdale River Station. It overlooks the awesome Miners Pool, which is pretty easy on the eye, to say the least.
It’s one of those places where you can rough it as much or as little as you want. Plus there’s a licensed bar and hot showers at the homestead. Pets are welcome so bring your four-legged mate, and make sure you take a refreshing dip.
MANANGOORA STATION, NT
Manangoora Station is the perfect adventure hub, especially if you don’t mind dropping a line in. There’s plenty to see and do with Vanderlin Island, Edward Pellow Islands and Barranyi National Park just a hop, skip and a bounce away. The Wearyan River offers barramundi, snapper species, jewfish, cod, threadfin, salmon, mangrove jack and plenty of mud crab. So, if you’re like me and the only fish you’ve ever caught is the one your old man threw at you, you should have better luck here.
It’s a true bush camp, meaning there are no facilities, so bring everything you need.
MCGOWAN ISLAND CAMP, KIMBERLEY, WA
McGowan Island Camp is just one of those spots you fall in love with. Although it is a little exposed to the elements, you’re sitting right there on an absolutely mesmerising beach. The campground is nice and flat for campers, and it’s pretty damn hard to be watching the sunset from the comfort of your camp chair. Basic facilities are available, and you’ll want to bring the boat to access the best fishing spots. Don’t forget the crab nets, either.
CHAPMAN RIVER CAMPING AREA, PORMPURAAW, QLD
Sitting at the mouth of the Chapman River, this is one of Cape York’s best-kept secrets. It an absolute pearler of a fishing spot and comes complete with everything you need for a comfortable stay — clean toilets and showers, barbecue area and nearby boat ramps. You’ve got the choice of two riverside campgrounds, and there’s also a great little camp about five kays north in the Mungkan River.
The access road is open from late May, depending on the wet season. The locals say barra and mud crabs are abundant, and we can’t complain about that.
COOPERS CREEK, VIC
Coopers Creek, located within the Boola Boola State Forest, is one of Victoria’s historical gold rush towns, about three hours east of Melbourne and 10km from Walhalla.
The area’s namesake creek meanders through the campground and it’s pretty common to see campers floating in the fresh water on an inflated inner tube. The rocky ground gives plenty of traction for 4WD water crossings in the designated area, but it plays havoc on bare feet.
Check out the full feature in issue #88 May 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.