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The 5 best camping getaways from Sydney

Sydney camping getaways

Camping is a great way to spend a weekend — or longer — exploring around Sydney. With campgrounds located in popular Australian national parks around Sydney and alongside its famous coastline, you’re spoilt for choice.

Whether it is Christmas, New Year’s Eve or just a weekend getaway, we’ve put together some of the best camping destinations within a few hours of Sydney. All these spots are easily accessible with a rental car or campervan.

1. Seal Rocks

Seal Rocks was named after a colony of Australian fur seals that could often be seen lounging on the rocks near the base of Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse. The colony was lost in the 1970s, though the seals are often sighted in the nearby Port Stephens area (see Port Stephens below).

Tropical scenes at Seal Rocks.
Tropical scenes at Seal Rocks.

Despite the missing seals, this beautiful coastal location is still well worth visiting, and it is famous for its surfing beaches and its uncommercial fishing village vibe. You can go for a swim, surf, sunbathe, walk to Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse — a perfect spot for whale watching — or go for a bush-walk.

Diving is also a popular activity, with Seal Rocks having at least 15 dive sites and two wrecks to explore. The waters are also known for their population of grey nurse sharks.

2. Port Stephens

Just a two and a half hour drive from North Sydney, Port Stephens is surrounded by 26 golden sand beaches where you can snorkel, kayak, fish, paddle board or just go for a swim. The best beaches to surf are One Mile Beach, Box Beach and Fingal Spit. Sandboarding and quad biking are also popular in the area since Port Stephens is home to the largest sand dunes of Australia, all located just a ten minute drive from Nelson Bay.

From Nelson Bay you can also take a dolphin-watching cruise or a kayaking tour, and whale watching is also popular in both June and July, and September through to November. You are welcome to dine on fresh seafood and fine al fresco dining restaurants right by the sea. Another popular option is to take a ferry to Tea Gardens where you can also dine by the water — don’t be surprised if you see dolphins along the way.

3. Durras Beach

Durras Beach is located 20 minutes north of Batemans Bay on the south coast of New South Wales. A popular area for camping, Durras Beach has Murramarang National Park to the north and Batemans Marine Park offshore. Murramarang has both cabins for rent along with well-placed campgrounds, while Batemans is home to over 40,000 sea birds and offers terrific opportunities for wildlife spotting — including whales.

Dawn at Murramarang National Park, New South Wales.
Dawn at Murramarang National Park, New South Wales.

This is the perfect spot for a weekend of swimming, surfing, fishing, bushwalking, bike riding, kayaking, or simply relaxing on the beach. Outside the national parks the area remains beautiful, and it is also one rich in wildlife — expect to see kangaroos, kookaburras, dolphins and many other species — great for kids!

4. Lake Macquarie

With its namesake lake, the beach, and mountains, Lake Macquarie is a beautiful spot to escape from fast-paced Sydney — or Newcastle. The area is ideal for sailing, bushwalking, rock-climbing, and visiting the Hunter Valley to enjoy a glass of excellent Semillon wine, or simply enjoy the beautiful countryside scenery.

Accommodation ranges from cabins with many amenities, through to creekside campsites. Both the Hunter Valley and Watagans National Park are relatively short drives away, so don’t be surprised if you run out of time with just a weekender at Lake Macquarie.

5. Cockatoo Island

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway only a few minutes from the city of Sydney, Cockatoo Island is the ideal escape. Situated in the middle of Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and boasts fantastic views and a fascinating history.

Camping out on Cockatoo Island.
Camping out on Cockatoo Island.

To reach the island all you need to do is hop on a ferry at Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. To appreciate the harbour views and beautiful surroundings, stay overnight at a campsite right on the water’s edge. The camping area offers small unpowered sites with tents already erected, ideal for couples or a maximum of four people. Don’t forget to bring your torch