Home – Camping Guide Australia

An idyllic spot on a New South Wales beach.

This book contains practical advice on every aspect of camping in Australia. It was written by lifetime campers Bob and Julie Lake, who have camped around the world for more than 50 years – in Europe, Africa, the United States and, for most of the past 40 years, in Australia. This 250-page guide tells you everything you need to know including  where to go and how to get there, tents and other equipment, campfires and cooking, weatherwise camping, preventing and coping with emergencies, road safety, camping with kids and pets, and with special sections for women, seniors, overseas visitors and first-time campers. Camping Guide Australia will save you its cost many times over and will help make your camping experience a pleasure that will continue throughout your lifetime. This book is aimed at Australian first-time campers, couples, families and singles. Also intended for visitors to Australia seeking an introduction to camping here, and for more experienced campers wishing to expand their range. Camping Guide Australia, by Bob and Julie Lake, can be viewed and purchased as an ebook for $US 9.95 at www.amazon.com/kindle. Simply search the title and download to PC or eReader. Other books by Julie Lake, also available from Amazon at $US 4.95 are: A Garden in AfricaGreat Garden for Just Two Hours a Week, Growing Great Azaleas,  Improving Your Soil-The Natural Way, Grow Herbs-Make Money and Tropical Foliage Gardening.

And for those who enjoy campfire chat and a bit of philosophy and contentious debate, dip into Bob’s Down-Under Dissertation http://downunderdissertation.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/hello-world/

About us

Bob Lake

Julie Lake

Bob and Julie Lake are lifelong campers, each with more than half a century of travel and camping behind them. They have travelled extensively throughout the world: Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada and the United States, and have camped from Tasmania’s south-west to the Queensland outback; from Death Valley to the Sierra Mountains in the US, and from the low-veldt of Zimbabwe to Kenya’s Northern Frontier. They have had many good camps, a few difficult ones, and some near-disasters. These experiences, stretching over 50 years, form the basis of this book, with the practical wisdom that will help others get the most out of their own camping adventures.

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Camping with Pets

One of the most frequent questions we are asked is this: How easy is it to camp with pets … dogs generally … in Australia.

The simple answer – in a word – is don’t.

When we first started camping in Australia some 40+ years ago, it was still a fairly pet-friendly place. You could not then, and cannot now of course, camp with or take dogs or any other pets into a national park. But at one time there were plenty of private campgrounds and many caravan parks where dogs and other pets were welcome. This is not the case today.

A combination of increased human and pet populations, more campers, noise and nuisance caused by pets, health issues, insurance and public risk factors … all these things have made it difficult to take your beloved pooch with you.

A search of our local region produced only two caravan parks that would take dogs, and these allow for one small dog only, provided it makes no noise and its owners clean up behind it. Neither of these parks was in a popular location and one was quite inconveniently located.

And if you do find somewhere to camp with a dog, there is virtually nowhere you can exercise it. You can’t walk in national parks or conservation areas; can’t take it into any food store or restaurant – you’re limited to staying within the park which allows dogs, or to desperately trying to find some other place to walk where dogs are allowed.



Taking the family pet with you used to be fun; but not any more. Dogs cannot be taken into national parks or many other conservation areas. Apart from small areas set aside, they cannot be taken on to most beaches. Few caravan parks accept them – and don’t try to take one into a shop or restaurant.

But … having said all that, if you still want to take your dog with you, there are a few private campgrounds that will allow pets – subject to restrictions. Your best bet is to do an Internet search of the places you intend to travel, or simply Google ‘camping with pets’, nominating the area you want to visit. Some camping and accommodation guides also show which parks take pets and there are publications which list them Australia-wide. But if you camp with pets, you will find that your life becomes very restricted.

Certainly you will need to keep your dog under strict control so that it doesn’t bark and annoy other campers. Above all, you must not let it disturb wildlife.

One other, often neglected consideration, is that of the health of your pet. If you do take a dog with you, watch out for ticks. You need to check out whether or not the areas in which you are likely to camp are tick-free or not. Ticks are small things, hard to see in an animal’s coat, but they can cause death in pets very quickly. A friend of ours recently had to take their small dog to a vet for tick treatment and, at the end of the day, they were $1500 worse off.

So, what can you do? Here are some options: (1) Leave your pet at home or in kennels. (2) Avoid areas where ticks are prevalent. (3)  Wash your pet with a tick-repellent shampoo. (4) Inspect your pet carefully, right down into the hairs. If you do this two or three times a day, you might find and remove a tick before it becomes attached. (5) If you find an embedded tick, don’t try and pull it out; it will resist by injecting more poison. Spray it with an insect repellent, like RID, and get your pet to a vet. (6) If your pet shows any signs of being unwell, inspect it thoroughly for ticks – if you find one, get to a vet as fast as you can.

So our advice is to either leave your dog at home with friends to look after it, or put it in kennels – otherwise your freedom to do all those things that make camping in the bush so much fun will be severely curtailed. We used to always take our dogs camping – but that was many years ago. We wouldn’t dream of doing it now.

