Arrive in presidential style by seaplane (the 20-minute flight from Rose Bay is yours for around $360) or slum it on the public ferry from Palm Beach. Either way, the Basin campsite is a pleasingly democratic contrast to the resort-wear brigade who long ago colonised the area. During school holidays, this Pittwater paradise becomes the United Nations of the camping world, with bronzed Anglo grandmas, Indian kids and cricket-playing blokes happily jostling for space. 40km north of Sydney.
Booderee is the Canberra of national parks: generously funded and bureaucratically staffed. There’s even a roundabout at the entrance. But when the sun shines on the beach at Green Patch campsite, it feels more like the Caribbean than our nation’s capital. Booderee, in Jervis Bay Territory, is one of only three mainland national parks run by the federal government (along with Kakadu and Uluru–Kata Tjuta). Campsites offer privacy amid scribbly gums and banksias, and great facilities are made for comfort. 200km south of Sydney.
If this campsite were any closer to the beach, you’d be sleeping on a waterbed. Stake out a spot here and you can keep busy for a week: hike the 8km Bouddi coastal walk to MacMasters Beach (views! rainforest! whales!), walk to Killcare for brunch at the Fat Goose (Shop 3, Killcare Rd, Hardys Bay 2257), lie on the beach and perve at the surf lifesavers. The northern bit of beach, closest to the campsite, is heaven on a stick if you prefer calm, clear water. 95km northeast of Sydney.
Why should German tourists have all the fun? Get over to Cockatoo Island and choose from three options: glamping (sun lounge and cushion included, from $140 a nigh); a camping package (the premium economy version, from $85); or BYO-everything (from $45). The last ferry leaves Circular Quay at 11.30pm, so go now, before the Island Bar closes for winter. 30 minutes from Circular Quay.
The rewards of hiking to this spot deep in the interior of Royal National Park (OK, 6km from Waterfall station) include an intimate campsite by the creek and likely solitude. Round out the trip with a swim in Karloo Pool (another 2.3km), then finish up at Heathcote station for a total hiking distance of just over 11km. Cycling option: bike along the fire trail from Waterfall station, then return the same way (the last 200m are for walkers only). 50km south of Sydney.
More hidden Sydney
Not feeling the crowds at Sydney’s most popular beaches? Try seeking out these hidden stretches of sand for a more private party in the sunshine.