Where have all the campsites gone?

By: Ron and Viv Moon, Photography by: Ron and Viv Moon


Where to next? Why is it so hard to find camping in our national parks?

Where have all the campsites gone?
Under-utilised day-use areas could allow camping as well.

This column was written sitting on the front porch of the Louth Pub –Shindy’s Inn – as it is called. It’s a friendly spot and right on the Darling River, NSW, with a grassy camping area right beside it. It makes a good spot to throw down the swag or set up the camper for a night.

We’ve been travelling the backroads from Broken Hill to White Cliffs and then on to Wanaaring before hitting the ‘big smoke’ of Bourke and turning south to follow the Darling River to its junction with the mighty Murray.

In the process, we’ve been passing through sections of the Paroo-Darling NP that, along with other nearby parks and reserves, cover a vast area of western NSW. Trouble is, there are bugger-all places in these reserves where you are allowed to camp. It gets up my nose!

To exacerbate the situation, the national parks and wildlife service in NSW has, in a couple of places, put in ‘day use’ areas and picnic spots complete with all the facilities the travelling public are coming to expect from a well-serviced city park, including car parks, toilet facilities, shelter sheds, table and chairs and free gas barbecues. All very nice… all under-used out here… and signs banning camping. Why? It’s got me nonplussed!

The Peery Lake day use area is a case in point. Further up the road in the Nocoleche Nature Reserve, and again there is a picnic area with all the attendant facilities but again camping is banned!

They do promote the fact on the information signs for the parks that there is the Coach and Horses campground located in the Paroo-Darling NP park in the Wilga section; they overlook the fact that it is a good 150km away on the other side of the river and completely out of the way.

I don’t get it! They make an area a ‘day use area’ and go to the trouble and effort of setting it up really well and with just a small amount of extra effort they could add a couple of camping spots. It’s not as if they don’t have the room! 

Of course, NSW isn’t alone in this.

Over in WA, up in the Kimberley, the national parks department owns huge swaths of land with the huge King Leopold Ranges CP – for a case in point – straddling the Gibb River Road, which happens to be the most popular and well-travelled route through the region for modern-day explorers. In this park, there is just one camping area, which is located about 20km or so off the main road. It’s a beauty, I’ve got to say, but it’s often crowded to overflowing, which detracts from the remote bush experience that our national park estate promotes and proudly boasts about. Why it hasn’t opened up a new campground closer to the Gibb River Road is beyond me – there is certainly plenty of opportunity and, again, there’s no lack the room!

Right across Australia there are plenty of other examples of poor decisions and management when it comes to our public land estate.

In this day and age, when more and more people are travelling the back roads and to our remoter places searching for a far removed bush adventure, it would be bloody nice to see an increase in the camping areas available in our national parks. They don’t have to be big and fancy – we don’t even need free gas barbecues! In fact, a small camping area with just a basic toilet facility will suit most people looking for a bush experience that is not found in a nearby town caravan park.

Making well setup and not very well used ‘day use areas’ into camping areas as well, would seem to me, to be an easy and effective way of managing the park and the visitors with the money and the staff that the parks’ departments never seem to have enough of.

Check out the full feature in issue #109 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.