Australia camping spots: 15 of the best secret campsites

Every camping enthusiast has one. Sometimes two. It's their favourite little spot to pitch a tent or pull up the 4WD, an isolated, out-of-the-way haven of true natural beauty that is almost impossible for anyone else to find.

These places are like people's favourite fishing spots, or their most loved beaches: closely guarded secrets never to be shared with the general populace.

Many of these camping sites will remain a mystery to most, which is great. However, we are prepared to lift the lid on just a few of this state's most beautiful places to spend a night in nature.

NEW SOUTH WALES

BURBIE CAMP, WARRUMBUNGLE NATIONAL PARK

Scenic views across the Warrumbungle countryside.
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Photo: Filippo Rivetti/Destination NSW

Burbie Camp is the best of both worlds: isolated, and yet accessible. The carpark in this part of the Warrumbungle National Park is 2WD-friendly in all seasons. The site itself is walk-in only, though it's just three kilometres along the Burbie Canyon Track, a gentle hike that makes this site a possibility for those who wouldn't normally tackle such an adventure.

What you'll find at the site is a rustic campground with very few facilities, save for a tap running untreated spring water and a spot for a wood-fired barbecue. That's the attraction though. This is where you tap out from the modern world and instead look for wallabies on the ground, wedge-tailed eagles in the sky, and sleep under a truly awesome blanket of stars at night.

GENTLEMANS HALT CAMPGROUND, HAWKESBURY

You'll have to stomp 10km through rugged wilderness to reach this bush camp on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney. Do that, however, and you will likely find yourself alone with one gorgeous view of the water.

There are few facilities at Gentlemans Halt, believed to be a site used by Governor Phillip during his exploration of the area in 1789: just a few picnic tables, barbecue facilities and compost toilets. All water, firewood and other supplies need to be carried in on that 10km hike along the Canoelands Ridge track. A stay here is all about spotting native wildlife, walking the nearby trails or going for a splash in the river.

For those who don't fancy the hike, this site is also accessible by boat or kayak.

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WOPERANA CAMPGROUND, MURRAY VALLEY

The Murray Valley National Park, near Deniliquin in south-western NSW, has a host of remote campsites that are perfect for those who crave isolation (and a place to fish). One of the best is the Woperana Campground, a free and basic site accessible only in dry weather, and even then a 4WD is recommended.

The campground sits between the mighty Murray and a smaller tributary called Native Dog Creek, making it an ideal spot for those keen on a little canoeing or kayaking, as well as dropping a line in and hoping for a few nibbles. Aside from that, your job here is to put your feet up and enjoy the serenity.

EMU LAKE CAMPGROUND, KINCHEGA NATIONAL PARK

Lake Menindee, Kinchega National Park.
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Photo: Maxime Coquard/Destination NSW

As the name suggests, this is a great place to spot an emu or two. Or, you know, 500. Emu Lake Campground is proper Outback, a dusty but thoroughly charming site way out in Kinchega National Park, near Broken Hill. There are a few facilities here, including picnic tables, barbecue pits and drop toilets, but the main attraction is the sense of isolation, the stillness, the absolute quiet.

From here you'll have the chance to explore Kinchega park, visit the nearby Kinchega woolshed, watch for native birdlife (including those emus), and toast the gorgeous sunset at the end of each day with a G&T, or, depending on your preference, maybe just some water. The blanket of stars each night is also truly astounding.

GANGUDDY-DUNNS SWAMP CAMPGROUND, WOLLEMI NP

Woman enjoying an afternoon kayak through Ganguddy (Dunns Swamp) in Wollemi National Park.
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Photo: Guy Williment/Destination NSW

Admittedly, any campground with the word "swamp" in it doesn't sound immediately enticing. But stick with us here. Ganguddy-Dunns Swamp Campground is small, rustic site on the banks of the Cudgegong River, which is anything but swampy. This area is, in fact, part of the World Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park, and the waterway is perfect for fishing, canoeing and swimming.

It only takes around four hours to get from Sydney to this wilderness wonderland, with access for 2WD vehicles, and there are picnic tables, barbecue facilities and drop toilets on site, though all drinking water and food will need to be carried in. Once you arrive, pitch the tent in among the scribbly gums and the rugged rock formations, watch for wallabies on land, platypus in the river, and greater gliders up above – and take it easy.

VICTORIA

SEALERS COVE, WILSON'S PROMONTORY NATIONAL PARK

If you're hoping to introduce your kids to the joys of hike-in camping, this is the spot to do it. Sealers Cove is a truly beautiful beach and bay on the eastern side of Wilson's Promontory, with golden sands and clear waters. There's no vehicular access, which means those wishing to pitch a tent will have to walk about 10km from the Telegraph Saddle trail head. Fortunately, the hike is a relatively easy one, with no difficult steep sections, and plenty of varied terrain – perfect for family groups.

It's worth the walk, too, for the privilege of pitching a tent in the shady forest at Sealers and having unfettered access to that beautiful cove, sheltered from prevailing winds. There are a few facilities on site, including drop toilets and picnic tables, but all drinking water and food needs to be carried in. Permits are also required.

BARMAH LAKES CAMPGROUND, BARMAH NATIONAL PARK

The Murray
Four wheel drive at Barmah State Park by the Murray River
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Photo: Robert Blackburn/Visit Victoria

Strap the canoe to the roof when you're heading to Barmah Lakes Campground, on the banks of the Murray River, a gentle a three-hour drive north of Melbourne. The main attraction here is that waterway, as well as the lake itself, perfect for canoeing, fishing and swimming.

