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Published July 31st 2016
Sydney thrives with thousands of entertainment choices but sometimes we need to escape the bustling city. NSW is covered with hundreds of camping sites, dotted with colourful tents as locals flee for weekend and school holiday adventures. While theme parks and cinemas pry colourful currency from our pockets, free camping spots throughout the premier state invite exploration of nature's beauty. These 5 choices, each in a different national park, are ideal for visitors with 2WD cars. They are wheelchair accessible and have toilet facilities. They welcome caravans and tents. Best of all? Camping is free.
Sculptures in the Scrub picnic area and campground (image by NSW NPWS)
While these sites are free, there are levels of camping intensity. For somewhere to bed down, some prefer a caravan, others love the freedom of erecting a tent near a campfire. While ensuite showers are rare, pristine water flowing along waterfalls, streams, rivers, creeks and beaches are much more refreshing. If you're new to camping, what are some the pleasures to look forward to?
Pleasures - Unplug. Without powerpoints and wi-fi, you won't encounter rogue digital hunters on a Pokemon safari.
- Healthy living. Contrary to the verbal abuse on The Biggest Loser, exercise doesn't require intense pain. Hiking, climbing and canoeing will immerse you in a spectacular environment where you're guaranteed to get fit.
- Rustic meals. Fast-food options tempt us constantly in the city but sitting around a campfire, enjoying a wood-fired pizza, hearty roast dinner wrapped in foil beneath the fiery coals or the freshest grilled fish caught from a nearby river fills an appetite that buckets of fries never reach.
- Overwhelming beauty. The serene silence, crisp, clean breezes and breathtaking night sky filled with stars replace the city's honking horns, blaring televisions, smog-filled air and light-polluted skies. Treasure these moments to sustain you on your return to 'the big smoke'.
- Channelling your inner Bear Grylls, David Attenborough or The Bush Tucker Man in authentic surroundings.
- Conquering the inconveniences of life without modern creature-comforts then grinning uncontrollably after a warm shower, comfy bed and your favourite restaurant meal when you're home.
Weddin Mountains National Park hosts this camping site named for a infamous 19th century bush ranger. Visit nearby Grenfell, a former goldmining town and the birthplace of Henry Lawson, to visit the local museum and review his exploits. In autumn, take a bushwalk to visit Seaton's Farm and imagine rural life with the farming machinery from our colonial past. The park is only a 5-hour drive west through Bowral, Goulburn and Young. The campground is wheelchair-accessible, has gas barbeques, toilets and picnic tables. You'll need to bring drinking water though.
Boyd River campground Kanangra-Boyd National Park, in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, features this campground beside the Morong Creek. You'll share the site with sugar gliders, brush-tail possums and the occasional wombat. The grounds are the starting point for a photographer's dream – lookout and waterfall walks, tucked amongst the snow gums.
Ngarigo campground Pitch your test along the Thredbo River, beneath towering alpine ash trees in Kosciuszko National Park near Jindabyne. Enjoy freshly-caught rainbow and brown trout for dinner after fishing while watching for the native platypus. The walking and cycle tracks will build your appetite as you watch the sunset at Olsens lookout. You'll need to stock up on firewood and drinking water at nearby Jindabyne or Thredbo for your meals using the wood barbeques and picnic tables. Got your skis? Perisher awaits!
Bummaroo campground In Abercrombie River National Park, only a 3-hour drive from Sydney, golden wattles, scores of native birds, chirping frogs and Skippy's cousins are permanent residents. Swim, canoe or kayak in Abercrombie River, relax at secluded waterholes or explore Mulwaree Cave.
Sculptures in the Scrub picnic area and campground For a longer holiday, venture north-west into the Pilliga Forest for a unique history lesson. The influence of the Aboriginal Gamilaroi People in the region is commemorated with the award-winning sculptures. Black cockatoos and turquoise parrots sail overhead as your barbeque sizzles while the sun sets. After boiling, rainwater in the site's tanks is drinkable.
If you're craving mountains, rivers, caves, flora and fauna, I hope you love these choices as much as the savvy campers pitching their tents here year after year. Have you discovered another fantastic camping site in NSW?