When you have a backyard as stunning as we do, it would be a crime not to take advantage of its wonder and natural beauty.
But, if you’re anything like us, you might be a camping newbie, worrying about your ability to survive in the bush with nothing but a tarpaulin hanging overhead and big questions like, what is it like out there without wifi and a fridge packed full of Messina Gelato?
Fear not, for we have found the best camping options on and around the Gold Coast that can cater to the most inexperienced campers. Plus, there might even be wifi…
These are the Gold Coast’s top camping spots.
Springbrook National Park
Where else in Australia do you have big city amenities, a buzzing dining scene, endless near-empty beaches, an international airport and a verdant rainforest hinterland all within spitting distance? Yes, the Gold Coast is seriously blessed! We love nothing more than an arvo adventure to the mountains, but to truly surrender to the tranquillity we always yearn to stay the night. Imagine camping five minutes’ walk from one of the region’s most dramatic waterfalls, Purling Brook Falls. With just 11 sites, The Settlement is Springbrook National Park’s only campground and has all the basics you need—toilets, drinking water and free barbecues (no showers). Don’t forget the shade and mozzie repellent (or to book)!
A scenic 90-minute drive from the Gold Coast will transport you to the bush camping you’ve been dreaming about. Think: towering gums, babbling brooks and native wildlife scurrying about (beware of the possums). Bigriggen, a 60-hectare campsite of grassy fields in the foothills of Mount Maroon, is surrounded with scenic spots for hiking, bush bashing, river swimming and fishing or, if you BYO boat or canoe, water sports at nearby Maroon Dam. Power is available if needed, but we recommended opting for the non-powered options in the grassy expanses (choose your own spot) where the extra space will totally make up for it.
Located on a property that is shared by Thunderbird Park—which doubles as an adventure playground—and Cedar Creek Lodges, this camping spot might just be the best place to enjoy the spoils of Tamborine Mountain. Set amongst the subtropical rainforest, this camping spot will put you within walking distance to a spring-fed creek and an ample supply of swimming holes. Both powered and unpowered sites are available, with the standard facilities on offer along with an onsite restaurant and kiosk, and you can hone your fire-building game at your own site (weather conditions dependant). After you’ve set up camp, head to Thunderbird Park itself and try your hand at horse riding, ziplining or the Tree Top Challenge. Or, take the short drive into town to discover a world of dining options, hiking trails, art galleries and even a glow worm cave. If you need us, we’ll be smashing one killer brunch before making the journey to Cedar Creek Falls. Without question, this is some of the best camping on the Gold Coast.
Mount Barney Lodge Campground
Located a scenic 90-minute drive from the Gold Coast, Mount Barney National Park is a must-see for the seasoned adventurer among us, as the campgrounds on the mountain itself are only accessible by foot. That being said, there are a few campgrounds close by—chiefly the Mount Barney Lodge Campground—for those who are keen to explore the stunning natural beauty of Mount Barney and retreat to a safe haven at the end of the day. Rising like a sentinel from the surrounding hills, admire Mount Barney from your air mattress, as well as various peaks of the neighbouring McPherson Range. Sites are unpowered, though there is plenty of space to throw your swag with capacity capped at 100 people, and the lodge offers a comprehensive school holiday program, should you have the kidlets in tow. Open fires are also permitted (current conditions dependant), so make sure to pack some extra marshmallows for a truly authentic camping experience.
Youcamp—The Airbnb Of Camping
You know when you hear about something and go “why did we not think of this?” This is one of those times. A couple of legends realised that if you can AirBnB a bricks and mortar type of situation, you can do the same when it comes to private land. Genius, really. Behold, Youcamp. Giving you access to the camping locations of your Instadreams, take your pick from the downright basic to the luscious of luxury. We’re talking everything from glamping to those ‘how’s the serenity’ type deals. Whether it’s a free-range camping experience to get you off the grid, an interactive farm stay, or a creek-side oasis with nary another tent in sight, consider your next Gold Coast camping trip sorted.
Fingal Holiday Park
If falling asleep to the methodical sound of crashing waves is more your style, dip your toes in the Gold Coast camping scene with a short stay at well-established campground, Fingal Holiday Park. All the essential amenities like BBQs, wifi and laundry will ensure you’re never stretched too far from your comfort zone. While you’re there, hunt down the wild and hidden beaches of Litita Spit and Kerosene Inlet, the perfect backdrop for some Instagram brag posts.
Green Mountains Camping Area
Near O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
Regardless of your camping prowess, if you want to lift your camping obsession to new heights right from the outset, you’ll want to book yourself a spot at the Green Mountains camping area near O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat. If a stay at the lodge itself is out of the budget, you can experience the rainforest magic at a fraction of the price. BYO tent to pitch among the lush forest of Lamington National Park and take advantage of the lodge’s guided bush walking, activities and flying fox for a nominal extra fee. Ed's note: This campground is currently undergoing significant upgrades and will re-open early 2020.
Nightfall Wilderness Camp
Lamington National Park
Don’t own a tent, nor have any desire to sleep on the rock-hard earth, but still eager for a night under the stars? Gold Coast’s original luxury glamping operation, Nightfall Wilderness Camp is limited to just eight guests at a time and has nailed it with the perfect combination of secluded wilderness and wholesome luxuries. Finer details of each tent include elements like hand-carved stone basins, wire-brushed old timber floors, wood fireplace, rain-head shower and lush organic bedding. Not sold yet? How about chef-prepared organic meals, complimentary Australian sparkling wine, lazy hammocks, explorations into the tangled forest, or—wait for it—an outdoor massage by the creek. Warning: you’ll be spoiled from actual camping for life. If glamping is more your style, we’ve rounded up the region’s best glamping here.
North Stradbroke Island
For the camping rookie who’s eager to graduate immediately to intermediate on the experience scale, challenge yourself to a weekend away at North Straddie. Under the shade of Pandanus palms, She-oak trees and awash with salty sea breezes, you’ll find basic beachside campgrounds peppered throughout, including Amity Point, Cylinder Beach and Adder Rock. And don’t forget to head on over to the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel for a few cheeky afternoon beverages. An island getaway without the exotic price tag, best attempted minus the chaos of school holiday crowds.
Mount Warning Rainforest Park
Mount Warning National Park
Longing to tick the Mount Warning sunrise hike off your bucket list, but can’t bare the 3am wakeup call? Well, you can pitch a tent at base camp and brush up on your camping skills in the same trip. Mount Warning Rainforest Park in the Northern Rivers has you covered with sweet facilities like coin-operated barbecues, camp kitchen, wifi zone and a swimming pool for that post-hike splash. Nearby, relax with a refreshing swim in Currumbin Creek, spot wild bird and explore the neighbouring Tweed region. Weekend, sorted!
Hacienda Holiday Park
For camping newbies who can’t tear themselves too far from an iPhone charger, hot shower, or handy convenience store for ice cream, we suggest you set your GPS for Hacienda Holiday Park just across the border on the Tweed River. Pack your fishing rods, deck of cards and bottles of red vino; it’ll be like picturing your future self as a retiree, and you’ll love it.
To make the most of Gold Coast’s best camping spots, you’ll want to load up on local produce from the Coast's best farmer's markets.
Image credit: Kal Visuals