Camping is many different things, to many different people.
To some it’s a welcome break from the city, a chance to immerse yourself in nature and leave your troubles behind. To others it’s enduring a leaky tent, removing leeches from your toes and spending sleepless nights with a rock jammed in your lower back.
If finding somewhere remote with few distractions is your luke-warm-cup-of-tea, then this list should keep you happy, without a Winnebago in sight!
1. Teerk Rook Ra National Park, Brisbane
Where on earth is it? I hear you cry! This gem of a campsite on Peel Island in Moreton Bay feels a million miles from the city. You need to be creative to get there, but if you can commandeer a kayak or boat and make for Horseshoe Bay on the southern side of the island you’re almost certain to have the entire place to yourself.
Wind sculpted sandstone rocks, remnants of the old quarantine station and a sheltered campsite greet you. Peel Island is all about being in harmony with the world around you, as the turtles, dolphins and dugongs who call Moreton Bay home are.
How to get there: With no public transport you’ll need to find your own way across Moreton Bay from Brisbane or Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island. It’s so close you could almost swim there!
2. Bartle Frere, Tropical North Queensland
Perched in a clearing on Queensland’s highest peak, this is my absolute favourite. The state’s highest campsite teeters on the edge of a seriously dramatic drop-off at 1400 metres above sea level, with panoramic views to the Atherton Tablelands and Innisfail.
After you’ve fought your way through energy-zapping rainforest, wiped the sweat from your nose and avoided the resident leeches, the relief of reaching the evacuation hut and helipad is well deserved. You could rest up on the beds in the hut, but pitching your tent on the metal framework (if no helicopter is expected of course) and waking to views over the Great Barrier Reef has to be the better option.
How to get there: Around 80 kilometres drive south of Cairns along the Bruce Highway, leave your car at Josephine Falls car park and start the long hike (around four hours) up the steep path.
3. Munga-Thirri National Park, Simpson Desert
You want wilderness, star-filled skies and perfect sunsets? Then definitely add this one to your list.
Nothing quite beats the vastness of the Outback, the redness of the desert and the solitude you find there. It’s a fair drive from Brisbane (around 1500 kilometres) but if you’re out Birdsville way then a trip into the Simpson Desert is a must, stopping off at Big Red; a sand dune of monster proportions on the banks of Lake Nappanerica.
How to get there: Drive the 1500 kilometres due west from Brisbane, drop into the Information Centre there and get the lowdown on the best way to enter the Simpson Desert National Park. Be prepared for some serious distance and solitude.
4. Riversleigh World Heritage Site, Boodjamulla NP
Fossicking. Not an ancient swearword, more an ancient art form that’s pretty popular around the northern end of Outback Queensland.
The remnants of ancient creatures and a wealth of minerals can be found here so people like to dig, sift and potentially uncover their fortune… or just a pile of dinosaur bones. In fact, Riversleigh is one of the Top 10 places to find fossils in the entire world.
Camping in these parts will be remote and you’ll have to be self sufficient, but you’ll be staying in some of the most important Aboriginal lands in Australia.
How to get there: Head to Mount Isa (900 kilometres west of Townsville) and then 207 kilometres north of the Barkly Highway and 100 kilometres west of Gregory Downs in north west Queensland.
5. Lizard Island, Tropical North Queensland
Not only a place of opulent luxury, Lizard Island also caters for campers… you just have to take and cook your own food if you opt to stay under canvas.
Nestled at the base of Cook’s Look (the spot where Captain James Cook found his way out of the Great Barrier Reef in 1770) is a wonderful campground with views across Watson Bay and there’s some incredible snorkelling right outside your tent door.
How to get there: Arrival by charter plane, sailing boat or kayak means it’s a little difficult to get there, but the rewards are well worth it.
6. Frankland Islands, Tropical North Queensland
A retreat that’s a little easier to reach than #5 is the Frankland Islands. Around an hour south of Cairns, this is the traditional sea country of the Mandingalby Yindinji and Gungandji Aboriginal peoples.
They chose to live here with good reason. The bountiful waters around the island are home to immaculate coral reefs, giant shoals of fish, numerous types of turtle and reef sharks.
There isn’t a huge amount to do here, just live the beach lifestyle, explore the islands rainforest and mangroves and feel the sand between your toes. Kick back and let your Robinson Crusoe spirit flow…
How to get there: Hang around the marina in Cairns and befriend a yachtie or charter a boat to take you there.
7. Sundown NP, South Queensland border
On the hinterland border of Queensland and New South Wales, mountains jut sharply from the surrounding land. Steep gorges and sharp ridges fill this rugged wilderness and provide challenging and remote walks to access them.
If you’ve got a 4WD then chuck your swag in the back, reference a decent map and make for one of the campsites that are nestled deep in the valleys. Cold at night in winter and wet most of the time in summer, it helps to be a serious lover of the great outdoors rather than a ‘glamper’. So leave your curling tongs and makeup bag at home!
How to get there: On the Queensland/New South Wales border, 250 kilometres south-west of Brisbane via Stanthorpe and 70 kilometres north-west of Tenterfield.
8. Jardine River, Cape York
At the northern tip of Queensland lies the Cape York Peninsula, accessible by air, or road during the drier months of the year. It’s a hot and humid part of the world even in the cooler winter months but has some of the most dramatic and colourful scenery the state has to offer.
Cool waterfalls cut through the dry landscape, forming deep gorges and pools that provide welcome respite from a day of driving through the dusty terrain.
Campsites are inland and few have running water so you need to be self-sufficient and ensure that your vehicle is up to the job. It’s a seriously long way from help if you need to get a spare part delivered!
The rewards of making it this far north are pretty high; a trip to the tip is essential to stand at the most northern point in Australia, visit one of the remote Aboriginal communities, get involved in some serious bush-bashing. This is where 4wd’ers earn their muddy stripes!
How to get there: Aim for the dry season (May – October) when the roads are open and river levels low. You’ll need a 4WD and the skills suitable to fix it if things go wrong.
If you do head somewhere off the beaten track, remember to take everything you need with you (and a little bit more just in case the weather turns).
Remote camping essentials
- Waterproof tent (check it before you leave)
- Drinking water (5 litres per person per day)
- Insect repellent
- Torch and spare batteries
- Non-perishable food
- Sleeping bag and mat
- Wet weather gear
- Map and compass
- Sunscreen and hat
- Two-way radio or satellite phone
To find out more visit the Queensland Department of National Parks.
Bartle Frere: dekett/Flickr
Sundown National Park: Michael Jefferies/Flickr
Frankland Islands: Matthew Kenwrick/Flickr
Cover photo, Lizard Island photo: Scott Sporleder.