The campground itself is a basic one, set in a clearing among tall River Red Gums on the river's edge. There's good road access (4WDs recommended), though few facilities once you arrive: just a drop toilet and a few spots to set up a barbecue. All food and water needs to be carried in. That's the attraction though: the isolation, the disconnection from modern life, the chance to spot vast flocks of waterbirds, see emus in the wild, drop a line in to fish, or just put your feet up.

HOWITT HUT AND CAMPING AREA, HIGH COUNTRY

If it feels a little spooky around Howitt Hut, in the Victorian High Country, that's for good reason. It was here that the remains of John Bamford were discovered way back in 1918 – the stockman's death was one of two unsolved cases that formed the "Wonnangatta murders". That, however, was long, long ago, and the site around Howitt Hut is these days a sought-after camping spot, though it's still eerily remote.

There's road access to the hut and campground, from Melbourne via Moe and Glenmaggie, though no facililties to speak of once you arrive: just a clearing. BYO food, water, and something to dig a toilet. Your reward will be all the serenity you could ask for, plus access to some great hiking trails in Alpine National Park. Perfect, as long as you're not afraid of ghosts.

AMBLERS CROSSING, LERDERDERG STATE PARK

Get the 4WD ready to do the job for which it was intended: you'll be tackling a rough and ready track to access the Amblers Crossing campground in Lerderderg State Park, perfect for those who fancy testing their bush-bashing mettle. It's worth it, too, because the site is a lovely one, a basic bush camp surrounded by tall gums, with only a few firepits in the way of facilities.

If the weather is wet or you only have a 2WD, there's also camping at the main Lerderderg Campground, which has picnic tables, toilets and fireplaces. Both sites provide great access to all of the walking and 4WD tracks in Lerderderg Park, though for those looking for a truly isolated and rustic experience, Amblers Crossing is the way to go.

GUNBOWER NATIONAL PARK, GANNAWARRA

Kayaking on Murray River at Will's Bend near Echuca
Echuca - Concrete Playground Shoot March 2018
Photo: Emily Godfrey
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Photo: Emily Godfrey/Visit Victoria

There are a whole series of quiet, rustic campsites available on the 40km-long Gunbower Island, which itself is actually a string of wetlands and waterways adjacent to the Murray River between Echuca and Koondrook. Visitors can have their pick of 114 sites on the Murray and 25 beside Gunbower Creek, though all are free-camping sites and operate on a first-in, best-dressed basis. There are no toilets, no tables, and few barbecues. Just stillness.

The attraction here is the beauty of the national park itself, as well as the chance to hit the water in a kayak or canoe, go for a swim, drop a line in for some fishing, check out the bird life, drive the 4WD tracks, and spend quiet evenings toasting another day of back-to-nature perfection.

AROUND AUSTRALIA

Ocean Beach, SA

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Photo: SATC

The facilities available at the Ocean Beach campsites in Coorong National Park, on South Australia's beautiful Limestone Coast, are as follows: none. Nilch. Zip. No toilets, no barbecues, no showers, no picnic tables. What you have, instead, is the chance to camp right on the beach, to set up your tent on the sand, facing the ocean, to sleep with a soundtrack of waves, to wake to the smell of salty air. Of course you will need a 4WD to get here, and a healthy sense of adventure to survive. But it will be worth it.

North West Island, QLD

Marooned on your own private island: right now that sounds almost too good to be true – but it's real. North West Island is a coral cay on the southern Great Barrier Reef, the lesser-known cousin to the likes of nearby Heron Island and Lady Elliot. There's not much on North West: just a few drop toilets and a clearing in the pisonia forest to pitch a tent. There's no regular ferry service; access is by private vessel or charter. The reward for your effort is island paradise that you will likely have all to yourself. The chance to snorkel, fish, birdwatch, hike, and pretend you're the only person left on Earth.

North Zoe Bay, QLD

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Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Here's some waterborne adventure for those who like to get off the beaten track: pack up your sea kayak in the town of Lucinda with everything you need for a few nights, and set out for a paddle to the eastern side of Hinchinbrook Island, where you will find Zoe Bay. This is the ideal spot to set up camp and check out from the modern world: the only facilities here are drop toilets; the only kiosk is the ocean, where you might be able to pick up a fish or two. There's hiking to be done on the island itself, swimming in the warm waters, and plenty of resident sea turtles to spot from the kayak.

Kalgan's Pool, WA

It's a mere 1238-kilometre drive from Perth to get to Kalgan's Pool, a stunning little spot to pitch a tent in the Pilbara region, just outside the town of Newman. Getting here is an adventure: from Newman, you're looking at about 1.5 hours of 4WD heaven, driving rocky or gravel roads mostly used by vehicles from the mine nearby, with a few creek crossings for good measure. At the end of the track, Kalgan's Pool, a waterhole that's ideal for swimming, with plenty of space to set up camp nearby. The scenery is stunning, and the silence perfect.

Bucket Billabong, NT

There's no shortage of opportunities for camping in Kakadu National Park, with more than 20 designated spots to pitch a tent, ranging from the popular, comfortable likes of the Cooinda campground, to more isolated bush-camping spots such as Bucket Billabong. Bucket is 4WD access only, with 20km of rough track to tackle from Kakadu Resort. The waterhole is a local favourite for fishing, with space to put boats in; it has no facilities to speak of, but it is one lovely, secluded spot.

See also: Going camping for the first time? Five things you need to know

See also: Secret's out: 18 of Australia's best hidden beaches

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