Pink Lakes Tranquil

My Top Five – Nigel Smith

When you are on the road your fellow travellers are often the best sources of information. With that in mind, Time to Roam asked frequent Aussie traveller Nigel Smith to share his pick of favourite camping spots -from some not so famous or well-travelled corners of the country.

1.) Farina Station SA -Rich in outback history

The town of Marree is the southern marshalling point for three of Australia’s great overland tracks – the Oodnadatta Track, the Birdsville Track and the Strzelecki Track. Except as a provisioning stop, most people will push past the township north or south to the tracks or the Flinders Ranges.

It’s worth treating yourself to a scenic break immersed in history at Farina Station. It’s a working cattle station with a wonderfully peaceful and grassy camping ground. For just $5 per person per night, you get a scenic setting a short walk (about 1km) from the abandoned ruins of Farina township.

The campsite itself is simple with BBQ and fire pit, some composting toilets and one of the more character-filled ablution blocks I’ve come across. Built from railway sleepers of the original Ghan railway line, you only get to enjoy a hot shower after putting in a bit of effort by getting a fire going under the traditional donkey. It takes longer, but somehow feels even better!

This is a very relaxed location for travellers to pull up for the night. If you are interested in history, birdlife and some great photographic opportunities then you could quite easily while away a day or two here. Thanks to some huge efforts of volunteers over the years, the township is easy to walk around and has some good interpretative signage. Check at the station to see it there is a tour available. If time is tight then you can certainly see the highlights in a couple of hours before you hit the road again in the morning.

With the stunning sunrises and sunsets of the Outback, it’s both a historian’s and a photographer’s dream.

Farina Station:
Camping fee: $5 per person per night
Firewood: BYO or available for sale; only use in the firepits or BBQ stands.
Location: Approx: 130km north of Parachilna, 53km south of Marree.
Suitable for caravans, smaller RVs and campervans.
Dog friendly

2.) Barn Hill WA – Stunning ocean views.

Barn Hill is easily overlooked for some of the better known locations on Eighty Mile Beach, immediately to the north. However, this scenic spot looking out to the Indian Ocean has a peaceful charm all its own. Arriving at the tin shed office next to, of all things, a bowling green, you can’t help but notice that on one night of the week there is live music (very low key), that you can pre-order homemade pizzas from the station owners (heaven) and you have a pick of stunning spots overlooking the ocean, or set further back among the shade of the gum trees.

Selecting a spot at the end of the campground, our pitch overlooked the length of the beach. It was an exposed spot but at that time of year the wind was pleasantly cooling. The activities here tend to the simple, as they do along this stretch of the WA coast. Fishing, walking, swimming (if you’re happy with some strong surf)…and simply lapping up the view over a good book and a chilled glass of your favourite sav blanc.

There are “modern” ablutions facilities but I liked the ones that were nearest to us. A row of open-to-the-sky shower stalls (if you want hot water, then choose one of the other blocks) where you can wash away the salt and the sand at the end of the day under the glorious blue of the sky.

Barn Hill:
Fees: $22-$35
Firewood: BYO or available for sale
Location: Approx: 128kms south of Broome.
Suitable for caravans, RVs and campervans.
Dog friendly.

3.) Green Mountains/O’Reilly’s and Binna Burra QLD -A walk on the wild side.

Along the popular coastal trek between NSW and QLD, the major drawcards of the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and, further south, Byron Bay can cause people to bypass the stunning Lamington National Park.

With primeval sub-tropical rainforest and a fantastic network of bushwalking trails (allowing for everything from a stroll to a long day-hike) it is a very special area. The reason I have included two campsite options is that they are both hard to beat in respect of location. Green Mountains, on the Western edge of the park is a well-run National Parks site. From this side of the Park you get views across the Kerry Valley over the McPherson’s Range and the Great Dividing Range.

