For diversity of beach camping options, Victoria is hard to beat. If you're a wine fiend who loves the stars but hates to be away from bars, there's Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island. If you're a misanthrope who aims to put as much distance between humanity and yourself as possible, there are the depths of the Great Otway National Park and Wilsons Promontory. If you love long, wild beaches, 90 Mile has you covered, but if shallow, sheltered bays are more your thing, head west of Melbourne to Killarney. Here are ten top spots to get you packing and pitching.
If you like a few creature comforts and the company of a temporary village, then pitch at Tidal River. This epic campsite, which has room for nearly 500 tents, lies on the western coast of Wilsons Promontory. Beautiful Norman Beach runs along one edge and Tidal River along another. Come summer, the openair cinema opens for business, so, after a day swimming, surfing and hiking, you can catch up on a flick you missed. The other facilities are pretty fancy, too (for camping) - you get toilets, hot showers, gas barbies, dishwashing stations, washing machines and device charging stations. Book before you leave home.
If you can't think of anything more trying than camping among 500 other tents, but still have your heart set on Wilsons Promontory, here's a strikingly contrasting option. Refuge Cove is a small yet spectacular beach hidden away on the Prom's eastern coast. The only way you can get there is on foot, by walking along a scenic track from Sealers Cove in the north or Little Waterloo Bay in the south. Bookings are vital and stays are limited to two consecutive nights. Other stunning, beachside, walk-in campsites on Wilsons Promontory include Little Waterloo Bay and Oberon Bay.
For wild surf, rugged scenery and a rustic camping experience, make tracks to Johanna Beach, in the western section of Great Otway National Park. This one is a go-to for surfers — in fact, it's home to one of the best beach breaks on the planet and hosted the 1970 World Surfing Championships. You're also likely to meet hikers, making their way along the Great Ocean Walk, a 100-kilometre trek from Apollo Bay to Port Campbell. The 25-pitch campsite is neatly tucked away behind sand dunes and has non-flushing toilets only. Don't forget your drinking water. Bookings are essential.
Here, you can meet Phillip Island's famous little penguins and koalas without forking out for exxy accommodation. Run by BIG4, this campground (and caravan park) sits on a nature reserve between Newhaven Beach and wetlands. The facilities are supreme — on top of toilets, showers, a laundry and a kiosk, there are the extra-fun additions of a giant jumping pillow, a volleyball net, a basketball ring, a games room and buggy hire. When you're done with all those, Phillip Island gives you loads to do — from The Nobbies' boardwalks to a bunch of wineries and breweries.
Like Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula foreshore lets you combine beach time with wine tasting. Plus, it's just an hour drive from Melbourne. There are three sites, all managed by the Shire: Rosebud (812 pitches), Rye (174) and Sorrento (147). Wherever you are, you'll be swimming in crystal clear bays and enjoying some good facilities, including toilets, hot showers, barbies, boat ramps and plenty of shade. Plus, there's always a village just across the road and a stack of wineries a short drive away. To find out all about the Peninsula's best eats, drinks and activities, consult our weekender's guide.
Another camp that comes with a high chance of seeing koalas is the Wye River Foreshore Camping Reserve, 18 kilometres south of Lorne and two-and-a-half hours' drive from Melbourne. The 64-pitch site spreads across absolute beach frontage and the mouth of the Wye River. In between swimming and fishing, explore the Great Otway National Park, finding rainforest, heathlands, lovely bays and rock formations. The campsite comes with toilets, showers and power, plus there's a pub and general store nearby. Bookings are essential.
For a peaceful getaway not too far from Melbourne, head for Fairhaven, in the French Island National Park, east of the Mornington Peninsula. The only way to get there is via passenger ferry. The campsite is perched on the island's western coast, next to a long stretch of sand and still water. In between kicking back, set off on foot or by bike to explore the island's diverse ecosystems, including open woodlands and mangroves, harbouring 580 plant species, 280 bird species and lots of koalas. The campground offers simple toilets and bookings aren't possible — spots are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.
This campground gives you access to incredible 90 Mile Beach. Name is as name does — the beach runs uninterrupted for 90 miles (about 145 kilometres) along Victoria's southeastern coast, making it one of the longest beaches on Earth. Shoreline Drive provides room for 65 pitches along a narrow strip at 90 Mile's southern end, not far from the cute, fibro cottage-dotted village of Seaspray. The only facilities you can expect are non-flushing toilets. Bookings aren't available — simply turn up and try your luck.
Marengo Holiday Park is on absolute beachfront at the southern end of Mounts Bay (that's the bay to the south of Apollo). When you're not swimming and strolling, take a sea kayaking tour, meeting Australian fur seals, and, by night, acquaint yourself with the local glow worm population. Expect to be well looked after, facilities-wise: there are toilets, showers, a laundry, a camp kitchen, a playground, a barbie area and wifi. If you're planning on driving the entire Great Ocean Road, let our 48 hours guide help you out.
Found 280 kilometres west of Melbourne (about 20 kilometres west of Warrnambool), Killarney is a tranquil, 800-person village surrounded by lush dairy pastures (hence, the Irish name). Its nearest beach is a one kilometre arc of sand, alongside a calm, shallow bay. Leave yourself time to adventure around the area, especially in nearby Tower Hill Reserve, where you'll get to see a volcanic crater. The 70-pitch campsite is sheltered by dunes and comes with toilets, hot showers, barbies, a kids' playground, an oval and, in summer, a caretaker. Pets are welcome. Bookings are recommended.