All over Victoria there’ll be mass movement as people and their long-neglected RVs start to hit the road again. But where should we go when every man and his van are looking to get away? Fear not. Here’s a few ideas to get you out to some not-so-familiar places to enjoy some long-anticipated freedom.
To the High Country
Beautiful Wandiligong, near the picturesque area of Bright, offers plenty of peaceful camping options. The Wandiligong camping and caravan reserve provides an easy base to scenic local drives. If you prefer more remote camping head out to the Buckland Valley where there’s free camping at many spots including Ah Youngs campground.
Once a fossicking hotspot in the gold rush era, today it offers a tranquil spot and good access to the Buckland River. Nearby is a memorial to the Chinese gold miners at the historic Buckland Valley Cemetery. Don’t miss a visit to the Wandi Pub. This age-old watering hole, standing since 1854, is the place to be on a cool weekend. It’s rustic, welcoming, offers a great selection of local beer on tap and is the hub of a village that once had over 2000 residents.
Nowadays less than 300 people live here and, as we discovered, a lot of them can be found sitting outside in the pub’s beer garden on a Sunday afternoon. With its wholesome and inspired food and a warm cosy vibe it’s no surprise. It’s also won plenty of awards.
At around three hours from Melbourne, the Cobram Regional Park is an idyllic destination for a weekend of relaxation. There’s plenty of fee camping available at spots like Bourkes Bend, Horseshoe Bend Scott’s Beach, Old Toms and Dead End camp on the Victorian side. Though many of the campsites aren’t marked, it’s easy to find a flat spot and set up with your own stretch of river beach.
In the Barmah Forest and at Mathoura you’ll find peaceful fishing and the world’s largest river red gum forest adjoining the river. There’s campgrounds, sandy beaches, lagoons and prolific birdlife. In Echuca and Mildura, there are a multitude of places to camp.
Between the towns of Kerang and Echuca lies Cohuna and one of its main attractions is Gunbower Island, accessed via Cohuna Island Road. Formed by the Gunbower Creek branching off the Murray River then rejoining it further downstream, Gunbower Island is claimed to be Australia’s largest inland island. It has a water frontage of 130kms and is mostly covered by native forests and wetlands. It makes it a great spot for camping, fishing and recreational activities. If you’re looking for a caravan park head towards the Cohuna Waterfront Holiday Park.
Nestled on the banks of the Loddon River in the gold mining town of Newbridge is the historic Newbridge Hotel, a quintessential Aussie pub. Just over the bridge and across the road from the General Store, the Newbridge is generally the first port of call for anyone spending a night here. When we last visited, just before everything closed, the hotel was still open and offering take away meals.
Peter is the owner of the Gladstone hotel, a friendly bloke who pours my other half a beer while I chat to him. Out the back there’s an alfresco area and across the road the river beckons. It’s here you’ll find the spacious camping reserve with plenty of river frontage to spread out. It’s quiet and peaceful, except for the mob of cockatoos, and for $15, payable at the pub, there’s access to flushing toilets and hot showers at the recreation reserve building nearby, open 24/7.
Barely half an hour way in the Kooroora State Park are the Melville Caves, named after notorious bushranger Captain Melville who supposedly used the caves as a hiding place in the mid-1800s. Massive boulders look straight out of The Lord of the Rings and walking tracks lead to spectacular views. Not far from the caves is the Melville Caves Campground, a large free camping reserve with heaps of character.
Coast with the most
Princeton is one of the most understated camping spots along the Great Ocean Road. This small township backs onto the wetlands where the Gellibrand River makes a virtual island of the hilltop town as it meanders through the valley.
Once over the bridge you’ll arrive at the Princeton Recreation Reserve, where you’ll find powered and unpowered sites, hot showers and free barbeques all in a large open setting. Being adjacent to the Gellibrand River it’s an ideal base for fishing, hiking, canoeing and exploring the sites of the Great Ocean Road. In fact, it’s the closest campground to the 12 Apostles.
Did you know that Victoria has it’s very own outback? At just under six hours from Melbourne, the wild and untouched landscape of the Murray Sunset National Park is well worth the drive, especially if continuing on to Mildura and beyond.
The main campground is at Lake Crosbie, which is easily accessible and where you get to experience some of Victoria’s famous pink salt lakes and sensational sunsets. There’s tables, fire places, pit toilets and plenty of flat area to set up close to the vast salt lakes.
You feel the remoteness here. It’s pristine, wild and arid and best experienced in spring. For bushwalkers there’s the choice of a 45 minute circuit lake bushwalk to a three day hike along the Sunset Remote Walking Track. This is a mecca for adventurers. Four wheel drive tracks lead to remote locations and other wilderness camping areas such as Mopoke, Pheeneys Track and Rocket Lake. These camp areas all have pit toilets, fireplaces and picnic tables, just be well prepared and grab a map at the entrance to the park. Deep inside this park is true wilderness.
There’s something special and unique about camping near a salt-lake. At the end of a day’s exploring, nothing beats sitting around a flickering campfire in this wild arid landscape, glass of red in hand, enjoying a sensational Murray sunset and a dazzling array of stars. The outback, or anywhere in the great outdoors, simply doesn’t get any better than this.
Keen to keep exploring? Check out nearby Hattah-Kulkyne National Park