Christmas camping: Our top 10 VIC summer camping spots
With the warmer weather, many families will be looking to get away from the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life to enjoy a well-earned holiday after a tough year in 2021. Victorian campsites rank among the world's best and, with no shortage of dog-friendly caravan parks to choose from, you can take the whole family (literally) on the ideal summer holiday adventure.
In the wake of the catastrophic 2019 bushfire disaster and Covid-19 pandemic, it's never been more important to visit regional Victoria and enjoy the incredible natural environments, spend time with the friendly locals and provide some well needed economic support to the region.
To help you plan your next trip, here are 10 of Victoria's best summer camping spots (in no particular order):
Tidal River Campground, Wilsons Promontory National Park
Boasting more than 480 camping and caravan sites and ample shade options, it's not surprising that Tidal River in Wilsons Prom ranks among the most popular Christmas and summer camping grounds in Victoria.
Tidal River is ideal for ocean and freshwater activities - surfing, kayaking or stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP), swimming, bodyboarding, snorkelling and all of the usual beach holiday must-dos. Boats can be launched (by 4WD only, until further notice) at nearby Norman Bay. Plus, there are plenty of day and overnight hikes to explore the unforgettable natural majesty of the surrounding Wilsons Prom National Park.
Tidal River offers a well-stocked general store, which makes camp cooking and staying hydrated easy. Park management also provides a variety of resources for people with disabilities or mobility issues - such as beach and all-terrain wheelchairs - so absolutely everyone can enjoy the best of the great outdoors.
Lakeside Tourist Park, The Grampians
Halls Gap and The Grampians mountain range have no shortage of camping options at any time of the year but, during the Christmas/New Year period and the summer months in general, Lakeside Tourist Park really comes to life.
Unapologetically family-focused - and accordingly enforcing an 11 pm noise curfew - Lakeside is an excellent basecamp for families to explore the nearby Grampians National Park and its abundance of natural wildlife, invigorating hikes, bike trails and bushwalks, kayaking and fishing at Lake Bellfield, and simply unforgettable views anywhere you look.
On the other hand, if traipsing around the National Park isn't your speed and you're looking for a summer break where you can recharge the batteries, this park has a few welcome creature comforts including a wifi hub, two guest pools, a camp lounge, private bathrooms, communal showers, and playgrounds and trampolines for the kids.
With both powered and non-powered caravan and camping sites, on-site vans and a range of 'glamping' options, there's something to scratch every family's holiday style-itch. And, as one of the few places that still allows (heavily regulated) campfires, you can take advantage of their fire drum hire to end your day the traditional camping way.
Cathedral Ranges State Park
If you're looking for a Christmas camping experience away from congested coastal areas, Melbourne's Cathedral Ranges State Park might be just the ticket.
Located approximately two hours northeast of Melbourne, the park has three popular camping areas - Cooks Mill, Ned's Gully and Farmyard - each of which offers campers its own unique experience. Cooks Mill has ample room for tents and caravans, while Ned's Gully comfortably accommodates 15 tents, and Farmyard is free of charge with accessibility for hikers intent on completing the Razorback Ridge Track.
Bushwalks, mountain bike trails and hikes are what attracts campers to the Cathedral Range but the area is also excellent for people who just want to unwind and do as little as possible. In terms of facilities, you'll find non-flush toilets, communal fireplaces and picnic tables. Given the popularity of the park, bookings are essential. And pets are definitely a no-no.
Lake Catani, Mount Buffalo National Park
Located in the Mount Buffalo National Park approximately three and a half hours northeast of Melbourne, Lake Catani and its 49 campsites is nirvana for the family that enjoys bushwalking, canoeing, swimming, picnicking, sightseeing and cycling, or campers who are just keen to relax by the shores of this idyllic artificial lake.
Set amongst gorgeous snow gum woodland, Lake Catani provides sites suitable for small caravans and campervans, while others are for car camping and tents only. Walk-in campsites are also available for those campers who prefer some extra peace and quiet. Several campsites are designed for visitors with limited mobility, situated on reasonably level ground within a stone's throw of wheelchair access to toilets and hot showers.
Additionally, Lake Catani features communal dining, fireplaces, basic laundry services and dishwashing facilities. Bringing your own potable water is a must.
Fraser Camping Ground, Lake Eildon
Just like The Grampians National Park, the Lake Eildon region is a popular camping, boating and fishing destination all-year-round. However, when the warmer weather arrives, the Fraser Camping Ground, situated right on the shores of the lake, experiences a huge surge of activity with campers looking to beat the summer heat with all kinds of water activities like swimming, kayaking, canoeing, trout fishing and other watersports.
Fraser consists of four separate campgrounds on the banks of the Collar Bay area of Lake Eildon: Candlebark, Devil Cove, Lakeside and Jerusalem Creek. Park your caravan or launch your boat from Candlebark, Lakeside and Jerusalem Creek, while the camper who prefers a lazy hike or bushwalk to one of the many lookout points for a picnic (or some relative peace and quiet) may be tempted to pitch their tent at Devil Cove.
