1. DARLING RIVER RUN, NSW
Enjoy secluded bush camping along the iconic Darling River in outback NSW. Staying at Trilby Station is a unique and truly authentic outback experience. Fringing the Darling River around 125km south-east of Bourke, Trilby is 320,000 acres of sheep and goat farm. It’s a colourful kaleidoscope of outback landscapes, from the bird-filled river red gums on the banks of the Darling and the treeless black soil flood plains to the ironstone ridges, red loam soils and mulga scrublands.
When we visited in spring the property was awash in wildflowers; little gems of white, pink, purple and yellow popping gleefully against the deep red outback soil. And don’t even get me started on the star-filled night skies, where the Milky Way is so dazzling it almost casts shadows.
There’s self-sufficient bush camping on the banks of the Darling River plus powered sites on higher ground. Both are suitable for camper trailers, with the riverside sites idyllically nestled in amongst the red gums with fire pits at each site. If secluded camping on the iconic Darling is what you’re after, you won’t find a much better option than this.
The powered sites are around 100m back from the river, close to the camp kitchen, bathroom facilities, gas barbecue and paved fire pit, and all camping guests are welcome to use the swimming pool and complete the Mud Maps tour.
2. LORELLA SPRINGS, GULF COUNTRY, NT
Long before the term glamping ever passed the lips of ad executives in Sydney, outback campers were happily shelling out for a beer at the bar and ordering meals before kicking back in the magical hot springs.
It seems that Lorella Springs, a working cattle station, had somehow managed to combine unmitigated luxury with full throttle adventure. Set on a million-acre property, access is 175km from Borroloola and about 145km from Cape Crawford, taking in the many faces of the Gulf.
The campgrounds are enormous and well cared for, and range from full facilities including hot showers to totally self-sufficient bush camping. And the 4WDing is A-grade, too. The property offers billabongs, canyons, ancient rock formations, swamps, streams, rivers and, for the nature lover, the nudie camp and hot springs.
Here, you can find yourself adrift for hours in the cool crystal waters of large pristine pools and spectacular gorges, with monoliths providing excellent vantage points to launch a canoe. And the best bit? Networks of rivers are ideal for those carrying a rooftop tinny. If you’re keen to cast a line, the Rosie Creek fishing camp is a challenging 85km north of the Lorella Springs homestead and main campgrounds. And if you’re willing to brave it you can actually launch a boat from here and make your way to the sea.
When CTA last visited Lorella, the enterprising owner Rhett timed our visit to Rosie Creek with swelling tidal waters, guaranteeing a chase up the shallow rocky beach and sand bars for our fish-fanatical crew.
3. TULLY GORGE, TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND, QLD
Hailed as being the wettest town in Australia, Tully might not seem like the immediately obvious choice for a primo camping destination. But hear me out. All that rain results in some seriously lush tropical rainforest in the mountainous hinterland that gradually crumbles to extensive coastal flats carpeted in sugar cane stretching out to meet the Coral Sea.
The mighty Tully River surges through the rainforest creating fearsome waves over giant boulders before flattening out to calm, deep pools perfect for swimming. This is white water rafting country, and you’d be mad not to give this adrenalin-pumping activity a go – just be sure to pack a spare pair of duds, you might need ‘em. Or, while away your time peacefully camped beside the river listening to the ebbs and flows of the rainforest. You might even spot a cassowary – or a freshwater croc!
4. HOME VALLEY STATION, THE KIMBERLEY, WA
When it comes to epic riverside camping it’s hard to imagine how you can beat camping on the banks of the mighty Pentecost River in the Kimberley, watching the majestic Cockburn Ranges glow golden in the last of the day’s light in the background. Located on the Gibb River Road right near the famous Pentecost River Crossing, Home Valley Station is a working property that has well and truly embraced visitors, offering a range of camping, accommodation and facilities including a laundry, swimming pool and even a bar and grill. But we reckon the pick of the station is at the bush camping area down on the river. Everything you love about the Kimberley, all in one place.
5. WOLLONDILLY RIVER STATION, SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS, NSW
You’ll find Wollondilly River Station in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales. It lies around 50km west of Bowral and Mittagong on Wombeyan Caves Road, right on the Goodmans Ford on the Wollondilly River. It’s only three hours from Sydney or two-and-a-half hours from Canberra, making it the ideal weekend getaway.
There’s not a camper alive who doesn’t like a relaxing campsite right next to the river, so the hardest part about nabbing yourself a prime piece of real estate here at Wollondilly Station is choosing from all the prime spots. If you can’t tell by the photos, we got an absolute cracker!
If lazing around at camp for a few days isn’t your style, I’m sure a leisurely paddle downstream will do the trick. Nothing much compares to canoeing in these parts, just ask the dog; she likes it more than I do, I think! There’s a maze of walking tracks around, and even a few spots to explore with the 4WD. Mountain bike riding is popular on the property, and if you own a horse they’re welcome to come along for the ride – it doesn’t get any more pet-friendly than that.
The river is full of fish, including trout, native Macquarie perch, bass and freshwater catfish. But here’s something you don’t hear every day; property owner Brian reckons you’ll have a ball catching and eating carp! Yep that’s right. He reckons the carp put up a great fight and, because they are being caught from a fresh water running stream instead of a muddy dam, they actually taste half decent. Use worms or even corn as bait and you might just be surprised.
If you’re after a quick weekend escape that offers true bush camping complete with your own little slice of riverside perfection, you’ve found it. Plus, if that’s not enough to pack up the camper and bring the family out camping, the fact that you can even bring the dog along should do the trick.
This article is courtesy of Camper Trailer Australia. For the full article, see www.campertraileraustralia.com.au/destinations/1706/top-riverside-campsites-part-1
MEET THE AUTHOR
Free-spirited, teller of ripper yarns, and with an incredible eye for detail, Adventures Field Editor Emma Ryan is widely travelled and loves a challenge. As the field editor of Camper Trailer Australia, Emma is also well versed in camper trailers and the challenges of the bush and outback.