One of our favourite places to camp is at the Newnes campground in the Wollemi National Park in the Blue Mountains, NSW. It’s about a 3 ½ hour drive from Sydney (about 200k north west of Sydney) so it’s usually a long weekend destination, rather than just for the weekend. The kids love it because to access the part of the campground that we go to you have to drive across the Wolgan river (4WD access only). We always park the car first and walk across the river to check how high the water is running and to see where any submerged rocks might be. Then The Rock Climber (or sometimes me), gets in and guns the car across the river while the rest of the family stand and cheer.
Although I feel like we are leaving the city behind us almost as soon as we leave home, it is once we are on the long dirt road heading into the national park that my brain switches to relaxed, carefree mode. Then splashing through the river is the sign that we are so nearly there and several days of bush time is about to begin. The river crossing is the gateway to a whole new world.
One long weekend when we were at this campground an unexpected thunder storm hit in the middle of the night and we awoke to swimming pools all around – luckily not in our tents! We suddenly remembered that we were on the OTHER SIDE of the river which was no doubt much deeper than it had been on our arrival. Although we weren’t due to leave that day the skies were threatening more rain, so we had a decision to make “should we stay or should we go”? Several of us headed to the river to check it out and yes it was much deeper and running much faster than before. However, for several reasons we decided to stay. If we left at that point, we would be packing up wet tents which would need drying at some point back home – never an easy thing to do. But also, no doubt it was raining in Sydney too and we decided that more fun would still be had in the bush in the rain than in the city in the rain! Luckily the river did subside over the next day or two and we were fine. I should point out that we are well equipped should we have had to cross the swollen river, as many of us have 4wds and have tow ropes etc. River crossings can be dangerous and shouldn’t be tackled unless you know what you’re doing.
So back to the campground. The campground is surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs that make for great rock climbing for The Rock Climber, Wild Thing and The Wombat and even occasionally me. But it also has lots of great hiking trails, a walk to some old industrial ruins, dating from the early part of the 20th century and a hike to the glow-worm tunnel.
I love this photo. It sums up everything that is great about camping in the Australian bush. This river and the fallen trees that surround it provide endless hours of fun – hide and seek, splashing games, skimming stones, splashing rocks, building dams and on and on, the games are endless.
This river is also where the mums and quite often the dads come to relax on a hot summer’s afternoon, often with a chilled (care of the river) glass of white and finally in the late afternoon it becomes our washing place, as in case I forgot to say the campground has no washing facilities and no running water!
One of the joys in my life is feeding my family and the food we eat while camping isn’t really much different to what we eat while at home. I don’t equate camping with cheap sausages, packets of chips and a can of spam. The kids also seem keener to get involved with the cooking while we’re camping, I guess cooking over an open fire is largely the reason why!
Damper (camp fire bread) can be cooked at any time of day or early evening. My damper recipe is great fun for the kids. Once the dough is made, it is divided into equal portions, then wrapped around the top part of a thick stick, leaving enough stick to hold on to so as not to burn little fingers. Then the kids cook their bread over the fire, it doesn’t take long. Once cooked, the hole where the stick was is filled with a favourite filling, such as honey, jam or nutella. Yum!
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Water: The campground at Newnes doesn’t have running water, so you need to bring all your water with you. It is possible to fill up at the Newnes Hotel which is just as you arrive at the campground.
Firewood: Open fires are allowed (subject to fire ban restrictions). Stock up on firewood before you get to the campground. The petrol station at the turn off from the Castelreagh Highway sometimes has wood, but not always, make sure you buy the bags of logs not kindling! Alternatively, wood can be bought from the garden centre on the Castlereagh Highway. Coming from the Blue Mountains’ direction it will be on your left before you get to the turn off. Note the wood is not bagged.
Facilities: There are two (usually well maintained) windy loos, one at each site. There are no showers or washing facilities.
Phone: There is no mobile coverage.
For more information about camping at Newnes, go to: