Dirk Hartog Island, image © Chris Woods
Embrace sandy toes and salt spray at these awesome Aussie campsites smack bang on some of the best beaches in the world. Jennifer Ennion shares her favourites.
Dirk Hartog Island, WA
It's one of Australia's best-kept secrets, which is why you'll want to put Dirk Hartog Island on your must-see-soon list. Located off the Gascoyne Coast of Western Australia, the island is nirvana for back-to-basics campers, 4WDers and fishermen as it includes a handful of wilderness campsites in stunning locations. Watch the swell roll in from your tent nestled in the dunes at Urchin Point, or swim in the aqua water at Dampier's Landing. You'll find it hard to drag yourself away from the creamy sand at Cape Ransonnet, while the kids will love beachcombing at beautiful Turtle Bay. The views well and truly make up for the lack of facilities at all of the campsites… and the fact you'll have to carry everything with you, on and off the island.
There is a landing barge that transfers one vehicle and a trailer at a time from Steep Point to the island. It takes about 15 minutes and you have to book.
Dirk Hartog Island, image © Chris Woods
Keppel Bay Islands National Park, QLD
Adventurous families will love the challenge of camping in the Keppel Bay Islands National Park. Camping is allowed across six islands, with sites just a seagull's strut from the shore. If you're part of a large group you'll want to check out North Keppel Island's Considine Beach camping area, as well as Humpy Island. If you prefer isolation, there is a small sand site on Conical Island, where you can easily snorkel to large coral bommies. Divided Island is another intimate option. It's a roosting and feeding site for ospreys and white-bellied sea eagles, and you can pitch a tent on the pebble beach. It's a similar situation at Pelican Island, which is very remote and also has a pebble beach. All of these camping spots can only be reached by boat, making them perfect for self-sufficient families with Robinson Crusoe tendencies.
You can book the sites online through Queensland National Parks.
Richardsons Beach, TAS
In Tasmania's beautiful Freycinet National Park, you'll find Richardsons Beach. There is an official camping area at the beach, with powered sites suitable for caravans, however, you can also camp in the dunes at the southern end of the beach. Here, there are 25 tent sites, each with room for one vehicle and access to cold showers. It's best to visit outside of peak holiday seasons, as the sites are allocated by ballot during the height of summer. To reach the dune area, head along Freycinet Drive.
You can pre-book the dune sites through the Freycinet Visitor Centre; national park and camping fees apply. Be sure you pack away any food, so as not to inadvertently feed or attract resident brushtail possums and wallabies. If you need to buy more groceries, ice or fuel you'll be able to in nearby Coles Bay.
"Visit on the cusp of summer and you can set up within dashing distance from the ocean's edge."
Nine Mile Beach, image © Jennifer Ennion
Nine Mile Beach, NSW
It's a popular place to ring in the New Year, but camping on Nine Mile Beach, in Lake Macquarie, is special any time of year. In fact, it is best to visit on the cusp of summer when you can set up within dashing distance from the ocean's edge. You can't camp in the back dunes here, but are allowed to set up about halfway down the beach away from vegetation and easily visible to 4WDers plying the sandy highway from Blacksmiths Beach to Redhead. The surf is rough, and therefore only suitable to experienced surfers and kite surfers. However, there is a creek toward Redhead Beach (the same stretch of sand) and young kids will love floating on inflatable flamingos and mucking about in the shallow water.
There are two entrances to Nine Mile Beach: Awabakal Avenue, in the south, and off Kalaroo Road, in the north. You can't 4WD on Redhead Beach, with Crockers Creek the farthest point you're allowed to go. You'll also need a 4WD Beach Permit.
North Straddie, QLD
Beach camping near a city is almost unheard of (legally anyway), but camping among dunes is just a ferry ride from Brisbane. On North Stradbroke Island there are plenty of sites to choose from. At Flinders Beach you'll find 200 unpowered sites across 12 beachfront camping areas, which can only be reached via bush tracks or from the beach at low tide. Sites are dog friendly, but pooches must be kept on leads, and there are toilets at key access points. Main Beach, stretching along the eastern side of the island offers 15 camping areas, with 300 unpowered sites. This is a the spot for experienced surfers and keen fishermen, and dogs are allowed. Expect zero facilities and access is 4WD-only along the sand.
You can book through Straddie Camping, at which time you should also buy a camping permit and an annual Vehicle Access Permit. You can also buy permits at Straddie Camping Reservations Office.
This article appeared in volume 53 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
North Straddie Flinders, image © Jennifer Ennion