Sunshine all year-round, 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.
For proximity to Brisbane and stunning scenery, make North Stradbroke Island your pick. There's 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 Beach Hotel. Facilities are pretty posh: you can count on showers, toilets, barbecues, picnic tables and nearby cafes and restaurants. Book before you go.
Tossing up between waves and still water? Go to Inskip — a 500-metre wide peninsula — and you won't have to decide. Spend all morning fumbling about on your board and all arvo proving nothing on your lilo. When you need coffee and people, Rainbow Beach is just 15 minutes' drive away (check out our weekender's guide here). The campground is divided into seven sections — four of which are named after local shipwrecks — with varying levels of accessibility and comfort. You're welcome to take your dog, as long as he/she sticks to the leash. 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. There are plenty of 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.
This remote campsite, dotted with paperbarks and positioned on white-sanded Elim Beach, is run by Eddie Deemal, a Thiithaarr Warra elder. You'll find it an hour's drive from Cooktown and half-an-hour east of Hope Vale. Crocs do roam the area, so swimming is a no-no, but there's a busy starfish community to meet, campfires under the stars to light and, just 300 metres along the beach, the famous Coloured Sands. The only catch is you need a 4WD to get here. Facilities consist of toilets and cold showers only. Bookings aren't available, but it's a good idea to contact Eddie before setting off.
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.
Whitehaven's six-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.
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.
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. Hence, 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.
Another convenient trip from Brisbane is Moreton Island, just north of Stradbroke. The Wrecks campground is a short walk 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 online or over the phone.
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 Harvest 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, a laundry and wifi.