Email: boblake72@live.com.au


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Move out of your comfort zone

There are those people who simply don’t understand campers and camping –  maybe they had a deprived childhood; I don’t know. They just cannot understand why anybody would subject themselves to discomfort in order to experience the sort of things they could watch on TV.

Depending on the company they find themselves in, campers may be admired, politely ignored, or even ridiculed. There are those too who can extract laughs from the situation. Here are a few famous quotes that make campers the butt of humour.
  • Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.
  • Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.
  • Camping:  The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet.
  • It always rains on tents.  Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.
  • Campers: Nature’s way of feeding mosquitoes.
  • How is it that one match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box of matches to start a campfire?

But then, for those who have experienced the true wilderness, the star-filled nights, the camp fires, the wet dawns, the profound silence of isolation … these people don’t need to explain it. They have a confidence and self-reliance that comes from meeting the challenge of bogged vehicles, high winds and wet firewood. What others think or say matters not to them. They recognise a different theme in famous quotations.

  • Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
  • We don’t stop playing because we grow old;  we grow old because we stop playing.
  • Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization.

So there it is; you pays your money and you takes your choice. You will find that those things you do all your life will carry you into old age. I have one friend in his late 60s who dons lycra and races his cycle up and down a 600 metre’ mountain, and another friend in his late 80s who was really upset because bad weather forced him to give up – at 3500 metres – a trek in the Swiss Alps. Both had cycled or walked all their lives.

So it is a question of take it up, and not give it up. But it’s never too late to make modest progress and develop some activity that will give you exercise and satisfaction. I have camped all my life, have adapted with age to different ways of camping, and can still make and break a camp pretty efficiently.
But a later activity has been cycling. When, at age 70, back, knee and hip surgery began to limit my bushwalking capabilities, my thoughtful children bought me a bicycle. It was 50 years since I had ridden a bike, so this was a new challenge. I shall never race up mountains but, strangely, cycling seems to overlook my structural health problems and I can cycle all day without effort. What is more, it gives me enormous pleasure. It’s been a bit of a ramble, this post, but what I am trying to say is this: Don’t back off from life. Set challenges for yourself and meet them. Develop the quiet pride and confidence that comes from self-sufficiency. And, if you can do it, make your peace with – and in – the wilderness. You will carry it with you always.

There are moments that make all the effort worthwhile

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Horses for courses

Different strokes for different folk

There are many different reasons for going camping and there are certainly many different ways of doing it. For some it is an inexpensive holiday by the beach or in the mountains. For others, it’s back to nature, solitude and a break from work and routine. It can be a chance to visit out-of-the-way places, sometimes very remote indeed, where there is no other choice of accommodation. It can be a recuperative rest, a complete change away from the stress of modern life.

For us, it is freedom, independence, self-reliance and the carefree aspect of travelling light, as the will takes us, with our home in the boot of the car.

Out bush, there is a meditative power in the action of doing practical things for yourself, improvising, developing bush skills; the peace of the wild, fresh air, exercise, cooking your outdoor meals, sitting around a campfire – alone or with others –  in the evening; sleeping under the stars.

For young families, there is the satisfaction of teaching your children to work cooperatively, putting real values into their lives … when work becomes pleasure and nature walks bring the wilderness alive.

Apart from which, camping is by far the least expensive way to see the country and to enjoy new experiences.

Don’t take everything with you; the bush is an experience in itself. You don’t need portable generators for television; generators disturb other campers and are banned in most parks. For news and entertainment you can have an unobtrusive iPod or MP3 with earphones. You can read; nights are long, so have a strong reading light in the tent. But it is the cultivation of outdoor activities – often new ones – which enrich our camping. Have a purpose apart from just getting away; develop an interest in bushwalking, nature, photography, geology and fossicking. Take binoculars and a bird field guide. We often fish or canoe if the camping spot is near water, and we always take our bicycles with us- where is it not too hilly.

There’s so much to do. It’s not difficult to get started, the initial investment is comparatively little, and a whole new lifestyle will have dawned.

Above: Cooking fresh-caught crabs on a remote Great Sandy Straits beach. We spent two weeks camping in this beautiful spot.

Below: Camping beside a quiet Queensland river – forty years ago. An inexpensive tent, a small boat, basic sleeping and cooking equipment, fishing tackle … what more could you ask?

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Experience, memory and worldview

In my younger days I lived, worked and travelled for many years in desperately drought-stricken regions of Africa and inland Australia. I have watched the skies, month after month, hoping for a cloud on the horizon; have seen farmers shoot flocks of sheep numbered in the tens of thousands – rather than watch them die of starvation, and I have been on the road with thousands of cattle, searching for grass. In doing this, I have slept in tents, swags, mud huts and under the tailboard of trucks.

Cattle on the road seeking grass and water – East Africa 1961.

Digging in sand for water in a dry riverbed in southern Kenya.

 And these experiences have coloured my worldview for a lifetime.

Today we live, in retirement, in a cool subtropical area at an altitude of 1800 feet. The soils are deep and red, the rainfall high and regular, the grass is always lush and green. Frequently we get long wet spells, and our friends are longing for fine weather, blue skies and sunshine.

