The Ten Best Beach Camping Spots in Queensland
Pitch your tent, then into the surf with you.
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Sunshine all year-round, a 130 million-year-old rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, deserted islands, crocodiles — Queensland's 7000 kilometres of coastline has it all. Needless to say, narrowing down the state's hundreds of beautiful beach camping spots to ten was no mean feat, but we've given it a damn good shot. Whether you like to park your tent among crowd-free wilderness, on an exotic island or between the sand and a cocktail bar, there's a pitch for you. Right here.
From pristine beaches and bountiful wine regions to alpine hideaways and bustling country towns, Australia has a wealth of places to explore at any time of year. We've partnered with Tourism Australia to help you plan your road trips, weekend detours and summer getaways so that when you're ready to hit the road you can Holiday Here This Year.
While regional holidays within Queensland are permitted, some of the places mentioned below may still be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.
Some of the beaches on this list are not patrolled by lifeguards. To ensure you stay safe, head over to Tourism Australia for its latest tips on water safety.
CYLINDER BEACH, NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
For proximity to Brisbane and stunning scenery, make North Stradbroke Island your pick. There are a stack of beachside campsites and among the best is Cylinder. Pack your board — there are waves. When you're done with ruling the surf, go koala spotting, stroll along North Gorge walk or play pool with watery panoramas at the Beach Hotel. Facilities are pretty posh — you can count on showers, toilets, barbecues, picnic tables and nearby cafes and restaurants. Book before you go.
INSKIP PENINSULA RECREATION AREA, INSKIP
Tossing up between waves and still water? Go to Inskip Recreation Area — a 500-metre wide peninsula — and you won't have to decide. Spend all morning fumbling about on your board and all arvo doing nothing on your lilo. When you need coffee and people, Rainbow Beach is just a 15-minute drive away (check out our weekender's guide here for things to do in town). The campground is divided into four sections, which are named after local shipwrecks, with varying levels of accessibility and comfort. You're welcome to take your dog, as long as he or she sticks to the leash and watches out for crocs (as should you). Reservations are necessary.
If you're on a beach camping safari, make World Heritage-listed Fraser Island your next stop after Inskip — boats for the biggest sand island in the world leave from Rainbow Beach and take just ten minutes. There are over 30 campsites and your choice will depend partly on how scared — or not scared — of dingoes you are. To sleep within a dingo deterrent fence, book at Central Station, Dundubara, Lake Boomanjin or Waddy Point. For epic sunrises, pitch at Eastern Beach. For a wilder adventure, go for Western Beach or Great Sandy Cape. Whichever you choose, there are all sorts of escapades to be had, including swimming in Champagne Pools and Lake McKenzie to wandering along Seventy-Five Mile Beach.
MISSION BEACH, CASSOWARY COAST
About halfway between Townsville and Cairns — and on the way up to Cape Trib — is the Mission Beach area. There are a number of council-run campgrounds and caravan parks here, but head straight to Kurrimine Beach for a prime beachfront posi. This site is pretty well set up — powered sites with access to a laundry, hot showers and toilets are available along with some unpowered sites in peak season. You can't book, so turn up early in the day and hope for the best.
WHITEHAVEN BEACH, WHITSUNDAY ISLAND
Whitehaven's seven-kilometre-long perfect arc of white sand is The Whitsundays' poster girl. And, thanks to her handy campground, you can join her for a sleepover. Protected by shady coastal eucalypts and beyond the clutches of mobile coverage, let your days pass by in a hammock haze — when you're not swimming in Blue Lagoon-esque waters or walking to Hilltop Inlet, that is. To get here, catch a boat from Airlie Beach. Facilities are limited to hybrid toilets and picnic tables. There's a cap of 36 campers across seven pitches, so bookings are essential.
SANDY BAY, SOUTH MOLLE ISLAND
To the west of Whitsunday Island lies South Molle Island, a laidback refuge that has managed to fly under the radar of commercialisation. Its most popular campsite is Sandy Bay, a peaceful stretch of sand on the west coast, with room for 36 campers. Get active on hiking and mountain biking tracks or relax into some gentle beachcombing. The northern end of Sandy Bay is a lovely spot for snorkelling — do be mindful of stingers, though. To reach South Molle Island, catch a ferry from Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour. Campsite facilities are limited to toilets and picnic tables.
THE WRECKS, MORETON ISLAND
Another convenient trip from Brisbane is Moreton Island, just north of Stradbroke. The Tangalooma Wrecks campground is a short walk or drive (via 4WD) from the ferry landing and, as the name suggests, is within view of a series of shipwrecks. The difference between these and most others along Australia's east coast is they were deliberately sunk to create a break wall. Happily, they make for excellent snorkelling and diving, too. Moreton Island National Park is home to miles of pristine beaches, rocky headlands, creeks, lagoons and wildflowers. Facilities consist of cold showers, hybrid toilets and untreated running water. Book in advance.
COOLUM BEACH, SUNSHINE COAST
If your camping vision involves starting your day with a swim and ending it with a three-course feast, then get out your pegs at Coolum Beach Caravan Park. You'll have direct access to patrolled surf, as well as to all the luxuries of bricks-and-mortar living just across the road in Coolum's town centre. Try Canteen or Raw Energy for eats and Gelato Mio for dessert. Stay long enough to check out the local area, especially Noosa National Park. Facilities are top-notch — expect hot showers, toilets, a camp kitchen, laundry and wifi.
SWAMP BAY, CONWAY NATIONAL PARK
Don't let the name deter you. This precious campsite, found within Conway National Park and 12 kilometres from Airlie Beach, has space for four tents only and incredible views of Daydream Island. The only catch is that it's a two-kilometre walk in and the beach is pebbly (so don't forget your reef shoes). Give yourself enough time to explore Conway — there are awe-inspiring rainforest walks to conquer, waterfalls to visit, extraordinary panoramas to soak up and crocs to dodge. Make a booking before you go and don't imagine anything fancy in the way of facilities. All you'll be getting is a pit toilet, picnic tables and, in case the weather turns against you, a shelter shed.
NOAH BEACH, CAPE TRIBULATION
Noah Beach campground, 80 kilometres north of Port Douglas, puts you smack-bang between the 130-million-year-old Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. It's the only place on the planet where two World Heritage-listed areas find themselves face-to-face. You'll be sleeping 50 metres from the beach sheltered by forest canopy, but do prepare for basic facilities — tap water and bio-cycle toilets are all you'll be getting. There's no mobile coverage and bookings are crucial.
Whether you're planning to travel for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, Holiday Here This Year and you'll be supporting Australian businesses while you explore the best of our country's diverse landscapes and attractions.
Top image: Mission Beach by Matt Glastonbury via Tourism and Events Queensland.
Published on May 29, 2020 by Jasmine Crittenden