Wonderful at sunset. Shifting focus over to Binna Burra and its more Easterly location, many of the walks from here will give you striking views across rainforest clad valleys and hills to the sky-scraping towers of the Gold Coast.The access road to the Green Mountain camping ground is not suitable for caravans, and they are not accommodated at this National Park site. However, if you were to stay at the privately run Binna Burra and take a day trip over to this area, then you get to widen your choice of walking options. You can also enjoy lunch at the privately run O’Reilly’s resort next to the campsite.

The fact that both sites have resorts right next to them does have advantages. There are restaurants, cafes and health spas, great for a muscle-easing massage after a hard days walk.

The main attractions here are the rainforest, the wildlife and the walking. Deep among the huge trees and thick vegetation you come across beautiful creeks, waterfalls and glades. If you are lucky, you may also come across the ridiculously colourful Lamington Crayfish. We came across one just sitting on a pathway,
about 200 metres uphill from the nearest water.

Green Mountains/O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat: and
A 90 minute drive west from the Gold Coast and less than 2 hours drive south west of Brisbane.
Camping fees: $5.45 per person per night, of $21.80 for a family group per night.
Hot and cold showers, water (boil or treat before drinking), no open fires, no dogs.
No caravans at this site.

Binna Burra:
45km form Surfers Paradise, 90kms from Brisbane.
Powered: $35 for two people
Unpowered: $28 for two people.
Firewood available for sale, or BYO.
No pets.

4.) Tom Groggins NSW – Mighty Murray Magic

My first trip to the Snowies in the summer was a revelation. What I’d previously thought of as a winter weekend ski-destination transformed in my mind to a strikingly beautiful and rugged walking and touring destination. There are several great caravan parks on the shores of Lake Jindabyne, but if you want a
waterfront site with a difference, then take a trip along the twists of the Alpine Way beyond Thredbo to Tom Groggins campsite.

This is a basic National Park site, so bring all your essentials with you. However, your reward will be the chance to camp on the banks of the Murray where it is still evolving from a creek to a river. With the peaks of the Snowy Mountains rising all about you, on a hot summer’s day a cooling soak in the river is such a treat. The air is startlingly fresh, the water crystal clear and the views wonderful.A word of warning (and an admission) – the road from Thredbo is steep and windy. Our first visit to Tom Groggins wasn’t planned; it was simply the first place we could safely stop after cooking our brakes on the way down. Happily the NRMA were able to fetch us a new set of brake pads from Thredbo and fit them the next day, but it was a sharp reminder to drive using the braking power of the engine and not rely on the brakes for these long winding descents. Not my proudest driving moment, but that particular cloud (…of smoke as the brakes glowed red hot) did have a silver lining in the shape of a stay at a very pretty spot on the banks of the river.

Tom Groggins:
Access via the Alpine Way; not recommended for large campervans and trailers.
Fees: Free camping, though you will need a valid National Parks entry permit
Facilities: Non-flush toilets, BYO wood and water from the river (requires treating)
No pets.
Trout fishing.

5.) Pink Lakes VIC – Unforgettable sunsets

As a base to explore the Murray Sunset National Park, or as a stopover on a longer trip, Pink Lakes is worth visiting simply for the breathtaking sunrise and sunset.

The Pink Lake in question (Lake Crosbie is the main campground) is one of a group of near waterless salt lakes, with a pink tinge. On a windless day, ideally with a few clouds in the sky, the shifting colours and reflections are quite beautiful. This is a simple National Park site, about 20km down a dirt road from
the nearest bitumen. However, it’s good quality and flat, so easily accessible.

The one word of warning – at the end of any hot, dry period, the feral bees in the area are drawn to any moisture like moths to a flame. The trouble is that unlike moths these guys pack a nasty sting.

Unless you plan to do some 4WD exploration of the park, this is only a quick stopover. However, it is such a strikingly beautiful spot that if I’m ever in the area at the right time of year, I would choose Pink Lakes over any number of more “comfortable” spots.

Pink Lakes:
60km west of Ouyen, along the Mallee Highway. Turn onto an all-weather gravel
road for 13km to the main camping areas.
Non-flush toilets.
No water.
Fires in firepits only – BYO firewood (except during total fires bans)