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Published August 10th 2016
Brisbane's warm weather has created iconic entertainment choices, tempting visitors in the chilly southern states to flood the city. Queensland offers hundreds of camping sites, speckled with florescent tents as locals flee for flora-filled adventures. While theme parks on the Gold Coast and local cinemas pry digital dollars with a pay wave, free camping spots throughout the sunshine state invite exploration of nature's beauty. These 5 choices, are ideal for visitors with 2WD cars. They are wheelchair accessible and have toilet facilities. They welcome caravans and tents. Best of all? The camping is free.
While these sites are free, there are levels of camping intensity. For somewhere to bed down, some prefer a caravan, others love mastering the Ikea-like skill of erecting a tent without allen keys. Room service is rare on a campsite, but crisp, non-bottled fresh water flowing along waterfalls, streams, rivers, creeks and beaches is 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 be bombarded with Friend and Like requests from Kevin Rudd.
- Healthy living. Ignore the late night infomercials. Exercise doesn't require gawdy machines using assorted plastic attachments to work out 'in the comfort of your own home'. Hiking, climbing and canoeing will immerse you in a spectacular environment where you're guaranteed to get fit.
- Real meals with real people. Fast-food options tempt us constantly to veg out in front of the TV 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.
- Eye-watering beauty. The serene silence, crisp, clean breezes and breathtaking night sky filled with stars replace the city's inane gossip, blaring televisions, tobacco-smoke-filled air and skies drowning in neon lights. Treasure these moments to sustain you on your return to 'the big smoke'.
- Channelling your inner Bindy Irwin, Outback Jack or Bear Grylls 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.
Excited to disappear (temporarily) into the wilderness? Ready to belatedly earn your girl guide/boy scout campcraft badge? Start with these 5 free campsites in national parks around Queensland:
Rafting in Queensland
Darling Downs - Swinging Bridge Park Along Cooyar Creek, this camping area allows visitors to pitch tents or park caravans beside a suspension bridge. The creek is ideal for swimming, canoeing and fishing. Cooyar Hotel on Fergus St is nearby if you're desperate for supplies, a quick drink or a hot shower. Cook a feast on the wood barbecues or go back to basics with a campfire to boil your drinking water. Look overhead for grey-headed flying-foxes in Palms National Park, flowering with a mix of piccabeen palms and strangler figs, eucalypts and pine trees. To reach the camp, head north from Toowoomba for 100km.
Far North - The Boulders Babinda's Boulders, the giant stones forming a pool between a trio of streams, is a refreshing break from steamy heat. Swim within the signposted waters of Devil's Pool to avoid being swept away though. Share dinner over the gas barbecues. Test your hiking limits on the Bartle Frere trail, slicing through the rugged forest of Bellenden Ker Range. Plan your expedition and you'll ascent to the top of Queensland's highest peak, rewarded with spectacular views to the coast. Head south from Cairns along the Bruce Highway to reach the campsite.
Isaac - Lake Elphinstone Luxurious and free, just south-east of Glenden, this campsite has aquatic appeal. Boating, fishing and water skiing are possible on this long lake. The site is feature-packed with flushing toilets, showers and electric barbecues.
North - Bushy Parker Park Head north along the Bruce Highway to Rollingstone. The site is well-equipped, with shaded picnic tables, barbecues, toilets and showers. Enjoy swimming nearby or relax in the shade of tall eucalypts surrounding the site and masking the drone of travellers on the Bruce.
Central Highlands - Bedford Weir Follow the compass north on the Capricorn Highway, driving 30km past Blackwater. Pick a shady spot for your tent before igniting one of the barbecues using the stack of firewood. Take a hot shower before dinner, hopefully a fresh barramundi from the weir. Kids will enjoy the playground and dogs are welcomed if on leashes. Stay on Wednesday for the evening happy hour.
If you're craving lakes, 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 Queensland?
There are plenty of free places to camp up in North Queensland. One of our favourites was always on the banks of the Burdekin River. This river, like most in North Queensland, has two levels, the normal flow and the wet season flow. Because river banks are crown land, you can pretty much camp anywhere along a river, even if you have to cross private property to get the river bank.
In South East Queensland, there are few free camping sites. Sure, if you hike off into the bush somewhere you can probably setup camp at night and no one will be the wiser, but the small fee that you pay goes to maintaining those sites.
However one that I do know of in South East Queens is Wyralong Dam. This SEQWater run site has a couple of free camping sites. You can't book them, but they are first come, first serve. There are plans to upgrade these sites to make them more family friendly. Whether that will mean that they will start to attract a fee, I am not sure.