An Australian camping trip sadly might not be on the cards for a while for UK residents but when you are finally allowed back into the country, Western Australia has an amazing coastline to explore, awesome hiking, incredible panoramic landscapes and of course, plenty of opportunities for camping!
This summer we spent a whole month on the road camping and staying at heaps of different campsites all over Western Australia. Based on our experience, these are our 13 top tips to ensure you have the best time on your travels…
1. Keep that tent closed
You probably do it anyway, but this is even more important in Australia as you’ve got the fun addition of snakes, spiders and all sorts of creepy crawlies to contend with.
Don’t let that thought put you off too much though, we spent a month camping all over Western Australia this summer and in that time we only had a couple of spiders climb into the tent (non-deadly I should add!) but the campsites we stayed at all had helpful posters providing advice on how to deal with things like snake bites which is, ahem, reassuring?
2. Watch out for the ever-changing weather
In the UK changeable weather in the summer is a given and whilst WA can be beautiful and sunny most of the time, it can also put on a fantastic display of storms, winds, rains and what are known as ‘willy willies’ – mini tornadoes that can come from nothing and disappear in an instant. So, make sure you’ve got your earplugs with you as when that wind and rain starts it can keep you up all night!
3. Hire a 4×4 & consider a roof tent
While the roads in WA are often brilliant there are also loads of unsealed, corrugated roads that you can only travel on in a 4×4, and of course these are the roads that lead to the best places!
Take the Karijini National Park for instance – you can often travel over 50kms on unsealed roads to reach the best gorges – such as Hamersley Gorge, Joffre Falls and Handrail Gorg.
If you have a 4×4 you also have the best opportunity for some beach driving which I found completely crazy coming from the UK. Aussies will just drive right onto the beach, get their camp chairs out, grab a couple of tinnies (in a stubby of course) and watch the sun set.
Similarly, the Francois Peron National Park in Shark Bay is made up of all sand roads meaning you need to let down those tyres and enjoy the bumps that come your way!
Many people also opt for a roof tent, to protect themselves from damp and the aforementioned creepy crawlies. You’ll need a 4×4 for this but be sure you’re confident getting up and down a ladder in the night!
4. Be prepared!
The vastness of WA means that if something goes wrong, you’re going to have to sort yourself out or wait a VERY long time for rescue.
Make sure you’ve got a top-quality spare wheel with you, a spare petrol vat (especially for those national parks where you won’t see a petrol station – aka servo – for hours) and some Matrax recovery tracks to help you – or other unsuspecting European tourists – out of sand when stuck!
5. The roadhouse is your friend
Walking into many of the Aussie roadhouses felt like walking into an experiential movie experience – colourful in every way! After six hours of driving, they are quintessential Australian sanctuaries where everyone has to stop at, whether for petrol, food or just a well-earned rest.
Always rustic but always friendly, they are a huge melting pot of truckies, mining workers and holiday makers – not to mention the staff who are usually Europeans working hard to extend their visa for another few months!
6. RAC don’t just fix cars
RAC recently took over a lot of the campsites in WA and have done an amazing job. After investing a wad of money into renovations, the facilities are top-notch, particularly the kitchens and games rooms.
7. Most WA campsites come with pools
Thankfully most of the campsites we travelled to had their own, really well-kept pools that were spacious enough to avoid the splashing children – or indeed play with splashing children if you were in a family!
8. Don’t be afraid of adventure!
WA embraces adventure. Their national parks have incredible hikes which they helpfully level by number with 5 being the hardest. These often involve a bit of clambering and climbing so a good level of fitness is required but it’s worth it as you get to swim in empty water holes besides beautiful gorges.
That’s not to mention, swimming out in the sea – take a boat trip and snorkel with sharks, manta rays, whales and watch sea turtles, dolphins and dugongs living their best life. Embrace every opportunity!
9. Be prepared for some overtaking!
WA is a huge hit with the campervanners and motorhomers. And boy do the motorhomers know how to do it! Hordes of baby boomers travel up the coast from Perth each year to stop off at their favourite holiday parks and set up a home for anything between two to 12 weeks!
Literally a home from home, it sometimes felt like a competition to see who could have the best set up – with outdoor HD TVs, dining areas, solar panels, and even plants. But, for those in a 4×4 be prepared for some overtaking.
While the speed limit is 110 for most vehicles, for motorhomes and campervans it’s 100 but there is a strong sense of respect on the road.
10. Camp wild
There are lots of opportunities to camp on beaches or in national parks in
WA. Sometimes you have to book these online in advance so make sure you check, just in case they get booked up. We stayed in Millstream National Park for one night where they had a brilliant camp kitchen and a couple of loos (aka dunnies).
We swam in a wild river and hiked across the cliff top and when the sun went down you could see the Milky Way, the stars were so clear!
Depending on the weather, you can often get an amazing display of stars each night when you’re camping in WA so if you’ve got a camera good enough to take pictures of the night sky, bring it!
11. Don’t forget your flip flops/thongs
While the bathroom facilities are usually pretty good, they can get dirty with mud and sandy so make sure you’ve got your flip flops on hand to take with you to the bathroom.
12. Embrace the sunset
Sunset is a key part of your day. Campsites are usually well placed near the sea to watch the sunset which is a huge event. Each night people congregate on their camping chairs, stubby holders full of beer and wine to watch the sun set on another amazing day in WA.
The best sunsets we saw were in Cable Beach up in Broome, Karijini National Park and Eighty Mile Beach beach but really it’s incredible anywhere you go on the west coast.
13. Watch out for red sand and spinifex!
Australian red sand gets everywhere when camping and is a huge pain to get off. Spinifex is an animal’s best friend, the perfect hiding place for snakes, goannas, kangaroos and mice and you’ll see so much of it on the side of the road while you’re travelling. Just make sure you don’t take a tumble into it as it’s so sharp it can pierce the skin!
Ultimately, camping in WA is an awesome experience. Be ready to travel long distances, of course, but it’s always worth it and every campsite is unique, with friendly staff keen for you to have a great time.