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Published May 1st 2018
Have an in tents camping holiday
Sleep beneath a blanket of stars (by Bureau of Land Management / BY 2.0)
Adelaide has enough family entertainment to keep the kids captivated but make your holiday memorable on an escape from the city. Our state has hundreds of camping sites, with over two thirds of South Australians visiting national parks every year.
Choose from the best camping spots for families with this top 5 list in SA.
Mambray Creek campground
Drive 3 hours north of Adelaide on the Princes Hwy to reach Mambray Creek in the Mount Remarkable National Park, just past Port Pirie.
You'll be pitching camp besides rich ochre cliffsides, lined with tall river red gumtrees.
After staking the tent, head south to stretch the legs on an easy hour's stroll along the Mambray Creek Walk, through cypress pine and red gum trees. Look high into the tree branches for over 100 species of native birds, from the flashes of colourful tiny wrens to Australia's largest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle.
After an early breakfast, listen for kangaroos, echidnas and endangered yellow-footed rock-wallabies rustling in the bush. Pack a lunch and snacks for the climb to reach the 1km-high peak of Mount Remarkable. You'll follow the creek, dipping your toes in the water before hiking through Black Ridge. Continue upward, sharing a sandwich and cold drink at the summit while admiring the view to the southwest of the Spencer Gulf stretching into the horizon.
Before bed, probe the night by torchlight to spot the shiny eyes of ring-tail possums.
Autumn, winter and spring are the most comfortable times in the park, with native plants blooming and the cooler daytime temperatures, perfect for long hikes.
If the famous Heysen Trail is on your hiking bucket list, you can tick off part of it during your holiday in Mount Remarkable NP. The sections are marked at the Heysen Trail website.
Mambray Creek campground has excellent amenities, with hot showers, a change room for babies and wheelchair accessible toilets. There are barbecues and picnic tables, fireplaces and rainwater tanks. Be sure to bring drinking water and firewood though.
The grounds have 54 campsites, for either tents and caravans.
Prices start at $20 for a family of 4 to camp at Mambray Creek. For more info and to book, visit the National Parks SA website.
Watch the sunset on Kangaroo Island (by SA Dept. of Environment and Water)
Stenhouse Bay campground
Stenhouse Bay is in Innes National Park, 3.5hrs drive northwest on the Pacific Hwy, then turning southwest onto the Yorke Hwy. This route may not seem direct on a map, but unless you've got a hovercraft, this trip along the St Vincent Gulf coastline is the quickest method. It's a scenic journey, making the time fly.
Set on the tip of the Yorke Peninsula, the beaches on the coastline of the park are never far from reach. The water is ideal for swimming and surfers will love the waves in Pondalowie Bay. For the Point Break experience, surfing gurus can ride the tricky swells at Chinaman's Beach.
For an underwater adventure, grab your snorkel and scuba gear to see almost two dozen shipwrecks. Six lie submerged after striking the rocks of Althorpe Island.
Fishers can setup on Browns Beach to catch salmon for dinner. Check for restrictions on the signs as parts of the coastline are a protected marine park. You may have competition as ospreys splash on the surface, nabbing fish from the water.
Walking is the best way to explore the park, beginning with the Inneston Historic Walk. It's a 2km loop, needing an hour to pass through the deserted town where the remains of the school, bakery, tennis court and post office slowly return to the bush. Tread carefully to see a tammar wallaby. Once extinct in the state, rangers have introduced a court (group) of them from interstate.
Keep count of the number of bird species the family can identify, with the park's skies busy with over 100 seabird species. Listen for the rare western whipbird, distinctive for the male's call sounding like a whip crack and the female's reply of "choo-choo".
SA is Australia's top producer of gypsum, used by landscapers and gardeners as a clay breaker, by builders in cement, and by beer brewers. See where it was extracted at the gypsum mine on this trail.
For a longer jaunt, spend a day tackling the 7km, 3hr Thomson-Pfitzner Plaster Trail Hike. When you reach the end of the old railway line, you'll be rewarded with a lighthouse perched at Stenhouse Bay. Stare south from the lookout to see Haystack and Seal Island. If you're camping during winter, the puffs of water spray are signs of southern right whales breaching the surface as they migrate north.
A must-see are the 3,000-year-old stromatolites, a rare form of blue-green algae. You can see them at Inneston and Deep Lakes, and in the visitor centre, just a few minutes walk from the campground.
Spring and summer are the best times to visit, as you're led to breezy days on the sand through a rainbow of colour as wildflowers come alive.
There are 25 spots in Stenhouse Bay campground for tents, caravans and camper trailers, with toilets and the visitor centre nearby.
Prices start at $15 for a family of 4 to camp at Mambray Creek. For more info and to book, visit the National Parks SA website.
Rocky River campground
Take Main South Rd down to Cape Jervis for the ferry ride across to Kangaroo Island on the 4.5hr journey to Flinders Chase National Park.
