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Hiking the Brabalung Trail, Mt Hotham
Photograph: Parks VictoriaBrabalung Trail, Mt Hotham

Five Victorian camping destinations to escape to this autumn

Park your caravan or pitch your tent at these five outstanding campgrounds in unforgettable locations

By Time Out in association with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Geographically, Victoria is incredibly diverse, with every kind of landscape from high-country alpine grasslands to rugged coastlines to semi-arid mallee country. Here are five outstanding camping experiences that will give travellers a taste of everything Victoria has to offer.

Remember to check with Parks Victoria before you leave – many camping locations require bookings. Before you head off, also check out these tips so you can stay COVIDSafe. Remember to keep 1.5 metres from anyone you don’t live with, and carry a fitted face mask to wear in any public indoor spaces or if you’re in a crowd. 

Consult the forecast for where you’re heading, and consider rescheduling if fire danger is high or there’s stormy weather ahead. Download the VicEmergency app and check you can tune into the local emergency broadcasters. When stopping for supplies don’t forget to shop local and support Victorian businesses and producers.

You may need to light a campfire, so learn the rules for doing so in national parks, state parks and state forests before you travel, and always extinguish your campfire with water, not soil. If the fireplace is cool to touch, it’s safe to leave.

Roll out a sleeping bag at these spots

An alpine camping escape, four hours northeast of Melbourne

Lake Catani is a great place for picnics, canoeing and swimming, and the campgrounds are handy to the many activities on offer at Mount Buffalo National Park, including a new, fully accessible lookout over the spectacular Mount Buffalo Gorge that has a glass-bottomed viewing platform. 

Bushwalking, hiking, mountain biking and exploring the granite tors, cliff faces and outcrops high above the Ovens Valley are popular activities, and waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife abound across the plateau. 

The Lake Catani campground sits among snow gums just behind the 100-year-old Mount Buffalo Chalet and access is via a sealed road off the Great Alpine Road at Porepunkah. There are 49 campsites, with some suitable for small caravans or campervans, and several designed for people with limited mobility including separate accessible shower and toilet facilities. 

You’ll need your own drinking water, but otherwise there are toilets and hot showers, dishwashing facilities, a mess hall, fireplaces and a basic laundry. A refurbished picnic shelter has accessible toilets, gas barbecues and tables. Two hike-in campsites at nearby Mount McLeod and Rocky Creek are available for a more secluded getaway.

A camping trip by the pink lakes, five hours north of Melbourne

The Pink Lakes in the Murray-Sunset National Park near Underbool have captivated photographers for decades, thanks to big blue skies, sandy red soil and a chain of salt lakes that appear pink because of a naturally occurring algae in the ultra-salty water.

The turnoff to this lonely spot is about half an hour west of Ouyen and is a short distance up a well graded gravel road off the Mallee Highway. Follow the Pioneer Drive to see the best of the lakes by road or follow the Kline Loop Nature Walk and follow the signs to see the remnants of the salt mining operation that ran here until 1979. Keep your eyes out for Mallee fowl and a host of native birds, mammals and reptiles.

There is plenty of space at the Lake Crosbie Campground, which offers toilets, fireplaces and picnic tables. No bookings or fees are required, but you will need to bring your own water, supplies and a gas barbecue or stove. Those with four-wheel drives can explore the sandy tracks in this vast national park.

Beware: temperatures can reach the mid-to-high 40s in the height of summer, and there is no mobile phone access, so take care, stock up on emergency supplies and advise local police before you venture deeper into the park. 

A secluded beachside camping spot, 2.5 hours south of Melbourne

Cape Liptrap is one of the southernmost points on the Victorian coast. It’s near Walkerville along the South Gippsland Highway, and it’s less than an hour to the region’s main town, Inverloch, and Tidal River, the main centre in the Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Bear Gully in the Cape Liptrap Coastal Park is no luxury getaway, but it’s ideal if it’s peace and quiet you’re after. This part of the world offers all the charm of the Otways and the Surf Coast without the crowds. The campsite is behind the sand dunes just off the beach on Waratah Bay and near a shady stand of tall banksias. There’s easy access to the beach via a short walking track but the beach is not patrolled, so take care. A rocky reef where the gully meets the sea is popular for snorkelling, fishing and exploring the rockpools.

The nearby Cape Liptrap Lighthouse, high on a bluff overlooking Bass Strait, offers commanding views across Waratah Bay to the rugged mountains of Wilsons Prom and up the jagged cliffs along this part of the coast. There are historic lime kilns to explore on the Lime Burners Walk through the Cape Liptrap Coastal Park. The kilns were used to turn local limestone into burnt lime that was shipped to Melbourne to make cement for the building trade.

There are 34 campsites at Bear Gully, and a maximum of six people per site. Tents, campervans and caravans are allowed. There are non-flushing toilets, shared campfires but no electricity at the campground. You must book in advance and pay before you get there. You’ll need to supply your own wood for campfires and bring your own drinking water.

A camping spot in a gorge just 70 minutes northwest of Melbourne

The exquisite Lerderderg State Park lies north of Ballan and Bacchus Marsh off the Western Freeway, and you’d never guess it was so close to the big smoke. The Lerderderg River tumbles down from the top of the Great Dividing Range near Blackwood, east of Daylesford, and has carved a gorge that’s up to 300 metres deep through the sandstone and slate in the region.

This is heaven for kayakers, four-wheel drive enthusiasts, walkers and hikers. The park has tracks for people seeking anything from an easy stroll to an overnight trek. There are great swimming spots inside the gorge. Cockatoos, currawongs and crimson rosellas abound, as do wallabies, kangaroos and koalas. An old water race (aquaduct) built to divert the Lerderderg River from its natural course to allow early prospectors to sluice the riverbed for alluvial gold can also be explored.

The Lerderderg Campground is accessible via ordinary passenger cars but the Amblers Crossing campsite has to be accessed on foot or by four-wheel drive. The Lerderderg campground has toilets, fireplaces and picnic tables.

A base for a hiking or canoeing trip, 4.5 hours west of Melbourne

Occupying the southwestern corner of the state, Lower Glenelg National Park is where the Glenelg River has carved a gorge as it descends to the sea at Nelson, exposing limestone cliffs.  

The Forest South Campground is accessible by two-wheel drive cars all year round via the Portland-Nelson Road. Kayakers, canoeists and anglers love this spot, which is handy to Nelson and the South Australian city of Mount Gambier, about half an hour away, for all your supplies.

The Forest South Campground is one of the many stops that paddlers can take along the Glenelg River Canoe Trail, a three-to-four-day voyage along one of Victoria’s most beautiful rivers. Koalas live in the gums that line the Glenelg – just one of the many bird and animal species that call the park home. 

The Forest South Campground is also just off the Great South West Walk, an epic 250km trail loop that begins and ends in Portland and traverses the coast to Nelson, along the Glenelg River and back via the Cobboboonee National Park. The campground is close to the Princess Margaret Rose Cave, one of the best examples of a limestone cave anywhere in Australia.

There are four unpowered sites for up to six people, of which three are suitable for campervans, camper trailers and tents and one is for tents only. It has non-flush toilets, fireplaces, picnic tables and non-potable water – bring your own drinking water. Stays at Forest South and any other site on the canoe trail must be booked and paid for in advance.

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