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The best Victorian campsites near Melbourne

You don't need to drive for long to find some sweet camping spots in Victoria

Photograph: Ricky Montalvo

Getting back to nature is good for the soul, and the best thing is that you don't have to make yourself car-sick to do it. There are plenty of places a stone's throw from the CBD where you can lawfully pitch a tent.

Just in case roughing it just ain't your bag, have a look at out list of fave boutique hotels. Or, if you're wanting take it further afield, check out our list of great weekend escapes.

Top campsites near Melbourne

Cumberland River Holiday Park

When a caravan park offers itself as a location for wedding photos, you know it must have something going for it scenically. No fake sunset backdrops here, but the real thing: a stunning natural setting near the mouth of the Cumberland River. Craggy cliffs tower over the campground, which is backed by great walking tracks and fronted by the Great Ocean Road. Book well ahead for a prime riverfront site.

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Lorne

Tidal River

It’s the biggest national-park campground in the state, hosting up to 3,000 campers at a time. So where are they all? The expansive beach and the extensive network of hiking trails absorb the crowds and still leave space for privately contemplating the reflections in Tidal River at dusk. Catch a movie at the outdoor cinema or watch the live show in the campground: wombats, wallabies and echidnas doing their thing.

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Johanna Beach

Surf’s up, guaranteed. Johanna Beach is a back-up location for the Rip Curl Pro surfing comp (16-25 April) in case Bells Beach is dead flat. As the tournament’s website says, ‘If there is any swell in the Southern Ocean, Johanna will pick it up. If the sand banks are in great shape, you can get some of the best beachbreak waves in the world out there.’ The open grassy space behind the beach is the Great Ocean Road’s greatest free campground.

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Marengo Holiday Park

One of the whitest, sparkling-est, beaches on the Great Ocean Road is right here at Marengo Holiday Park and you don’t even need to cross the street to get to the water. Enrol in surf school, practise yoga on the beach or rent a sea kayak – the shops and services in Apollo Bay, within walking distance, can sort everything you need.

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Marengo

Lake Catani

Get in quick: Lake Catani campground is open till the end of April, then it closes for the snow season. Autumn is a top time of year to visit the high country – Bright and Beechworth are ablaze with deciduous colour and the farm gates of the Milawa gourmet trail are in full production. The air is crisp for invigorating walks on the Mt Buffalo plateau, followed by a hot shower at the campground, where peaceful campsites are nestled among the snow gums.

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Or try camping on a rooftop instead

St Jerome's: the Hotel

Jerome Borazio, patron saint of unloved spaces, has converted Melbourne Central’s rooftop into Melbourne's ultimate glamping experience.

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Melbourne