With spring in full swing, it’s the perfect time to head to the South Coast for some fresh sea air. There are plenty of spots to set up the tent for an overnight stay, or just spend the day soaking up the best of what nature has to offer.
It was a tough choice narrowing our favourite camping spots down to three to profile, but here are our top picks. Each one is a short drive from the hub of the South Coast – Bateman’s Bay, and lets you get up close and personal with the wide open spaces of our beautiful coastline.
If the thought sitting around a campfire under a perfect starry sky, listening to the waves crash on the pristine sand, or spending your days swimming, surfing, or fishing sounds appealing, the camping grounds at Merry Beach, Depot Beach and Potato Point fit the bill.
But wait – there’s more. Each of the camping grounds also offers deserted beaches, native animals aplenty and numerous opportunities to get out and enjoy the outdoors with activities like bushwalking, hiking, rock walks and mountain trails.
1. Merry Beach Caravan Resort is at Bawley Point, in an absolute beachfront spot in the magnificent, pristine Murramarang National Park.
2. Depot Beach Campground is at Depot Beach, also surrounded by Murramarang National Park, where the sand is brilliant white and visitors are surrounded by majestic spotted gum forest.
3. Beachcomber Holiday Park is just past Potato Point – a tiny hamlet whose waterways teem with sea life and make it a haven for experienced snorkelers. The holiday park is nestled between the tranquil Eurobodalla National Park, the unspoilt Potato Point beachfront and crystal clear Tuross Lake.
Why you’ll love them
At Merry Beach, you can set up your tent almost right on the dunes, just a few steps from the sand. In the park, there’s a pool and new-looking play area. Dogs are welcome as long as they remain on a leash.
A walking track up to spectacular coastal cliffs begins right near the campsites, and the rock walks are fun when the tide is right. Just a short stroll away is a general store where you can pick up some groceries and get your fix of fish and chips.
If it’s peace and quiet you’re craving, you’ll find them at Depot Beach. The camping area is in a serene and beautiful location. Pick one of the camping spots with views of the spectacular beach – which has the most intense turquoise colour – and coastline if possible. The amenities are basic, but they are well maintained. You’ll need to bring coins for a hot shower, and you can enjoy a barbecue or campfire at the designated fireplaces.
Although you’ll need to cross a road to get to the beach, the traffic in the area is minimal. It’s a drive to the nearest shops, but a coffee van has done its rounds most of the days we’ve been there. Be sure to allow time for swimming, snorkelling or strolling along the rock platform or rainforest walk, both of which start at the picnic area near the beach. If you stay for a meal, you may well find yourself sharing your lunch with the birds, kangaroos and goannas that are right at home here.
Potato Point is a beautifully equipped campground which is perfect if you’re travelling with kids – and you can pitch your tent almost right on the beach. The playground equipment is plentiful, and the facilities and amenities are of high standard. There is a small shop within the grounds, and regular events are held during peak times. The managers have a wealth of knowledge about local attractions – like whale watching – that they are very happy to share.
Fishing, surfing and swimming are all terrific here. There are mountain bike trails and bushwalking opportunities in the national park, where you’ll be likely to meet wallabies and kangaroos.
The drive to the South Coast follows the Kings Highway east out of Queanbeyan. You’ll pass through farming areas, forests and mountain ranges, and the towns of Bungendore, Braidwood and Nelligen before coming to a major roundabout where the Kings Highway meets the Princes Highway just before the heart of the South Coast, Bateman’s Bay.
Merry Beach is a 35-minute drive from the roundabout. Follow the Princes Highway north to Termeil then follow the signs to Bawley Point, Kioloa and the resort. The camping ground is approximately 12km from the Princes Highway turn off.
Depot Beach campground is in the central area of Murramarang National Park. To get there, turn left at the Bateman’s Bay roundabout and follow the Princes Highway north. Drive for about 20 minutes, then turn right onto Mt Agony Road. Take the right fork onto North Durras Road and follow Depot Beach to the campground.
Potato Point is also accessed from the Princes Highway, but you’ll need to do a right turn at the Bateman’s Bay roundabout and head south. It’s about a 40-minute drive to the village of Bodalla, where you’ll see Potato Point Road, which will take you to the township of Potato Point. Turn left onto Riverview Street, then left again onto Blackfellows Point Road. It’s an unsealed road along the beach for the next 2kms, with Beachcomber Holiday Park at the end.
When to go
The best times for camping are those that avoid extremes of heat and cold. In spring and autumn, the weather is warm, and you’re less likely to find some of the downsides of camping in summer – like crowds, insects and oppressive heat. The milder seasons are the perfect time to put on your hiking boots and explore the national parks or try out some of the spectacular walks in the region.
Activities like bike riding, fishing, barbecues, and kayaking are enjoyable at most times of the year. There are often a few hardy souls braving the sea, although the water temperature tends to be too cool for most people at that time.
- Distance: Bateman’s Bay is 150km from Canberra, plus an additional 20-60km to reach individual campgrounds
- Duration: Bateman’s Bay is around 2 hours drive from Canberra, plus 30-45 minutes further to get to the camping sites mentioned
- Cost: rates vary according to the season, so check each campsite’s website before you head off. There’s also a cost for entry to some National Parks.
- Recommended for: anyone who enjoys getting up close and personal with nature and the great outdoors or wants to experience a change of pace.
Do you have a favourite spot to camp at the South Coast? Let us know in the comments.
Image of Beachcomber Holiday Park, Potato Point, from Beachcomber Holiday Park.