Those of you planning to get away on a camping experience with your kids might be interested in this list, which I’ve pulled together for West Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Unless I’ve mentioned otherwise, most of the camping here is in caravan parks.
I haven’t been to many places over in WA, having visited only once before the children were born. But one place I definitely recommend is Busselton in the south. Close-ish to Margaret River (hello wineries!), Busselton has safe beaches for the kids and some great resorts in which to stay.
We visited Rottnest Island for a few days, and it was amazing with its crystal blue waters for snorkelling. Make sure your kids are able to ride a bike before going there though, as that is the main mode of transport on the island – and it’s not a flat ride either!
I would love to travel to Broome so that I could ride a camel at sunset, as well as 4-wheel driving through the Kimberley Region. I have seen some amazing pictures of Ningaloo Reef, which are drawing me to the area, but walking the Bibbulmun track is one on my absolute bucket list items. Will just have to wait until the kids get a bit older first!
Having travelled from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and through the Simpson Desert, I have spent some time camping in areas that are off the beaten track in SA. So unfortunately for those of you reading without a 4WD, some of these places may be a little out of your reach.
On a main road (yay!) lies Coober Pedy, known for its opal mining and very hot temperatures. The kids will love going down into the mines, where they can look for opals and see how the big trucks operate underground. We camped underground (yes, you really can), which was a very weird but exciting experience. It is simply too hot to camp above ground for many months of the year.
We were super lucky to see Lake Eyre in full flood (a very uncommon occurrence), and were able to camp next to the lake at an unknown campsite (basically, you find a spot and set up camp). The kids will love being so remote (the nearest major town is hundreds of kilometers away), and the stars are just so bright out there. Take a telescope if you have one, but watch out for dingoes, which feed at night.
This place has to be seen to be believed. It has a population of around seven, and is on the Oodnadatta track. 4WD only, I’m sorry! Not really a small kids town, there is a pub and a caravan park, but the area is so “Australian” that it really needs to be experienced. One night is enough though, when you have such young kids.
Dalhousie Springs and the Simpson Desert
The springs are located at the start of the Simpson Desert, and are wonderful to laze about in – but be warned. The sign says to stay in no longer than 20 mins, and it means it – anything longer in one stint, and you can become very dehydrated! It is like a massive bath, and there are many old tyre tubes lying around for you to use. It is a very deep lake, so take care with young children. The Desert itself is like an adventure all of its own. Kids will love running up and down sandhills (apparently there are over 1000 large dunes), watching wild camels and emu in the distance, and listening to dingoes howling at night (the dingoes don’t like fires, so get one roaring and they will stay away – or so we were told). At the end is Birdsville...
I just love the far north of Australia. Whilst it has its drawbacks (read: crocs, snakes and other dangerous animals), it really is what Australia is all about. You can drive for hours on end and not see another soul. You have to really watch your fuel consumption, because petrol stations can be few and far between (you may even need to use a few jerry cans). But you see Australia in all her ruggedness - a beautiful, wild, untamed land. And kids get to see and understand about her history dating back thousands of years.
Kakadu National Park
I have been very lucky to visit Kakadu National Park, and although it was a long time before my kids were even thought of, I know of a few places here that may just be what you are looking for. Jabiru is the main town here, but I wouldn’t stay there – I’d head off to West Alligator Heads (just watch out for crocs and wild boar). Garnamarr campground (which is the base for visiting Twin Falls or JimJim Falls), or Cooinda Campground and Caravan Park in the Yellow Waters region (a great place to take a boat ride to see crocodiles). Just be aware that many places up here are dry – no alcohol allowed.
Mataranka Thermal Springs
What’s not to love about a thermal hot spring facility, with wonderful warm water to soothe your weary bones? The kids will love swimming around in the outdoor thermally-heated pools, and the camping village is only 3km from the pool area. Although not a bush camp, it has everything you could possibly need.
Nitmiluk National Park is located in the Top End of Australia's Northern Territory. The Park's main entrance is located 30 km northeast of Katherine via a sealed road. There are two types of camping in the Park. You can stay at the permanent campgrounds at the Gorge or Leliyn (Edith Falls) where there is plenty of car parking, tent and caravan sites. Toilets are provided at some camping areas and a source of water is almost always available nearby. Check at the Nitmiluk Centre first. We would love to visit this place again with the kids, but you need to be on the lookout for crocodiles at all times. Don’t swim unless you know it’s safe (a pool perhaps?).
The Olgas and Kings Canyon
Uluru gets all the kudos, but for me and my family, we can’t go past The Olgas and Kings Canyon. It is very remote, and access is limited in wet weather, but the area is simply stunning. Great bushwalking opportunities abound, but just watch the kids as it is very steep in some places, with massive cliffs that are not fenced off. The campgrounds are lovely, and I have found that the kids make some amazing friends from all over the world in these types of places. Don’t attempt the Mereenie Loop back to Alice Springs without a 4WD, but if you do have one, you will get to see some amazing places such as the Larapinta trail and MacDonnell Ranges. We stayed at Standley Chasm, and at Glen Helen Homestead, which both have a kiosk and cheap camping sites next to amazing waterholes.
Obviously, Australia is a massive continent with thousands of amazing places to camp and visit. These are just a few of our favourite places to stay, and hopefully it has ignited some interest for you to go out and find your own favourites too! Kids will love to visit anywhere you choose to go, camping or otherwise, and as long as they are safe and well fed, they will thrive in the outdoors.