Camping is not my cup of tea. All those creepy crawlies, lack of a warm shower or sockets to plug in my hairdryer, dirt everywhere and terrible food like cold baked beans. Ugh! But, my kids are at the age when they love the idea of camping – not that they’ve ever been, but that’s my fault. In a moment of madness I booked a stay at a holiday park on our recent trip to Australia. In a cabin, not a tent though. Baby steps.
Australians have certainly perfected the art of camping. They have five-star holiday parks throughout the country, not the grotty kind you get (or I imagine you get as I wouldn’t know) in the UK. You can bring or hire your own tent, bring your own caravan or stay in cabins. Our destination: Myall Shores Holiday Park in Myall Lakes National Park, north of Newcastle in North South Wales.
We were on our Great Australian Road trip from Sydney to Byron Bay. After stopping in the Hunter Valley for a couple of nights we headed north. One thing we failed to realise was the vast distances you have to travel to get to the coast if you come off the Pacific Highway, which is the main highway from Sydney to Brisbane (it’s only millimetres on a map!). We had planned to visit Port Stephens, but after driving two hours off the highway we had to abort. The campsite office closed early as it was off-season and to get there you had to either get back on the yawn inducing highway or cross a river. It was a race against the clock as the last ferry was at 6pm and no one fancied spending a night in the car.
We whizzed through Hawkes Nest and Tea Gardens,which both looked as delightful as they’re said to be but there was no time to stop, and eventually arrived at the river crossing at Bombah Point. The ferry was not quite what I had imagined. It was the tiniest ferry, more of a platform actually, and the quickest ride I have ever experienced – all of two minutes. I have since discovered there are plenty of these platform-type ferries in Australia. I’m sure we could have paddled across. We made it by the skin of our teeth. Luckily Garry, the manager, was sat patiently waiting for our arrival. He’d been trying to get hold of us all afternoon (oops!).
Our accommodation for the night was a Lakefront Villa. It was in a ridiculously beautiful setting on the edge of the a Tea Tree lake surrounded by bush. It had proper bedrooms (two decent-sized ones), two proper bathrooms and even open plan kitchen and living area. Okay, so maybe we weren’t going to be camping in the traditional sense. I was expecting something much more basic, but this was surprisingly comfortable. We hadn’t passed a single shop and we only had a few crackers and a box of cereal for food. The very thoughtful manager was our saviour as he had organised pizzas and a couple of drinks from the bar (that was actually closed for the season) and there was a kiosk selling basics like milk, ice cream (and bait!). Otherwise I’m not sure what we would have done. Got out the fishing rods perhaps?
Once settled, Mr C, clearly needing to escape to his man cave for a while, grabbed his fishing rod and waded straight into the lake, which was warm and only waist-high no matter how far out you went. Desperate for a swim too, the girls donned their bikinis and skipped into the water. It took a while to get used to the fact the water was a dirty brown colour due to the Tea Trees overhanging the water and the sensation of the slimy sand squelching between our toes was quite revolting. The three of us splashed through the water around the lake until we came to the small but perfectly formed and deserted main beach. Bingo! We spotted our first kangaroo of the trip and he was only a few feet away. After staring at us motionless for a few moments, he hopped off into the forest.
The park felt deliciously isolated and we only had ourselves and an assortment of wildlife for company, which included about 20 pelicans on the jetty, some cheeky ducks who joined us for a swim, scary-looking goannas and a few kangaroos (I’d hoped there’d be more). When it came to leave the next morning, not one of us wanted to.
The verdict: 10/10 (I rarely give a perfect score)
Good to know:
Rates at Myall Shores Holiday Park are from $150 per night for a villa (linen is included). The holiday park has a licensed cafe there but it is closed during the week out of season. The little shop sells basics such as milk and tea and you can order pizza and drinks, but bring supplies as it’s nowhere near a supermarket! There is a swimming pool with a kids’ pool and they organise kids’ activities during school holidays. You can also go walking, cycling and canoeing. Great Lakes Winery is also not far away.
The ferry at Bombah Point operates from 8am to 6pm.
For more info, visit Myall Shores Holiday Park website.