You don’t need to burn up the credit card on a fancy hotel to experience some of the nation’s best holiday destinations. Just grab your camping gear and rustle up a sense of adventure. These great sites won’t break your budget – in fact, one of them doesn’t cost a cent.
1. Island escape
Where: Lake Allom campsite, Fraser Island, Qld.
Yours from: $5.95 per person per night
Thought you couldn’t afford a Queensland island retreat? Think again. Pitch a tent on Fraser Island and you can enjoy all of the island’s natural wonders for next to nothing.The best value is found at one of the six sites run by the Queensland Department of National Parks.
Our favourite is Lake Allom, overlooked by most visitors. There are only three sites in this forest-fringed campground, so it’s always tranquil.
A nearby bush track winds around the lake where you can chill out by the shore and spot the tiny turtles that live there.
Book at: parks.nprsr.qld.gov.au
2. Bush odyssey
Where: Euroka Campground, Blue Mountains, NSW.
Yours from: $23 per site per night
Its ancient cliffs, deep gorges, pristine creeks and sun-dappled forests lure visitors from around the world. Less than two hours from the centre of Sydney, the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains is one of Australia’s most accessible wilderness areas and the Euroka campground, near the town of Glenbrook, is right in the middle of it.
Soaring trees surround your tent and there's no need to set your alarm; the morning chorus of kookaburras, cockatoos and parrots will do the trick.
This lovely campsite also makes a great base for exploring. Hike down to the shaded Jellybean Pool or the tranquil Blue Pool, admire the rock art in the Red Hands Cave or stretch your legs on the Euroka-Nepean River Walk.
Book at: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au
3. Sea change
Where: Parry Beach, Denmark, WA.
Yours from: $10 for two people per night
Is there a better way to wake up than listening to the whisper of waves on the shore? The south-west coast of Western Australia is a particularly pristine stretch of coastline and the campsite at Parry’s Beach is just a short stroll from the water.
After pitching your tent, continue along the shoreline and you will find one of WA’s most tranquil swimming spots, the beautiful Greens Pool. If you’re feeling energetic, hike a stretch of the Bibbulman Track, or head to the soaring Tingle forests to experience the steep Tree Top Walk.
Book at: No bookings. Parry Beach operates on a first come, first served basis.
4. In the wild
Where: Fairhaven Campground, French Island, Vic.
Yours from: No fee
Never heard of French Island? You’re not alone. This under-the -radar destination off the Mornington Peninsula (catch the ferry from Stony Point) is the ultimate chill-out spot.
Two-thirds of the island is national park, home to a rich range of flora and fauna, including 100 native orchid species.
Whether you spend the day hiking or biking, the serene Fairhaven Campground on the west coast makes a great base. Keep an eye out for Long-nosed potoroos and koalas.
Book at: No bookings. French Island operates on a first come, first served basis.
5. Outback adventure
Where: Wilpena Pound Caravan and Campground, Flinders Ranges National Park, SA.
Yours from: $26 a night for two
Take in 130 million years of history at Wilpena Pound, one of the most spectacular sites in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. The geology of this rocky landscape offers insights into the deep past.
For more recent history, visit Aboriginal sites such as Arkaroo Rock and the relics of pioneering white settlers, such as the old Wilpena Station. Wildlife fans will delight in the Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies that live in the stunning Brachina Gorge.
Sleep amid the River Red Gums at the Wilpena Pound campsite. You can also expect encounters with kangaroos and emus.
Book at: wilpenapound.com.au
Camping checklist - don’t leave home without this essential equipment:
- Of course you need a tent, so make it the right one. Think about space (you want enough room to get changed comfortably), waterproofing and ventilation.
- A good night’s sleep depends on good bedding, so invest in a quality sleeping bag and a self-inflating mattress.
- Headlamps are one of the most useful things you can take: pack one for everyone.
- A large esky – or two – will keep your food and drink cool until it’s time for dinner.
- A small shovel comes in handy for all sorts of things: digging, pounding in tent pegs, even rearranging logs in the fire.
And before you go, consider taking out Domestic Travel Insurance, so you can be protected against cost blowouts on your budget trip, if mishaps happen on the way.
Disclaimer: NRMA Travel Insurance is issued by Great Lakes Reinsurance (UK) PLC trading as Great Lakes Australia and promoted by Insurance Australia Limited trading as NRMA Insurance. Cover-More Insurance Services Pty Limited acts under a binder authority from Great Lakes Australia to arrange for the issue of and to administer the product on their behalf. This is general advice only so to see if the product is right for you, always consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Financial Services Guide available at nrma.com.au/travel.