Top 5 outback camps

Claudia Bouma — 19 December 2016


This tropical oasis in the heart of Central Australia’s arid zone is an absolute must-see. Situated in Finke Gorge NP, Palm Valley is the only place in the world where the rare Livistonia maria, or Red Cabbage Palm, can be found. The adventure starts with the 18km drive along the spectacular 4WD track which winds itself through the ochre red ranges and criss-crosses the Finke River numerous times.

Palm Valley campground is a picturesque area with flat, spacious sites surrounded by large river red gums situated next to Palm Creek.

Fees are payable via the honesty box located at the amenities block. 

Location: 138km west of Alice Springs

Camping: $6.60/adult; $3.30/child or $15.40/family/night

Facilities: Solar-heated hot showers, flush toilets, communal barbecues, taps and a rainwater tank


Cape Arid NP, a well-hidden secret in the south-east of Western Australia, is the perfect place for 4WDing along vast white beaches, camping out under a star-filled sky and swimming in secluded bays. The park is also accessible with a 2WD.

The 4WD track to Thomas Fishery takes you past the ruins of the Hill Springs homestead to a white sandy beach which is usually deserted.

The park has several camping areas. Thomas River is the only one accessible by 2WD. Jorndee Creek, Thomas Fishery and Mount Ragged can only be reached with a 4WD. A one-off park entry fee of $12 applies. There is no power or water, but generators are allowed. 

Location: 125km east of Esperance

Camping: $7.50/person; $2.20/child/night

Facilities: Tables, toilets, no power or water


A journey to this iconic landmark on the western fringes of the Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory is an epic adventure through remote areas that follows in the footsteps of Scottish explorer John MacDouall Stuart. The trip along 151km of dirt road is not for the faint-hearted but rewards with spectacular views of the magnificent desert country and the impressive Charlotte Range.

Wildlife abounds in this arid zone and you might spot a herd of wild camels or brumbies while big reds also call this harsh environment home. Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve has two beautiful campsites. Fees are payable via the honesty box but there is no water.

Location: 160km south of Alice Springs

Camping: $3.30/adult; $1.65/child or $7.70/family/night

Facilities: Pit toilets, wood firepits and communal gas barbecues


Situated in the unspoilt wilderness of the Kimberley in far north Western Australia, Windjana Gorge is non-negotiable entry to any bucket list. Only a hop and a step from the notorious Gibb River Road, the spacious campground is positioned right next to the majestic gorge walls, which appear to be ablaze as the last rays of sunlight hit the 100m-high ochre red cliffs. 

The large campground provides easy access to the gorge where a 3.5km walking track winds its way along the crystal clear Lennard River, which is home to a large population of freshwater crocodiles. A day entry fee is payable for entering Windjana Gorge NP ($12 or $6 concession). In addition, camping fees apply. 

Location: 355 km east of Broome

Camping: $12/adult; $8.80 concession and $2.20/child/night.

Facilities: Solar-powered showers, flush toilets and taps with drinking water


A breathtaking destination hidden in the rugged ranges of central Queensland, Carnarvon National Park is sure to impress with its sheer-sided gorges, majestic amphitheatre and towering sandstone cliffs. The road is sealed apart from the last 21km and involves numerous creek crossings. 2WD access is possible in dry weather but a 4WD is recommended in the wet.

The Carnarvon Gorge visitor area is only open during the Easter, winter and spring Queensland holidays and must be booked in advance – sites are not suitable for caravans or motorhomes. The nearby Takarakka Bush Resort provides accommodation for all types of camping with fees from $38 per night.

Location: 244km north of Roma and 240km south of Emerald.

Camping: $6.15/person/night or $24.60/family.

Facilities: 1x coin-operated hot shower, flush toilets, picnic tables and gas barbecues

The full feature appeared in the 2017 Caravan World YearbookSubscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!


Top 5 Outback camps campers nature landscape


Chris Bouma