Port Macquarie is idyllically located on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales and is lucky enough to be within a short drive from many beautiful National Parks, unspoilt State Forests and pristine Nature Reserves. This proximity to nature coupled with a wonderful sub-tropical climate makes the region one of the best in the country for camping. Take a drive about 1 hour in any direction and take your pick from a plethora of the best camping spots, all boasting picturesque unspoilt surroundings, most with either ocean or river frontage and native flora and fauna galore. With warmer weather just over the horizon, now is the time to start prepping your kit and plotting your next trip.
Here’s our picks of the best camping spots around Port Macquarie.
Hat Head and South West Rocks
Driving distance from Port Macquarie: 70 minutes (82.7km)
Famous for: fishing, bushwalks, swimming spots, heritage, natural beauty.
Renowned for its pristine waters, unspoilt scenery and great fishing, Hat Head has long been a favourite camping spot of locals in the region. This is the perfect spot to do absolutely nothing, but if you feel like getting active, take a walk up to Smoky Cape Lighthouse, head to South West Rocks for a meal and a cold beer at the surf club or take a trip back in time at the historic Trial Bay Gaol. There are also some good spots for canoeing and kayaking around the area as well.
For the ultimate family-friendly experience, check out the Trial Bay Gaol campground in Arakoon National Park, which is located beachside in the picturesque village of South West Rocks. This campground offers plenty of flexibility, being suitable for tents, caravans, camper trailers and pitching a tent beside your vehicle. The campsite features onsite amenities, drinking water, showers and electric power so it’s definitely more ‘glamping’ than camping – that’s our kind of camping trip! There’s heaps to do around South West Rocks, including snorkelling, fishing, surfing, bushwalking and even whale watching (during the Winter months).
Tip: Stop off on the way at the roadside honesty boxes for fresh eggs and produce. For a fantastic spot for a picnic with views head to Captain Cook’s lookout, just beneath the Smoky Cape Lighthouse.
Pictured above: The view from Trial Bay Gaol Watchhouse
Crescent Head, Delicate and Racecourse
Driving distance from Port Macquarie: 54 minutes (61.3km)
Famous for: Surf, proximity to the beach.
Located in Goolawah National Park and Goolawah Regional Park respectively, Racecourse and Delicate campgrounds are idyllically located a stones’ throw from beautiful beaches, and offer the chance for some quiet time with the family. Go for a surf on the famous surf break, try your hand at beach fishing or go birdwatching for something different. The Racecourse campground offers shower and toilet facilities however the Delicate ground is a little more basic, so be prepared to fend for yourself if you’re thinking of pitching your tent there. As an added bonus, dogs are allowed at Delicate campground, and there’s even an off-leash beach for you to enjoy with your furry friend.
Diamond Head, Crowdy Gap and Kylie’s Beach
Driving distance from Port Macquarie: 60 mins (78.5kms)
Famous for: beach fishing, koalas, birdlife.
Crowdy Bay National Park offers some of the most diverse and best camping spots on the Mid-North Coast; there is something to suit everyone. Diamond Head is one of the biggest and most popular spots in the Crowdy Bay National Park, perhaps because it offers plenty of open space coupled with well-maintained facilities, beautiful beaches with 4WD access, and is located close to bushwalks and fishing spots galore.
Located on the site of an old dairy farm, Crowdy Gap campground offers a grassy flat site just a short walk from the beach. Kylie’s Beach campground sits behind the sand dunes and is perfect for families, offering plenty of space for caravans and campers alike. Bring along your kayak or canoe as there are opportunities to hit the water nearby.
Cobrabald – Wild Bull
Driving distance from Port Macquarie: 67 minutes (60.9km)
Famous for: freshwater swimming hole, bushwalks.
This free campsite is located a short drive from Wauchope, west of Port Macquarie. If you are seeking peace and quiet, a place to enjoy the seclusion and beauty of getting back to nature, then Wild Bull Camping Area – located in Mount Boss State Forest – could be the one for you. This camping spot features BBQ facilities as well as a beautiful waterhole for you to cool off in during the summer months!
