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Pitch your tent, then into the surf with you.
On a warm night, there's no more consoling sound than crashing waves. And on a blistering morning, there's no more refreshing wake-up than an immediate plunge into the sea. Treat yourself to both this summer with a beachfront camping adventure. We've scoured the New South Wales coast to bring you some of the best pitches next to the sand — from the South Coast's Pebbly Beach where you'll be waking up with kangaroos, to the Central Coast's charming Little Beach where there's room for only six.
Diamond Head Campground lies in the sheltered southern corner of Dunbogan Beach, on the watery edge of Crowdy Bay National Park. There's plenty to do, from swimming in the calm, aquamarine water to exploring spectacular Split Rock. Walkers will be keen to conquer the 4.8-kilometre Diamond Head loop, which takes in swamp mahogany and paperbark forests, as well as loads of coastal panoramas. The campground has 75 pitches and tents aren't the limit — you're welcome to pull up in your caravan or motorhome, too. Among the facilities are showers, toilets, barbies and picnic tables.
This magical beach is tucked inside Jervis Bay's northern head, just a stone's throw away from magnificent Point Perpendicular. It's made for lazy, sandy days and safe swimming. If you're keen for a bit more of an adventure, then take your snorkel and follow the rock ledges beyond the bay's entrance to meet garfish, yellow tails and old wives. The campsite is pretty rustic, with facilities limited to portaloos and rubbish bins. Don't forget your own cooking gear — and toilet paper! Also, availability is restricted to weekend nights and NSW school holidays on account of Beecroft Weapons Range's proximity. Bookings aren't possible — simply turn up and try your luck. There's more info over here.
Broughton Island, which lies off Dark Point (near Hawks Nest) is the only spot in New South Wales where you're allowed to sleep among a sea bird colony. You'll wake up surrounded by wedge-tailed shearwaters. The campsite is at Little Poverty Beach and there's only room for five, so you can enjoy the island's pristine beaches and walks without having to worry about crowds - even in the height of summer. Of course, the limited numbers also mean it's crucial to book in advance and facilities consist of toilets only - be prepared to boat everything in with you, including drinking water.
Little Beach is another spot for people who don't like sharing. Grab five of your mates and claim it all for yourself. There are just six pitches in this super-cute campsite in Bouddi National Park on the Central Coast. The setting is a tiny cove, backdropped by coastal rainforest and shaped by stunning cliffs. Facilities are limited to picnic tables, barbies and toilets. If you have a day to spare, take on the eight-kilometre Bouddi Coastal Walk, which runs between McMasters Beach and Putty Beach. For more tips on the area, visit our weekender's guide.
At The Basin, perched on Pittwater's western shore and backdropped by Ku-ring-gai National Park, you can camp on the beach without leaving the city limits. It's ideal if you're looking for a quick, nature-drenched getaway, but don't have time for a long drive. In fact, the easiest way to get there is by boat, in the form of a water taxi or ferry from Palm Beach. Otherwise, drive to West Head Road carpark and walk, but keep in mind the trail is steep and 2.8 kilometres long. There's space for 400 campers and some flash facilities, including showers, toilets, barbecues, drinking water, picnic tables and, in case you're feeling nostalgic, a public phone. Pack your snorkel — we rate The Basin among Sydney's best snorkelling spots.
For another beachy sleep close to Sydney — on the south side this time - pack your swag and make tracks to Bonnie Vale, which is on the Port Hacking River in the Royal National Park. Like The Basin, this one makes for a convenient break from hectic city life. Drive or catch a ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena — from there, the campground is just a two-kilometre stroll. The facilities make things extra cruisy — there are showers, toilets, barbecues, drinking water and picnic tables. Plus, Bundeena has cafes and monthly markets. If you're looking for an adventure, hire a kayak — we reckon Bonnie Vale is one of Sydney's best spots for paddling.
Want to share your brekkie with wild kangaroos? Set up your tent at Pebbly Beach, which you'll find in Murramarang National Park, about four hours drive south of Sydney. The campground is just a stumble from the sand, but is protected by forest. Plus, you can camp next to your car. There's room for 23 tents, as well as barbecues, showers, toilets and drinking water. Once you're done with wrestling the 'roos, take a dip, spot sea eagles, have a fish or tackle a bushwalk or two.
This natural campground is right on the beach at Mystery Bay, a tiny coastal village nine kilometres south of Narooma. The site is dotted with native bush, including spotted gums, acacias and banksias, and facilities are on the basic side, consisting of pit toilets and cold showers. You're welcome to take your dog, as long as he/she sticks to the leash. Spend your time hanging out on the beach or explore nearby Eurobodalla National Park, where you'll find lookouts, walks, stacks of quiet beaches and pretty picnic spots.
You'd be hard pressed to find a pitch any closer to the sand than at Picnic Point Campground in Mimosa Rocks National Park on the Far South Coast. What's more, there's a choice of two beaches - pretty much whichever way the wind is blowing, you can count on shelter. Commit your visit to beach-ing, fishing and exploring nearby coastline, or jump in your car and check out the park's many other beaches, rich Aboriginal heritage and busy wildlife, including swamp wallabies, koalas, potoroos, possums and sugar gliders. Picnic Point has room for 18 tents, as well as barbies and toilets. Pitches are handed out on a first come, first served basis - bookings aren't available.
If you're keen to soak up some Far North Coast warmth, but want to avoid the mid-summer madness of Byron Bay, then pitch your tent at Woody Head Campground. You'll find it just north of Yamba, overlooking Woody Bay in the southeastern corner of Bundjalung National Park. There's room for up to 94 others, so facilities are pretty schmick — expect toilets, showers, drinking water, barbies, picnic tables and a boat ramp. The campsite gives you direct access to the Iluka Walking Track, which travels through ancient, heritage-listed rainforest and breathtaking coastal views for 2.5 kilometres.
This campsite is perfect if you have a foreign friend wanting a true-blue Australian adventure — you'll be camping amongst kangaroos, possums, goannas and a million birds. Probably best to warn them though, as our overseas friends don't seem to realise how freaking huge kangaroos actually are. There's heaps to do here — snorkelling, surfing, canoeing and mountain bike riding as well as an open-air cinema in summer. There are hot showers and wood-powered barbecues to grill the fish you've caught too.
Only an hour south of Sydney, this small, grassy campsite is so close to the beach you can almost reach out of your tent and touch the sand. With a glorious backdrop of green hills and all the amenities, including a kitchen with power points, this is a no-brainer for a very relaxed weekend.
By Jasmine Crittenden with Georgia Booth.
Published on December 12, 2016 by Jasmine Crittenden