Sites at Fraser are unpowered although campers have access to hot showers, flushing toilets and gas BBQs. Jerusalem Creek is the most basic of the bunch but it does allow you to bring along canine members of the family, as long as they're on leads. You'll need to pack your own supplies and potable water as part of your camping kit, and campers are encouraged to support the nearby towns of Alexandra and Eildon - both about a 15-minute drive away - for stocking up on supplies.
Big4 Ingenia Holidays Phillip Island
Now re-badged as Big4 Ingenia Holidays Phillip Island, the much-loved Big4 Phillip Island remains a sensational choice for summer holiday camping in Victoria.
Located next to Newhaven Beach, Ingenia is only 500 metres from San Remo's celebrated restaurants and cafes, and a short drive from the world-famous Penguin Parade and other Phillip Island highlights like The Nobbies and the Koala Conservation Park.
At Ingenia, there is a selection of on-site cabins in a well-shaded position to suit any budget, with a choice of powered and unpowered sites. There's also a camp kitchen, kiosk, an amenities block with laundry and disabled facilities, an outdoor cinema, plenty of playgrounds, a giant jumping pillow, buggy hire and free wifi. Unfortunately, though, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the games room remains closed until further notice.
Howqua Hills Historic Area, Howqua Valley
If you're craving a more down-to-earth camping experience, the Howqua Hills Historic Area in the Howqua Valley near Mansfield may be the spot for you.
The Howqua River camping precinct offers nine different camping flats: Blackbird, Fry's, Sheepyard North and South, Davon's, Pickerings, Noonan's and Tunnel Bend Flat, with 7 Mile and 8 Mile campgrounds located nearby in the Alpine National Park. Popular with 4X4 enthusiasts, hikers and bushwalkers, this area is also a great base for freshwater anglers. There is also plenty of serenity on offer for anyone looking to take it easy.
Don't be fooled by 4X4 drivers' love of Howqua - all of the nine camping grounds areas can be accessed by 2WD vehicles, caravans and campervans. Dogs on leashes are also a feature, making Howqua one of the dog-friendly caravan parks in Victoria. The facilities are pretty basic (think pit toilets), and dishwashing and portable showers need to be 50 metres from the river or any other water source.
You'll need to bring your own supplies, drinking water and firewood, and ensure you observe the park's non-negotiable campfire guidelines across summer.
Blanket Bay Campground, Otway National Park
You'll be hard-pressed to find a family camping escape that is better than Blanket Bay Campground in the Otway National Park.
Given that Blanket Bay is on the Great Ocean Road, the swimming is top-notch. The usual beach holiday shenanigans are also perfect for families because of the calmer waters created by the protection of the hills of Cape Otway and an intertidal reef. An ageless, giant manna gum tree forest provides campers with plenty of shade, too, which goes a long way in explaining its massive popularity when the mercury rises.
As well as the beach, there's the famous Katabanook Walk and the chance to spot koalas in their natural habitat, or you can have a crack at a section of the iconic long-distance Great Ocean Walk (note: not recommended for novice hikers).
Blanket Bay campsites are unpowered and most suited to tents, camper trailers, campervans or 4X4s. Visitors are advised to supply their own water and firewood, and packing a snorkel and some goggles for exploring the ocean reef is one of the secrets to getting the most out of your camping experience here.
Wye River Foreshore Campground, Wye River
When people think of Christmas and summer camping on the Great Ocean Road, their thoughts will often turn to the Wye River Foreshore. Despite its enduring popularity, it's known as one of the quieter spots on the coast and one of the best places for getting away from the city grind.
Wye River Foreshore campground features 60 powered and four unpowered sites. The facilities available include an amenities block with a disabled shower and toilet facilities, communal laundry, communal camp kitchen and hooded barbecues.
As well as the hallowed Wye River Pub and general store nearby for supplies and sunset beers (not necessarily in that order), Lorne is just a hop, skip and a jump away with its supermarket and fair share of cafes and restaurants, as well as Surf Life Saving Club patrolled beaches.
Marengo Family Caravan Park, Apollo Bay
It may be a little further down the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne but Marengo Family Caravan Park in Apollo Bay is on the hit-list of many families for summer holidays.
As well as being a brilliant spot for rest and relaxation, day trips to the Shipwreck Coast - and iconic tourist stops like the 12 Apostles, Cape Otway Lighthouse and the Otway Fly - are easy if you've set up basecamp at Marengo. And you're right on the doorstep of Apollo Bay restaurants and cafes when you feel like somebody else should do the cooking.
Marengo Family Caravan Park has powered and unpowered sites, on-site cabins and amenities that include laundry facilities, disabled bathrooms, a communal kitchen and outdoor BBQ area and an adventure playground for the kids. There's also wifi access if you're staying in one of the cabins.
Probably best of all, Marengo welcomes pets, so your family's furry friend can take advantage of the many dog-friendly beaches dotted around Apollo Bay - and have a 'whale' of a time as well.