Driving distance from Port Macquarie: 1 hour and 45 minutes (97.9km)
Famous for: Rainforest location, open space, solitude.
Located 75km west of Wauchope, Maxwell’s Flat is another free camping spot in the region. The campground is snuggled amongst beautiful lush green rainforest and close to the Doyles River and Doyles River State Forest.
Tip: Access can be difficult during and after heavy rainfall.
Driving distance from Port Macquarie: 1 hour and 35 minutes (83.9km)
Famous for: Ellenborough Falls.
Ellenborough Reserve was one of the most popular names that came up when we were asking around the office for our team’s favourite spots. Perhaps it has something to do with its pet-friendly status, ideal location on the banks of the Ellenborough River, and easy proximity to Port Macquarie. Whatever it is, there’s no denying that it’s a popular spot so make sure you get there early for a spot during peak times like school holidays and long weekends! Make sure you bring your swimmers for a dip!
Werrikimbe National Park
Driving distance from Port Macquarie: 3 hours and 5 minutes (167.5km)
Famous for: Bushwalking, Heritage-Listed rainforest, waterfalls.
Located in Forbes River, the Werrikimbe National Park is home to three campgrounds; Brushy Mountain campground, Mooraback Campground and Plateau Beech Campground and each offer unique features and surroundings. As a whole the park offers breathtaking walks through world heritage rainforest, picnic spots, 4WD trails and amazing scenic drives.
Best camping spots, according to our team
We asked some of The Westport Club team to give us their best spots and tips for camping…
Gemma, HR Manager
These are some of my favourites, but I’m not sharing the best ones, they are my secret! My best camping spots that I’m willing to share are:
What makes it special: sharing your site with Kangaroos, and great walks on the beach.
What makes it special: warm showers and running toilets.
What makes it special: the view!
What makes it special: going up there on the weekend and running into every one you know from Port Macquarie.
What makes it special: river and beach combination.
What makes it special: Back to basics camping.
South West Rocks
What makes it special: pub within walking distance of campground.
What makes it special: the river.
Aaron, IT Support Officer
I have a few, but I prefer to sleep out under the stars in my swag with a lot of bush around, preferably with a water source nearby for yabbies. There are a few other places I found but they were by accident when I got lost, and I have no idea of how to get back! My best camping spots are:
Easy drive down, sedan can make it in the dry.
Hard 4WD with AT or MT tyres.
Werrikimbe National Park
Soft 4WD, gorgeous views.
Easy drive in a sedan, gets busy on public holidays.
Wild Bull – Cobrabald
Easy drive, camp site completely refurbished, but gets busy on public holidays.
Tips for Happy Campers
- Drinking water, showers and toilet facilities are not available at all sites and some aren’t suitable for caravans or 2WD cars, so make sure you read up on the facilities available at your destination before heading off.
- Be aware that some camping grounds have enforced maximum stays so make sure you adhere to this.
- Don’t forget that you need a NSW Recreational Fishing License (around $35 for one year) if you’re planning on fishing in both fresh and saltwater.
- Stay informed on weather conditions such as heavy rainfall, particularly if the area you plan to visit is accessed via dirt road or is located close to a river or creek.
- Before you leave check whether there are any fire bans in place (or indeed whether you’re even allowed to have a fire). Remember you might need to bring your own firewood to most sites.
- Download the Emergency + app on to your smartphone before you leave home; in the event of an emergency it will provide GPS information to emergency services to help them locate you.
There are a lot of places to camp around Port Macquarie that are free or virtually free so we don’t need to tell you camping is a fun and affordable way to explore the region.
Get some much-needed fresh air in your lungs, pressing the re-set button before another week in the office – pack your swimmers, your surfboard, your fishing rod and the tent and hit the road this weekend!
- National Parks NSW
- How to shop for camping tents
- Port Macquarie information
- Mid North Coast Caravan, Camping, 4WD, Fish and Boat Show
You might also like
- Top 10 things to do in Port Macquarie during Winter
- Port Macquarie Markets
- Top 5 things to do along the Hastings River
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