We have had an excessively wet summer, with several huge falls of rain and various parts of our region have suffered severe flooding and storm damage. A couple of weeks ago I measured 20″ of rain within three days; yesterday I measured 7″ in 24 hours – a township in this region where we used to live, measured 7″ in an hour. Almost 4″ again this morning. Our roads have been cut, our bridges washed away. Our power, television and sometimes, phones, have been affected. We keep three dehumidifiers going at times like this to combat mould.

And still it rains.

But do you know what – and this is where experience, memories and worldview come into it – every time the rain eases off, I get a pang and hope it hasn’t stopped. No matter how wet it has been and how much we need things to dry out, I can’t bear to see it go away. And if it is not raining, then I look at cloud movements on the Internet, hoping that they are drifting this way.

And, for superstitious reasons, I never grumble about having too much rain. When I feel it falling on to our lawns, dripping into the rainforest and turning the creeks into muddy torrents, I feel that rain is soaking into my soul.

So, there it is. Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but that eye also reflects those images of the past which colour my interpretation.

Retirement: Rain from our sitting room window.

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Who says crime doesn’t pay?

An un-social comment: Don’t read this if you are fixated on camping only – sometimes I feel the need to rant!

We hear that our legal system is being swamped by illegal immigrants appealing deportation. Apart from costing the taxpayer – who has not broken the law – many millions of dollars on legal representation for those that have, the grounds on which appeals are being made are interesting. So are some of the appeal decisions.

One man  – who had logged up a criminal record as long as your arm during his few years in Australia – appealed against deportation on the grounds that he might face violence from former gang members in his own country, from whom he had fled. Another, a Chinese ‘Catholic’ illegal immigrant, feared religious persecution in his own country – but he didn’t know who the Pope was! Others have pleaded ‘partner’ status following very recent marriages to Australian. Then there are those who say they are gay and fear harm in their own countries, but upon investigation, have not been found to he homosexual.

The one that intrigues me, however, was the man who sought political asylum on the grounds that he was a member of a militant group involved in armed robbery, kidnapping and other non-political crimes, and feared prosecution in his own country. The tribunal, however, rejected his appeal on the grounds that – upon investigation – his story of being a criminal was fabricated.

The interesting question here is that if this man could have proved he was a dangerous and violent criminal who had fled his own country to avoid prosecution, would this have been grounds for granting him asylum in Australia?

The Australian taxpayer is funding appeals by more than 10,000 illegal immigrants a year, few of whom are genuine political asylum seekers. Those that are granted the right to stay in this country will almost certainly become a continuing drain on the public purse … many are unskilled, speak no English, will not assimilate and will – through no fault of Australians – become alienated.

Don’t we have enough our own people in need – Aborigines, the elderly, the unemployed? Not to mention our overburdened and failing health system, law and order problems … what on earth are we doing?

If we need more people, if we need skilled migrants, we must reserve the right to select those who will become Australians, blend into our society, and contribute to it. This is no longer a racial issue – large numbers of Asians Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Koreans and others have settled well into our country and are now Australians. (Incidentally, people of Asian origin now make up 8% of the population, vastly outnumbering Aborigines who make up less than 2%).

What is the point of this rant?

In summary, I think we should encourage immigrants of any race who will assimilate into our community, become Australians, and contribute one way or another to society. At the same time, we should find a much swifter and more effective way to deal with illegal immigrants – now invariably, and mostly wrongly, called asylum seekers.

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Spare us – the effete elite

An un-social comment: Don’t read this if you are fixated on camping only – sometimes I feel the need to rant!

Isn’t the ‘caring society’ wonderful. When I switched on a television program yesterday, I was warned that it was a bit naughty and a bit nasty, and perhaps I shouldn’t watch it. In spite of this, I enjoyed the program in which bad language, sex, drug use and violence were comparatively minimal. But as the final credits went up, and just in case I had ignored the earlier warnings and continued viewing, I was told that I might have found the program disturbing and was invited to seek counselling – along with a list of organisations providing such services.

Is this for real, or is somebody having me on?

These are actors; the play is fiction. We can get out of our chair and make coffee while we watch it. We don’t have watch it at all if we don’t want to.

Counselling!!! Who thinks up these things? Neurotic, self-indulgent, politically correct space-wasters who need, if anyone does, some fairly muscular counselling themselves.

Out there is a world of pain and suffering. I read that a billion people go to bed hungry every night. There are wars and disease, persecution and fear, people in desperate financial straits, and there is more violence, drug use, sex scenes and bad language on the street than we want to know about.

And I am being offered counselling because I might be disturbed by somebody swearing, or collapsing with their shirt covered in tomato sauce!

In this world today, we are an effete elite. And, for those few who may not fully understand the term ‘effete’, it means lacking in wholesome vigor; worn out, without energy, degenerate; decadent – as in ‘an effete, overrefined society’.

 Happy counselling.

Bob Lake

Cambodia - the unlucky country

I pictured this happy little girl outside her village in Cambodia in 1968 – just before the Vietnam war spilled over; followed by the genocide and killing fields of Pol Pot. I often wonder what became of her. Did she survive? Is her family alive? Did they receive counselling? Is counselling what they most needed?

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