Christmas Camping Road Trip from Melbourne
As we approach the end of the year I’ve been thinking about how different my Christmas was last year! Living in Australia, Alex and I found ourselves approaching the end of the year with no close family around on Christmas Day. I feel like if you can’t have your traditional Christmas, it’s better to do something totally different instead rather than trying to replicate it. We considered going abroad to somewhere like Bali but wanted to keep it low cost, so in the end we decided to go on a week long coastal road trip to the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney. It was the best idea ever and I would totally do it again! We had no idea how busy campsites would be during this time, so here’s a little guide in case you ever feel like doing the same. (Sorry for the mammoth post! I wanted to document this trip for me, too).
Camping in Australia
Camping in Australia is so different to how I experienced it growing up in Europe. Due to Australia being so massive, many campsites are very remote and therefore have no running water. We only stayed at one campsite which had showers and toilets during the whole week (it felt SO good to shower properly!) but it cost about $30 I think. Most of the basic campsites are free and a lot more beautiful and wild, so I’d recommend mainly doing this! We swam in rivers, the sea and had beach showers everyday.
We used the Campermate app which was great to find campsites whenever we got tired of driving, and the sites showed up even when there was no mobile coverage (pretty essential in rural Aus). Findacamp was really useful for finding info on each site as well. We didn’t book anything in advance, and it only started to get a little busier the closer we got to Sydney along the coast.
Before camping in Australia I was quite nervous about spiders and snakes crawling into the tent. However I went camping loads over the two years in Aus and only ever came across one spider. This is in Victoria and New South Wales though – I’m sure Queensland is a different story! Mostly it’s a dream to camp there as it’s very dry, with cooler nights and lots of kangaroos and wombats to spot. We used an ‘esky’ (a cool box) to keep our food in, which we needed to top up with ice every other day as it was so hot.
We fell into a routine of waking early, exploring the nearby beach and then driving 3 – 4 hours a day, stopping off at little towns or beaches for lunch. At the new campsite, Alex would put up the tent while I unpacked everything else. We got this down to about 15 minutes, when we’d crack a beer/cider and relax on our camping chairs. We cooked every evening on a fire (check local fire safety warnings first) or our little gas stove. Here is the route we took and a few places to stop along the way…
Melbourne – Metung
We spent Christmas eve in Metung, a peaceful and sleepy little coastal town. It was almost 40 degrees so we chilled by the water with drinks and then dinner at the Metung Hotel. We camped at this tiny campsite which was the only place with awful flies the next morning. It was beautiful but I couldn’t have stayed there more than a night!
Metung – Merimbula
We started Christmas Day with a little forest walk before it got too hot, then set off to Cape Conran. This was a stunning beach where we swam and chilled. We cooked up a barbecue with salads and cheese for our Christmas Day lunch, probably the healthiest Christmas lunch I’ve ever had! I can’t actually remember where we camped this night, but it was somewhere near Merimbula.
Merimbula – Termeil
There are so many beautiful places to stop on this drive! My absolute favourite were the Bermagui Pools on the Sapphire Coast, which were clear pools cut into the rock with the sea lapping into them. Perfect to stop and cool off during our drive. Central Tilba was a really cute little inland town with boutique shops to wander through. And finally, stopping at Bateman’s Bay for oysters is a must (even though I’m not the biggest fan of oysters!). We also came across a wild dog while driving on an empty road around Termeil. We stopped because we thought it was a lost dog, but when it was behaving strangely around the car we didn’t open the doors.
We camped almost right on the beach at this camp ground, where we shared drinks and a campfire with two other guys. The beach is totally empty early in the morning, bar a few surfers, so it is lovely for an early morning swim.
Termeil – Kangaroo Valley
As you head up towards Sydney, to Jervis Bay, it gets a little busier with holiday makers. The beaches around here are still worth a visit though, because they are all white sand and beautiful turquoise water. We drove inland from here, and ended up in Kangaroo Valley at this campsite. It was a bit less rustic than others we’d stayed at, but there were wombats wandering around in the evening and a little river. It was super hot and our neighbours leant us their blow up dolphin to float down the river on, so it was blissful! The nearby town is sweet as well, and we drove there in the morning for some ‘proper’ coffees. Oh, how I miss Australian coffee!
Kangaroo Valley – Blue Mountains
It was cooler as we headed up to the Blue Mountains, a bit of a relief at this stage. We ticked off a few of the ‘main’ sites but got a little fed up with the tourists so went on a slightly more off-beat walk called the ‘Grand Canyon’. It was about 3 hours long and a really stunning track, meandering up and down a gorge. I can see how the Blue Mountains got their name, as they have a pretty blue haze about them.
We struggled to find a campsite around here, so I’d recommend pitching quite early. We were squished into a corner of a tiny site, but ended up having a chat with a man who lived in Putney (where I’m from) and cooked delicious baked potatoes in a fire. Food cooked over fire and eaten outside definitely tastes better than anything else.
Blue Mountains – Abercrombie National Park
After a bit more exploring the Blue Mountains, we headed down again towards Victoria. We tried to go to a very remote campground until we drove for about half an hour off-road without seeing any humans, the car almost got stuck and I freaked out ha! So we came across a really chilled out campground with only one other camper and a whole mob of kangaroos (yes, that is their collective noun). This is when I reached true wild woman state and washed my hair in the river – it had been a while since we’d had running water by this stage!
Abercrombie National Park – I have no idea where we were
The next morning we went on a tour of the Wombeyan Caves which was fascinating! I get a bit claustrophobic but the tour we went on was very open. We did most of our driving this day as there’s not so much to see on this inland stretch back to Victoria. Our lunch at the Long Track Pantry in Jugiong should get a mention, though. We hadn’t eaten out for a while, choosing to stop and make picnics instead, but this place was worth stopping for. It was a family run cafe which also sold preserves, sauces and wine that we picked up for NYE.
We found it quite hard to find a campsite in this area as it was very remote. We checked out a few before choosing one very empty place (but beautiful – the first two photos in this post were here) with one other camper. I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding, thinking he was outside our tent and was about to murder us. I think it was just a kangaroo in the end.
The next day we drove down to Lake Eildon to celebrate the start of 2017 with friends at their lake house! It was a perfect end to a year and would SO do it all over again one Christmas. This year I’m very much looking forward to a cosy Christmas at home though – the complete opposite but equally lovely and with all my family!
It’s funny how Christmas has such strong nostalgic feelings for people. I have friends in the Southern Hemisphere who don’t feel festive unless it’s 30*C and they’re having a BBQ, but obviously it’s so different here in the UK. Are you a hot or cold Christmas person?