Six of the Best Places to Camp with Kids Near Melbourne
By Stacey Roberts, ellaslist
Hitch up your caravan, or scrabble around to find the tent pegs you know you packed near the Esky last holiday, it’s time to get back to nature at these excellent family-friendly campsites just a hop, skip and jump from the Melbourne metropolis.
1. Cumberland River Holiday Park
If you want to wake up with the river right at your tent door, several campsites at Cumberland River Holiday Park are nestled along the water’s edge, with a steady stream of gentle water tumbling over rock pools to lull you to sleep at night. For folk who prefer to be among the trees, there are plenty of cabins and safari tents on offer, and the rest of the 95 campsites further away in the gorgeously scenic valley where mountains meet the cliffs.
Spend your days exploring the Castle Rock and Langdale Pike lookouts, hike the walking trails through the Great Otway National Parks, or take your pick of waterfalls: you’re right near Cumberland, Kalimna, and Erskine Falls.
If it’s a swim you’re after, dip into the Cumberland River swimming hole or the nearby surf beach, or try your hand in the trout stream or fishing off the rocks.
The park has two amenity blocks (the showers require 20c for 5 minutes of hot water), washing machine and dryer, pay phone, playground, free BBQs, washing up sinks with HOT AND COLD WATER (now is that camping luxury or what), half-barrel drums at campsites for your own campfire with hotplates available for hire to turn them into your own BBQs, and a super-well-stocked on site shop. If you find yourself missing something or just want to eat off real plates, Lorne and Apollo bay are close by and full of great things to see, do, and eat.
2. Firth Park, Wombat State Forest
Firth Park is a free campsite in the Wombat State Forest, between Woodend and Daylesford in the Great Dividing Range. Surrounded by shady heritage trees in a beautiful green campground, set up your home away from home and settle in for the duration. A couple of longdrop toilets are yours, and non-potable water is sometimes available but it’s better to bring your own. Bring firewood too for the six barbecues available on site, or check the local fire restrictions and build your own if it’s safe.
Cool stuff to do nearby is explore the ultra-cute country town of Trentham, peek at the Lyonville Mineral Spring or the Trentham Falls, stroll the (ok 9km of sometimes-unformed paths so I probably can’t call it a stroll) Lederderg River Heritage Walk, swim in the lake on-site or explore the old horse-drawn timber tram on its banks.
3. Bluegums Riverside Holiday Park, Eildon
For those who love packing a bag and having everything catered for at the other end, Bluegums has got everything you need to camp with a family (and even the furry canine family member!). Grab a one or three-bedroom cabin with fully equipped kitchens, aircon and heating, TVs and DVD players, or for the more getting-back-to-nature kind, there are powered and unpowered camping and caravan sites.
Facilities include three amenities blocks and family bathrooms, and you’ll also find a family recreation room, camp kitchens with gas BBQs, two laundries with washers and dryers, basketball hoops, volleyball nets and two swimming pools. If you run out of necessities, you can also get ice, gas cylinders, wood and fire drum hire in addition to a fully-stocked convenience store.
If you can tear yourself away from this family camping kids’ paradise, there’s also kayaking, canoeing and rafting in the nearby Howqua, Goulburn and Delatite rivers, or boat, fish and swim in Lake Eildon. Hike the Alpine National Park, The Mt Stirling to Mt Buller Trail, or try your hand at horse riding in the High Country.
4. Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory
Arguably every Victorian’s favourite camping spot, Wilsons Prom really is all that and a bag of chips. With 484 campgrounds at Tidal River, modern amenity blocks, info centre, general store, hot showers, laundry facilities, and gas-powered barbecue picnic sites, it’s super popular with families.
You do have to book (fees apply), and the earlier you can do it, the better. Labour Day, Easter, and the Melbourne Cup long weekend are often crazy busy times and even a ballot is held for folks wishing to camp in the five weeks from Christmas to January, which you have to apply for in June. It’s that good.
Once you finally get your spot, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to walks nearby, everything from a short trip to Tidal River and to Squeaky Beach all the way up to southern or northern overnight hikes. Honestly, it’s a treasure trove of nature as you’re within a stone’s throw from pristine beaches, earthy rainforests, majestic mountain peaks, and offshore islands that look like they’re straight out of a Hollywood movie.
5. Upper Yarra Reservoir Park
The uppermost point of the Yarra River accessible to the public is home to the Upper Yarra Reservoir Park, a peaceful camping spot surrounded by native bush and exotic trees. It’s a real “camping” spot in every sense of the word, with only unpowered sites, basic toilets, barbeques and camp kitchen available (although there IS a payphone!), but there are tonnes of places to sightsee or go adventuring nearby.
The self-guided Fern Gully trail loops through a eucalypt forest, and is a gentle 500m stroll. Also easily doable is the Brimbonga Walking Track that leads to a viewing platform from which you can see the reservoir’s water below rushing off on its way to Melbourne. For more of a challenge, tackle the 2km Doctor Creek track, a steep hike up to another fantastic lookout above the reservoir.
The Yarra Ranges National Park is excellent for exploring, and the Big Peninsula Tunnel is a unique man-made gold-extraction water diversion which is now a popular picnic and swimming spot.
6. Boreang Campground, Grampians National Park
Head north-west out of Melbourne and into the Grampians and pull up a spot at the locals’ favourite Boreang Campground. Its proximity to the plethora of nearby attractions makes it an excellent place to base yourself while you go exploring. There are 12 unpowered sites for tents, and 11 for camper and caravans (bookings are required in advance).
Facilities include non-flush toilets, shared fireplaces and shared picnic areas, but there is no water or firewood, so bring your own.
There are more things to do in the area than you could ever get done in one trip, so you’ll probably have to put “go back to Boreang Campground” on your future to-do list! There’s overnight hiking through the Grampians Peak Trail, Major Mitchell Plateau, The Fortress and Mt Thackeray, day walks to Mt Zero, Mt Stapylton, Hollow Mountain, the Aboriginal art site Gulgurn Manja and more, take a backpack and picnic at the six or seven areas nearby with facilities, check out the Reeds Lookout, The Balconies, or Boroka Lookout for some spectacular scenery, or hop over to MacKenzie Falls, which is so gentle it’s doable with wheelchairs or prams.
Where’s your favourite place to make camping memories near Melbourne with your family?