The Adelaide Hills is a unique region. The peaceful beauty and space of the country comes so close to the Adelaide metro area that we can enjoy bush camping, less than two hours from most suburbs of Adelaide. For some readers, these camp sites may be only minutes away. If you have a favourite camp ground in the Adelaide Hills then please tell us about it in the comments, the more the better!
View from Pink Gum camp ground into Mclaren Vale and beyond
All of the campgrounds described are situated within national parks or forestry reserves and come with small permit fees and some rules. The biggest rules are all about fires and firewood collection. Fires are pretty much only permitted in late autumn/winter/early spring and the forestry reserves are closed to camping in summer. You can collect firewood from the ground in the forestry reserves only and not the national parks where you need to bring your own. Check the respective websites for updates on accessibility.
Each of these sites have been selected for their beauty, ease of access and amenity. You can confidently take your family and friends out camping without worrying about being completely isolated or going without toilets, shelter, or somewhere to cook and sit comfortably. Read on for a description of five of the best bush campgrounds in the Adelaide Hills.
This campground is on Forestry SA land next to Warren Road which runs between Williamstown and Birdwood. It's a wide open space with plenty of green grass set amongst towering redgums. There's heaps of room between sites. You'll be surrounded by pine plantation and probably even be joined by kangaroos at dawn and dusk. Wood fires are allowed from 1st May until 1st of October and camping is permitted within and for another month either side of those dates. The sites are available on a first come – first served basis. An added bonus is that it's not far from the information centre where you pay your fees and it's easily accessible to all vehicles.
There are long drop toilets, rainwater and a bush hut with a fireplace if the weather changes for the worse. As of July 2019, camping fees are $5 per adult and $2 per child per night. Self-register for your permit 24 hours a day at the information centre.
This campground has been recognised as one of the top 10 campgrounds in Australia, and for good reason. Rocky Paddock is set well back from the road and surrounded by forest. The name comes from the large rocky outcrops dotted around the immediate area. It's a great place to set up camp in under the pines in well-marked camp sites with firepits supplied. There is a toilet block and rainwater available and the long campground offers plenty of seclusion for everyone. You'll need to find the turn off from Warren Road onto Tower Road and follow it up the hill until you reach the campground. Prices are the same throughout forestry reserves in SA.
There are literally herds of kangaroos around Mt Crawford forest
This campground is nestled deep within Para Wirra Conservation Park near One Tree Hill and Williamstown in a peaceful bush setting that seems much further away from the city than it really is. There is a range of sites, from hiking tent sites to camper trailer and van sites. The new stone toilet block is very clean as is the main shelter which offers rainwater, sinks and gas hotplates centrally located to all sites. Para Wirra Conservation park has heaps to see and do including all kinds of walks and a dam to enjoy watching the wildlife gather at dawn and dusk. Para Wirra also has a nature play area for the kids and it's well positioned for exploration of the Barossa goldfields and the Barossa Valley nearby. Fees apply and you can get more details here.
This campground is one of the two new campgrounds situated within national parks in the hills. Located on the eastern side of Onkaparinga National Park, this campground offers level sites with easy access, fire pits, and great amenities including a sink. What's special about this campground is that you are so close the natural wonder of Onkaparinga Gorge for excellent walks, and only a stones throw from McLaren Vale for those who'd like a bit of sophistication in their break. Fees apply and you must book before you go. Get the details here.
Visit Chookarloo campground on any weekend in winter and you'll find families enjoying a day at the picnic ground just off Brookman Road, south of Meadows. Just past the picnic ground you'll find 23 camp sites with fire pits, a toilet block with rainwater, wooden shelters and a small creek running through an idyllic eucalypt forest. For the kids, there are opportunities for real nature play in the creek nearby, for active adults there is access to the Heysen Trail from the campground. Fees are the same as Mt Crawford forest and you can self-register at the information centre just a quick drive down the road.
I recommend any of these camp grounds, especially in winter. The hills turn on a dazzling winter show when everything goes green again. We can layer up against the cold while lazing around a camp fire and besides, a sunny winter day in the Adelaide Hills is an excellent time and place to be alive.