On this camping holiday, the family will escape into island life to see a some of our most famous landmarks and tick off a few bucket list items.
It's a gentle hike to see the Remarkable Rocks, granite boulders jutting 200 feet above the ocean. While they appear to be sculpted by giants, the forces of nature, 500 million years in the making, shaped these icons.
Another natural highlight is the Admiral's Arch, a captivating bridge on the west coast formed when sea waves smashed through the cliff-face. The result became a geological wonder, creating a cave for long-nosed fur seals to frolic. In the cooler months, whale watch from the arch.
There are over a dozen hikes through the island, each exploring the unique habitat in a wilderness environment, isolated from the mainland. Try the 2hr Platypus Waterholes Walk, strolling past rockpools, as platypuses splash in water. Continue on the Black Swamp Hike, with woodland and forest following the rainbows of colour as fungi and orchids bloom in every shade.
The campground well-equipped, with 22 sites, hot showers, toilets, gas barbecues and picnic tables. There are toilets for the disabled and the walks to the Remarkable Rocks and Admiral's Arch are wheelchair accessible. There is non-potable water for washing, but bring your own drinking water. You can sleep in a tent, camper, caravan or motorhome.
Prices start at $30 for a family of 4 to camp at the Rocky River campground. For more info and to book, visit the National Parks SA website.
Campfire cooking with the kids (by SA Dept. of Environment and Water)
Booky Cliffs campground
Drive just over 3hrs east on the Sturt Hwy to reach this campground beside Katarapko Creek in the Murray River National Park.
The park stretches to over 13,000 hectares, with hiking, water sports and wildlife spotting making the wetlands one of the most popular camping experiences in SA.
Stroll in any direction to for shade beneath mighty River Red Gums and Black Box trees, passing daises and lignum brush in the undergrowth.
The wetlands are alive with native birds and mammals, including black swans, parrots and kangaroos. Frogs and reptiles also thrive beside Australia's longest river. You can't miss the bright green of the southern bell frog, or the melodic warble of the banjo frog.
In the water, you can cast a line for European carp, so widespread that it's actually illegal to return them to the water. Check for current restrictions as catfish are protected but you can pluck perch and yabbies from the river.
For an easy hike, try the Kai Kai Natural Trail, a 40-minute tour of the native wildlife and a fun loop for kids to enjoy.
For a walk into history, follow the path of the first Europeans in the park, where the ruins of the early settler homes sit abandoned. Afterwards, explore further with a canoe or kayak ride down the Murray.
Booky Cliffs campground has almost 40 sites for families along Katarapko Creek, with toilets and boat ramps.
Include Memory Cove in your longer holiday plans to make the most of the 8hr drive past Port Augusta on the National Hwy and then south on the Lincoln Hwy to Port Lincoln.
Your family will be sheltered along the beach in the serene Memory Cove. A thick forest throughout the headlands of Lincoln National Park creates a barrier from the city. It will feel like a Swiss Family Robinson adventure (without the wildlife hunting).
In this edge of the park, a wilderness protection area, children will be able to see and hear some of South Australia's rarest wildlife. In the foliage of reddish brown sheoak trees, the bush stone curlew emits a high-pitched wailing as the sun sets.
At ground level, watch for the giant Rosenberg's Goanna, growing up to 1.5 metres long. The rangers are deterring foxes from attacking the rare reptile, so if you spot one, take a photo and upload the details here. They'd love to see the results of their conservation program.
To hike the area, start south on the 4WD trail leading to Cape Catastrophe or go east through a forest of mallee trees to West Pt in Jussieu Bay.
As you reach the water, you may spot dolphins and whales swimming through the Spencer Gulf.
From the granite rocks, you can fish for salmon, whiting and flathead for dinner. It's a popular pastime in Memory Cove, but watch the tide and your footing, and wear good shoes and a lifejacket.
To visit, you'll need a 4WD to ride over the sandy tracks, arriving at this campground with toilets.
Prices start at $20 for a family of 4 to camp at Memory Cove. For more info and to book, visit the National Parks SA website.
Gorge yourself in Mount Remarkable (by SA Dept. of Environment and Water)
Check for signs to confirm the boundary of the campground and whether campfires are permitted.
To avoid clashes with native wildlife, pets usually aren't allowed in national parks. Leave your pet with a friend during your camping holiday.
Take selfies near-native animals but don't disturb or feed them. Keep your food in containers between meals.
Download the Triple Zero smartphone app for info and contact numbers in emergency and non-emergency situations. The app also gives GPS coordinates to read to the emergency operator.
Before swimming, check the conditions, especially the speed and depth of rivers.
Don't swim alone. A friend on the riverbank can use a rope or stick to reach you.
You don't need a fishing licence to sling your hook in fresh and salt waters but check for signs in protected areas. Take note of the rules for sizes, bag limits and protected species. For full details, visit the PIRSA website.
Read the tips from the Good Living blog for things to pack, how to prepare and activities to do when camping with kids.