9 wild camping spots to go completely off grid in Queensland
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 zero distractions is your cup of tea, then this list of wild camping spots in Queensland should keep you happy, without a Winnebago in sight!
1. Teerk Rook Ra (Peel Island) National Park, Brisbane
“Where on earth is it?” is the question that often follows any mention of this hidden national park off the coast of Brisbane. 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. Take in all the nature as turtles, dolphins and dugongs welcome you to their home.
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! You’ll need to book your campsite here.
2. Bartle Frere, Tropical North Queensland
Perched in a clearing on Queensland’s highest peak, you’ll find the state’s highest campsite (go figure). Teetering on the edge of a seriously dramatic drop-off at 1400 metres above sea level, your bed for the night comes with panoramic views of 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 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 is what real wild camping is all about.
How to get there: Drive around 80km 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. Book your campsite here.
3. Munga-Thirri National Park, Simpson Desert
Are you seeking 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 1500kms) 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.
Don’t forget to tick off another local icon – a drink at the Birdsville Hotel.
How to get there: Drive 1500km west of 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 and make sure you check this site first.
4. Riversleigh World Heritage Site, Boodjamulla National Park
Fossicking. Not an ancient swearword, more an ancient art form that’s pretty popular around the northern end of Outback Queensland.
At Riversleigh Fossil Sites you can discover the remnants of ancient creatures and a wealth of minerals. You can spend your days digging, sifting and potentially uncover your fortune… or just a pile of dinosaur bones.
Wild camping in these parts is extremely remote, which means being self-sufficient, but you’ll be staying in some of the most important Aboriginal lands in Australia. Discover this World Heritage-listed site with this guide.
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 incredible snorkelling right outside your tent door. Spend the weekend or take some time to explore this remote camping haven.
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. Book your campsite here.
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. It’s so remote that it often flies under the radar, earning the rep as ‘never heard of it’.
There isn’t a huge amount to do here except live the beach lifestyle, explore the island’s 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. Book your campsite here.
7. Sundown National Park, 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, chuck your swag in the back, reference a decent map and make for one of the campsites 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!
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 a 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 (check out these self-driving tips). 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, and 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 for this itinerary and the skills suitable to fix it if things go wrong. Book your campsite here.
9. North West Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
Situated approximately 75 km off the coast from Gladstone lies North West Island, the second largest coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef. Think white sand beaches being lapped by turquoise water, a fringing reef teeming with life, and feet in the sand camping under the stars.
To dial the wildlife documentary up to 10, time your visit with the whale migration or the turtle nesting season. Breeding seabirds also call the island home and the fishing which is permitted in selected zones will get anglers excited.
The entire island is National Park and a permit is needed for camping. Facilities are basic with only composting toilets on the island, making North West Island one for the true wild camper. Campers will need to bring potable water and a fuel stove for their stay. Sites are not marked and you can pitch your tent for the million dollar waterfront views but use judgement to avoid sensitive areas.
How to get there: Take the Curtis Island Ferry service from Gladstone, or make waves in your own boat the logistical effort will be rewarded. If you are waiting in Gladstone, for the rest of your crew to arrive, use this handy guide to explore the city.
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).
Wild 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
What’s your favourite wild camping spot in Queensland? Share in the comments below!
*This post was first published in 2013 and updated in 2018.