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Published April 10th 2017
The Best Things in Life are Free
Camp on the beach (Guido Santner / BY-SA 3.0)
Perth is packed with playtime activities but our massive state has easy escapes from the 9 to 5. Western Australia has plenty of camping sites, lining the coastline and dotted throughout our driest and most atmospheric regions. If you're tired of foodies, selfies and pollies, grab your tent, sleeping bag and a comfy chair and drive into one of these top 5 camping sites, each in different regions and accessible in everyday road cars. Oh, and they're completely free!
While camping in these areas is free, look out for the varied facilities, beauty spots and activities on offer at each site. Some offer a complete escape from civilisation, allowing you to howl at the moon without frightening locals while at others you'll find neighbouring campers to chat with while fishing, swimming or hiking. Whichever site you choose, you're guaranteed to sip warm tea beneath millions of shimmering stars, unmasked from the light pollution of the city. While lying back in bliss, enjoy pondering the reasons you pitched a tent.
Pleasures - Digital divide. Savour serene silence, away from streaming TV, inane smartphone games, mobile phone shouting matches and frantic texting exchanges.
- Nature's detox. In the time it takes to pitch a tent, dozens of celebrities will release new books, supplements, recipes, shakes, smoothies and pills promising to remove wrinkles, give you the wisdom of a senior and the body of a millennial. Before handing over any cash for their miracle cures, detox with nature, breathing clean air, drinking pure water, taking a brisk hike and smiling uncontrollably.
- Logfire lunches. Throughout Perth, frustrated officeworkers are tearing plastic coverings from pre-prepared, processed portions of 'food'. Out here, you'll enjoy a real feast, either from barbecued fish, veggies grilled over a hotplate, sweet damper dipped in golden syrup or eggs sizzling over a campfire. It's all guilt-free and well deserved after a day's exploration and activity, surrounded by nature's wonder.
- Aussie beauty. Hiking through WA's diverse landscapes, from lush forests and pristine waterfalls to ancient cliffs and rocky valleys, you'll be touched (hopefully not bitten) by Australia's unique natives, from the vibrant rainbows of colour in the wildflowers and butterflies to curious kangaroos, koalas, wombats and lizards.
- Outback adventurer status. Swap tales with your nature-loving idols, including Bindi Irwin, Bear Grylls and even Dick Smith (he might even have a spare jar of Ozemite to share).
-Well-earned sense of achievement. After pushing against the city's conformity, return home from the wilderness, relaxing with mod cons, including plumbing, refrigeration and restaurant cooking.
Light up your camp night (Max Pixel / CC0 1.0)
Overcome with the desire to hit the great outdoors? Finished studying episodes of Survivorman? Begin the adventure at one of these top 5 free campsites in Western Australia.
James Price Point
In the Kimberley Region, 52km north of Broome, the James Price Point camping grounds are nestled beside the largest humpback whale nursery in the world, with white sandy beaches and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
The site also has special Indigenous significance, with giant fossilised footprints believed to be the imprints of Emu-Man, an ancestor from the Dreamtime. In 2016, scientists dubbed the site "Australia's Jurassic Park" after discovering the largest single dinosaur print in the world amongst the large variety of impressions left by the massive reptiles.
Pets are welcome (the dinosaurs are extinct) and you'll enjoy warm showers when the sun is shining over the solar panels. You can also fish for trevally and salmon while spotting turtles and dugongs.
Fresh coffee at your beach camp (Max Pixel / CC0 1.0)
5 hours west of Perth or north of Esperance, Karalee Rock is beside a dam built in the late 1800s from slabs of the region's granite rock. The impressive piece of civil construction functioned as a cooling source for overheating steam trains, laden with gold from Kalgoorlie if they were lucky.
Fish for yabbies to barbecue, making use of the excellent facilities, including picnic tables, toilets and showers but you should bring drinking water and wood for a campfire.
In the Great Southern Region, 40km west of Albany and east of Denmark, and 5 hours drive south of Perth, the Torbay Inlet is tucked behind a wall of paperbark trees and sedges or tall grasses, opening into a peaceful lagoon.
Wander along the secluded beach, swimming, boating and even surfing with the occasional rolling waves of the Southern Ocean or cast a line to catch dinner of fresh bream.
The campgrounds have toilets and room for caravans to park up and pets to run around.
It's not the place for a marriage proposal, but Disappointment Rock, west of the Dundas Nature Reserve, 2 hours north of Esperance, beside Norseman, is far from a let-down as a camping site. The original disappointment, perhaps from a forlorn gold prospector, has long been forgotten amongst Australia's rich outback colours, especially the rich red soils and tall green myrtle bushes with bright red flowers.
Wander the rugged granite steps as you erect your own cairn, joining the other balancing towers of stacked stones left by previous visitors. If you're lucky, you may might find a gnamma hole, the hollows in the granite containing cool water, sipped by Aboriginals. Visit in spring to see rainbows of wildflowers atop the largest A-shape rock formation in Australia, sharing the view with dozens of sunbaking lizards.
The site is one of many highlights along the popular Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail, 300 kilometres of dirt road, signposted with landmarks in a seemingly stark yet fascinating part of our nation.
You can enjoy a campfire in the picnic area with your pets but bring plenty of water.
3 hours north of Esperance in the Peak Charles National Park, setup camp beside the park's towering highlight, a granite peak stretching over 2,000 feet high. Climb the ancient stone on steep hiking trails, to be rewarded with long views of the broad carpet of heath, lined with salt lakes and stretching to the horizon.
In spring, look for the distinctive orange and yellow flowers on shrubs native to this region. Bring your own water supplies to this rugged, sandy campsite.
Hike to the summit of Peak Charles (Laurent Marsol / BY-SA 3.0)
If you're craving trickling streams, colourful cliffs, the scent of wild blossoms and the majestic flights of native birds, you're sure to revel in these camp sites as much as the smart set that make annual pilgrimages to these places.
Have you discovered another fantastic camping site in WA?