Tidal River, Victoria
THE GIPPSLAND REGION EXTENDS from Western Port across a pastoral area anchored by the service towns of Warragul, Morwell and Traralgon. The landscape gets taller to the north of the Princes Hwy, culminating in the dazzling subalpine plateau of Baw Baw National Park, where cross-country skiers point themselves across frosty fields in winter. The southern edge of Gippsland is dominated by one of Australia’s best-known national parks – Wilsons Promontory, a granite-peaked continental appendage that gives campers the chance to sleep at the edge of utterly beautiful ocean coves and bays.
The Gippsland coastline east of Phillip Island jags its way around pretty locales such as Venus Bay and Cape Liptrap, the rugged shoreline giving surfers plenty of waves. Further east are Shallow Inlet and Nooramunga, a pair of coastal parks where you can strand yourself on sand islands and practise your surffishing technique. Between them are the outstanding wilds of Wilsons Promontory. Walk down the length of the promontory to the elements-battered lighthouse at its southern tip, clamber up through tea-tree thickets to Norman Point to spy the islands of the adjacent marine park, and sit on a deserted beach at night to count the stars.
WILSONS PROMONTORY NATIONAL PARK
The hook of land that is mainland Australia’s most southerly point is also one of the most enchanting wilderness regions you could wish for. Half the park is still recovering from a bushfire early in 2009, but that hasn’t deterred visitors from funnelling through Tidal River to bushwalk through rainforests, heathlands and golden dunes, all the while gazing up at the park’s granite heights or towards an oceanic horizon. Potoroos, koalas, wombats and damselflies keep visitors company as they explore the area. Access is via Wilsons Promontory Rd from Fish Creek. A 2-night maximum stay applies to all walk-in campsites. The risk of landslips has increased in the park and off-track hiking permits are currently unavailable – check with Parks Victoria for the latest.
How to book: www.parkstay.vic.gov.au | Permits: camping permit required
TIDAL RIVER CAMPING AREA
Tidal River, at the end of Wilsons Promontory Rd, is a large, well-equipped campground behind the dunes of stunning Norman Bay. You can watch the sun set over the ocean from Norman Lookout. You can do myriad short walks in the area, including the Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk and the stroll alongside the tannin-stained Tidal River. Coastal tracks from here give access to Whisky Bay to the north, and to Little Oberon Bay and beyond to the south. A few days is recommended to explore the Promontory’s many bays and beaches, and the many facilities, including hot showers and a kiosk, make Tidal River an ideal base. Visit outside peak times if you’re hoping to find a site with a bit of privacy.
Note: a ballot is used to allocate campsites from the week before Christmas to the end of Jan.
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ROTTNEST ISLAND, WA
Rottnest Island, Western Australia
Rottnest Island/Wadjemup, just offshore and accessible by ferry is an idyllic spot where you can swim off white-sand beaches, snorkel over shipwrecks, go fishing or simply relax. It also has a dark history as a place where Whadjuk Noongar men were imprisoned. Hiring a bike is the best way to explore Rotto and find its secluded beaches and surf spots. The island’s accommodation options have gone upscale in recent years so campers will need to glamp it instead – or settle for a daytrip.
However, if this is a bit too extravagant for you, why not try this site on the Munda Biddi Trail instead?
WUNGONG CAMPING AREA
At this bush campsite surrounded by majestic jarrah trees, kangaroos may be sighted early in the morning or at dusk. Wungong is 26km north-east of Jarrahdale and 35km south of Carinyah camping area.
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MUNGO NATIONAL PARK, NSW
Mungo National Park, New South Wales
At the heart of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area in the state’s remote south-west, Mungo National Park is a wild and arid moonscape. Many photo opportunities exist here among the eroded clay and sand formations called the Walls of China. At sunrise and sunset, especially in the winter, some amazing colours light up the sky and landscape. Scattered remains recall human occupation over 40,000 years, making the area one of immense international archaeological significance. Note: no petrol is available at the park; the nearest fuel is at Pooncarie, 80km away.
Who to contact: NPWS Buronga (03) 5021 8900 | How to book: NPWS Contact Centre 1300 072 757; or www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation; 1300 663 748 for Mungo Lodge.
Mungo National Park Main Camp camping area
There are 33 sites here, 2km from the Mungo Visitor Centre on Arumpo Rd and the closest to the Mungo Lookout viewing platform. Hot showers, flush toilets and a public phone are available at the visitor centre. BYO drinking water and firewood. The Zanci Pastoral Loop is a 10km scenic drive or cycle from the visitor centre to the site of the old Zanci homestead.
You can also drive or cycle along the road over the ancient lake bed to the Walls of China (20km one way). Alternative cabin accommodation is available at Shearers’ Quarters (sleeps up to 26 people) or Mungo Lodge, on Arumpo Rd, 2km from the park entrance.
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Camping Around Australia 5th Edition is available online and at your local Dymocks store.