Floating on the dam on a giant blow-up pretzel while tiny fish nibble on my feet. My mind is devoid of useless thoughts. A Muscovy duck glides overs the water, five ducklings paddling furiously in her wake. I watch them with a lazy eye.
I want to talk about bushcamps.
Not specific bushcamps. As this is not a destination piece. There are many options for overnight and longer stays on the road. However bushcamps are fast becoming my favourite place to stay. Rolled up at a bushcamp on Friday of the Australia Day long weekend in a group of around 30 travellers. It was a ripping good way to squander a few sunny days with friends.
Actually, the options for travellers cover everything from the more traditional style of caravan park that caters mostly to families and those who prefer all of the amenities at their fingertips, through to the basic roadside rest stop. Caravan parks can be an expensive option and I always ask for a discount — and let the managers know if I think the rates are too high. There’s always another place to stay. The full-on wilderness experience offers peace and quiet and nothing but the birds in the trees to keep you company. I know people who prefer to travel this way. Then there is everything inbetween. Showgrounds, privately-run campgrounds, free camping reserves, resorts, beaches, and treehouses.
So, let’s break it down!
The bushcamps I have visited over the past few months— and there have been a few — have offered a range of camping options and amenities. Some cater only to fully self-contained campers. Others provide pretty much everything. I’m happy to carry water and have gas, 12 volt, or mains power as cooking and hot water options. Plus the barbecue. Drinking (potable) water on site is a bonus. ‘Tho this can be filtered dam or bore water. I drink it. But that’s up to you.
Apart from the name on the sign, what is a bushcamp?
My definition of a bushcamp is property that has not been over developed. Even if there are amenities on offer, the campsites should be spread out and spacious, and feature trees and grass. The billabong is definitely a highlight at my current camp. Barambah also has a 9-hole bush golf course but we won’t discuss my handicap. The green was rough and not just in the rough.
A bushcamp should feel like a slice of outdoor life. There may be gardens and potted plants. That’s fine with me. Firepits scattered about or the option to use your own camp stove. It’s all about the character of the place and how it makes you feel.
There should be quiet when you need it. Although some may have live music at the end of the week. That’s also fine with me. Some camps will have amazing views from where you sit. Bush tracks for walking and pedalling. A rustic camp kitchen. Or nothing at all.
When the sun sets — and on sunny days like today, it goes down in a blaze of orange and pink glory — you should be able to see the stars in the sky. And hear the blessed sound of stillness swirling around the eucalypts. A deep sense of relaxation settles over the camp after dark.
I have visited five bushcamps in my recent travels, and liked all but one of those. The problems with the camp I don’t intend to return to came down to the attitude of the managers, and the feeling we were merely paying visitors. And to be honest it was nothing more than a rebranded caravan park. The other four bushcamps are all places I’d be happy to stay at again. In fact, I already have revisited Barambah, and will retreat to Ivory Rock when I need some solitude.
These places are popular so unless you’re travelling in a group, it pays to check if there will be large gatherings during your stay. That doesn’t bother me at all. When the lights go out, it’s quiet. That’s really all I need. And I like meeting campers and sharing stories over cheese, crackers, olives and wine.
I use the WikiCamps app in Australia, and read and write reviews. I also ask around and have discovered some fab places that friends have visited. It comes down to what you want in the way of amentities. What you can live without. And your expectations. I met many, many happy travellers last year. And a few grumpy people who will never find what they’re looking for. I have discovered it’s possible to live with little, and to fill my cup with positive energy and thoughts.
This may not answer all your questions about bushcamps. After all, it’s my take on this particular style of campsite. If most of the reviews are good, and the gripes are few and of a trivial nature, roll up for a few nights and see how things pan out.
These are the bushcamps sampled by me, so far. I will add to this list and include other states around Australia as travel opens up in 2021.
- Ivory Rock, around 30 minutes out of Ipswich, Queensland. Room for many campers, also cabins, huge campsites, and awesome views. Tranquility on a stick! This is run by a not for profit foundation that believes in peace and harmony for all.
- Barambah Bush Camp, near Murgon, Queensland. It’s got everything you need. Walking and MTB trails on the property. The swimming hole gets a huge tick from me. Hit up nearby Barambah Cellars for lunch, and Clovelly Estates and other local wineries for tastings and sales.
- Murphy’s Creek Escape is located about 30 minutes east of Toowoomba, Queensland. This was a dust bowl when we visited. So the addition of an eco-billabong is wonderful! The creek does run dry. Beach without running water. This camp offers adventure activities such as abseiling and archery on site. Heaps of accommodation options. It’s a bit rough, and dirt cheap to stay.
- Neurum Creek Bush Resort is nicely located around an hour out of Brissy and a short hop from the Sunshine Coast. It sounds a bit posh but is all eco camping with (spotless) waterless loos, huge campsites you can share with friends, and another creek that has running water some of the time. Not great rates when I stayed, but ask for a discount anyway.
- I’m not going to include the other bushcamp as it didn’t meet my expectations. And, seriously, I don’t usually roll up with much in the way of expectations.
Bushcamps, I like ‘em. And tomorrow I have another date on the dam with a giant pretzel.