Often hidden away camps live long in the memory by virtue of their seclusion...
Selecting a campsite draws on all three of the rules relating to more traditional real estate, that is location, location and location. Time spent assessing your camping options and prioritising your needs are paramount to a good camping trip, but even then, getting the best spot can sometimes just come down to plain luck.
Self-sufficient bush campers have more options than people relying on commercial camping parks. State forests and national parks offer a range of possible sites, in some cases within defined boundaries, while other sites are only limited by your own mobility and sense of adventure.
It’s often best to select sites previously used by others as trampling vegetation and digging drainage, fire pits and other earthworks are possibly illegal or frowned upon at the very least. Ideally you should look for a levelled piece of ground that is not underneath a mature or diseased tree, or a species prone to dropping limbs like some of the bigger river gums. You want the adjacent ground to slope away from the potential tent site to facilitate drainage away from the tent in the event of rain.
Caravan and camper trailer owners don’t have to be quite as fussy with the ground surface, but care should be taken not to position the door directly over a depression, and the unit itself needs to be fairly level for efficient stove, sink, and fridge operation.
Caravan and camper trailer owners don’t have to be quite as fussy with the ground surface, but care should be taken not to position the door directly over a depression, and the unit itself needs to be fairly level for efficient stove, sink, and fridge operation. Morning sun on your campsite is generally a good thing as it allows canvas to dry quicker (important if you are moving on early the next day), and those using solar panels can start getting charge back into the batteries.
Campfires (if permitted) often go a long way to making a campsite enjoyable, but consider all your options when it comes to campfires. Generally, if fire pits are provided they must be used, and other fires are not permitted. Communal fire pits are gaining in popularity within national parks, but do you wish to camp near a potential source of noise for hours into the night or early the next morning? Individual fireplaces are excellent for cooking and warmth. Popular camping destinations will usually have toilet facilities, and camping too close to these is often a sure fire way to wanting to change campsites quick smart. Movement of people and potential odours can make convenient access a less important priority than you first envisaged.
Riverside locations are one of the most popular places to set up camp for the night, these areas are often on grassy elevated banks overlooking the waterways and are often quickly taken, but there are drawbacks to camping in these desirable spots. Consider if all of your group can swim? Do you have very young toddlers in the group? Water is a huge attraction for young children but fast flowing waters and submerged branches can be dangerous for even the most experienced swimmers. Care should also be taken when swimming in turbid water.
Mosquitos are far more active near water, and in the tropics, saltwater crocodiles are an ever-present danger. For these reasons alone, camping well back from the water’s edge makes simply common sense. Many rivers dry out quickly during summer and some people think that the flat sandy riverbeds offer an ideal campsite. This is a risky decision and these locations should be avoided, as flash flooding can and does occur from heavy rainstorms often kilometres away from where you’re camping. In these situations, a wet bed and bogged vehicle might be the least of your concerns.
Obtaining the best site in a national park these days has become something of a lottery, with pre-booking of sites (often many months in advance) required in the busier parks. It’s a good idea to research your park beforehand, just rolling up to a popular destination later in the day and expecting to get a good site is a recipe for disaster – you will almost certainly end up in an overflow area, or be asked to move on, neither of which is much fun after a long day on the road. The best policy for those without bookings is to leave early and arrive at your next destination by lunchtime at the latest!
If possible travel outside of the peak touring seasons to find a broader selection of campsites. Just prior to the busiest periods is best, as you will find cleaner camps and more available firewood. Keep in mind though, that different states have different holiday periods and seasonal periods of popularity. Another option is to travel with a more nimble camping set-up. Conventional vehicles towing caravans are limited to good roads and weather conditions, while 4WDs with a self-contained camper trailer, or swags and tents can offer a greater selection of locations just off the beaten track.
It is often these hidden away camps that live long in the memory by virtue of their seclusion, pleasant ambience and subsequent good times. Choosing a camp carefully will reward all participants with maximum safety, comfort and enthusiasm for the next getaway.