Car-less but keen to see Australia beyond the capital cities? Public transport in rural Australia is, to put it mildly, shite. Even where it does exist, information about it can be hard to come by. Planning a camping trip without a car is a bit like planning a buck’s night without a groom.
But the good news is, it can be done – and no one’s going to end up naked and tied to a traffic light. Cool Camping Australia tracks down three of the best – and most easily accessible – campsites on the east coast.
The Basin campsite in Ku-ring-Gai Chase is less than three hours from Sydney, but a world apart. It sits on a peninsula, almost surrounded by Pittwater, a tranquil stretch of salt water that’s made for easy swimming, paddle-boarding, or just lazing around with a few beers. If it were any more laid back it’d defy the laws of physics.
To get here from Sydney, catch the L90 bus from Railway Square near Central train station (Lee Street, Stand B). Buses depart at least once an hour. Tell the driver you want to get off at the public jetty in Palm Beach – it’ll take about 2½ hours. From the jetty, catch the passenger ferry to the Basin. Ferries depart every hour, on the hour and the trip takes 20
minutes. All up, the transport cost from the CBD is less than 20 bucks. For more information go to www.environment.nsw.gov.au
The road to Wilson’s Promontory National Park is a super-highway for wombats and kangaroos. At dusk, they emerge onto the road in droves, apparently intent on mass suicide (they’re keen on the tender grass growing at the edge of the bitumen). So it’s more relaxing to arrive at Victoria’s favourite camping spot by bus than in a car. If you think the campsite here is big – it can take up to 3000 campers at a time – wait till you see the beach. Rockpool- hopping, kite-flying and hiking are popular around here, and you shouldn’t miss the Tidal Overlook Circuit (3.8km), a walk through eucalypt forests to a lookout from where you can see just about as far west as Kent.
To get to the Prom, take a bus from Melbourne’s Southern Cross station to Fish Creek on a Friday afternoon. From Fish Creek, there’s a connecting service to Tidal River. The service from Tidal River back to Melbourne operates only on Sundays (and on public holidays Mondays in summer). For Melbourne-Fish Creek bus information, contact V/Line (13 6196;
www.viclink.com.au). For Fish Creek-Tidal River bus information, call Moon’s Buslines (03 5687 1249).
For more information go to www.parkweb.vic.gov.au
Nearly everyone on Straddie (North Stradbroke Island, if you want to be formal about it) is here on holidays, so the whole place has a relaxed vibe that draws Brisbane-ites back year after year – that, and the golden beaches, sparkling aqua water and great surf. You could easily camp at Cylinder Beach campsite for a week without leaving the beach, but Straddie has a huge range of other things on offer: from bikes, surfboards and sea kayaks for hire, to yoga on the beach and organized tours.
To get to Straddie, catch a train from Brisbane to Cleveland, then hop on a ferry. An island bus (07 3415 2417; www.stradbrokebuses.com.au meets almost every arriving ferry (not all the late-afternoon ones) and stops right by Cylinder Beach. During peak season, ferry bookings are essential – see www.bigredcat.com.au or www.stradbrokeferries.com.au
More information: 1300 551 253
Cool Camping Australia: East Coast ($34.95, Explore Australia Publishing, pbk), by Kerryn Burgess, is a hand-picked collection of more than 80 of the best campsites on the east coast, including 14 accessible by public transport.