Most travelers in Australia visit Sydney. Luckily for nature-lovers, Sydney is surrounded by lots of national parks that are perfect for hiking and camping. From the untouched beaches of Bouddi National Park, to the vast valleys of the Blue Mountains, to the crisp, cold waterfalls of the Southern Highlands, this area of New South Wales is bursting with nature’s beauty.
Australians generally love spending time outdoors, and camping is a very popular pastime among locals and travelers alike. Most of the national parks in NSW have amazing campsites for a weekend away. Some of them even have barbecues and hot water showers. So if sleeping between the eucalyptus trees and waking up to the songs of kookaburras and cockatoos sounds like fun, here are a handful of the best camping near Sydney. Each of these campsites are within a three-hour drive of the city. It would be wise to plan your camping trip at least a week in advance so the campsites don’t sell out. In the busy summer months of December to February, plan two weeks to one month in advance.
It is important to note that all campsites in NSW require a booking due to COVID-19. While we’ve listed our very favorite from among several amazing campsites, you can find the full extensive list of campsites at NSW National Parks website.
Royal National Park
This is the easiest camping spot to reach from Sydney. The Royal National Park is located directly south of the city, so it’s less than a one-hour drive.
Once you arrive, you’ll get to soak in some of the most incredible coastal views in New South Wales. You’ll find jagged white cliffs, naturally symmetrical rock pools, and waterfalls that tumble into the sea. The entire length of the coast has a walking trail, so you can spend a few days hiking along the coast and camping at North Era Campground.
North Era Campground
North Era Campground is the only official camping spot along the coast of the Royal National Park. It is very remote, reachable only by a 30-minute hike. Park at Garie Beach, then carry all your supplies along the walking trail to the south. Once you climb over the big hill, you’ll forget about all the huffing and puffing you’ve just done because you’ll be looking at the serene little oasis of North Era Campground.
Just down the other side of the hill is a smooth patch of grass framed by forest on one side and ocean on the other. The campsite is just a free-for-all, with no numbered sites or rules. Set up your tent anywhere you like. But keep in mind, there are absolutely no facilities here so you’ll have to pack all your own water and food.
After setting up camp, enjoy having no responsibilities and no connection to the outside world. There is no phone reception, and in my experience, the campground is usually pretty empty. Spend the day snorkeling, swimming, and walking along the rocky coastline. Spend the evening foraging for firewood in the woods and then enjoy a campfire on the beach. Fall asleep to complete silence, except for the soft sound of waves lapping the shore.
Fee: $12 entry fee to park at Garie Beach. This campsite is so remote that you don’t really have to book in advance, but if you want to you can via the NSW National Parks website.
Blue Mountains — Katoomba Area
Another one of the best places to camp near Sydney is the Blue Mountains. The air here is incredibly crisp and clean, the scenery is lush and wild, and the campgrounds are free and easily accessible. The Blue Mountains are just a one- to two-hour drive west of Sydney, and the area is divided into smaller sections. In my opinion, the two best areas are Katoomba and Blackheath.
Katoomba is the most popular and touristy area of the Blue Mountains, but that shouldn’t deter you from staying here. Katoomba is a charming town full of adorable cafes and nice restaurants. And the natural scenery here is popular for a reason.
From the towering rock formations of the Three Sisters, to the triple-tiered, 614-foot-tall Wentworth Falls, to the magical and peaceful Leura Cascades, there is no shortage of natural attractions and photo opportunities near Katoomba. Combine the sights with an amazing weekend of camping in the area and you’re sure to fall in love with the Blue Mountains.
Murphys Glen Campground
Though Murphys Glen Campground is a 30-minute drive east of Katoomba, it is one of the best camping spots in the area. It doesn’t have many facilities, but that is all part of the off-grid experience. In the Blue Mountains, many campgrounds require a hike. But this one is just over a half-mile walk from the parking lot. You’ll still want to pack light, but the serenity you’ll find at Murphys Glen Campground is worth the walk.
With a wide and flat camping area padded with leaves from the surrounding trees, it’s easy to find a comfortable spot to set up a tent. My favorite thing about camping in the Blue Mountains is the abundance of stars, which are always visible on clear nights due to the lack of light pollution.
Fee: $6 booking fee, book online here.
Facilities: Toilets only
Ingar Campground is very close to Murphys Glen Campground, so the scenery and proximity to the best Blue Mountains attractions are similar. The main difference is that Ingar Campground is not easily accessible to vehicles, and it is set on the banks of Ingar Creek. If you’re looking for a very remote place and you love hiking, this may be the campground for you.
You’ll have to park your car on Queen Elizabeth Drive and then hike six miles along the Ingar Trail with all your gear. When you arrive, you can have a fire and eat your meals at the wooden picnic tables. Swim in the creek and treat your body to an invigorating dose of cold water. In the hot, dusty, Australian summer, this swimming hole feels like heaven.
Fee: $6 booking fee, book online here.
Facilities: Fire pits and picnic tables
Blue Mountains — Blackheath Area
This western area of the Blue Mountains has just as many breathtaking views as Katoomba, but it’s less touristy. Blackheath is a quiet town with some colorful street art, a handful of cafes, and an antique shop. The surrounding wilderness has some of the best hiking trails and lookout points in the Blue Mountains.
Blackheath Glen Reserve
Located just an 11-minute drive away from Blackheath, this campsite feels much more isolated than it actually is. It’s very easy to reach; all you have to do is drive along Megalong Road until you reach the turnoff for Blackheath Glen Reserve. Park in the dirt parking lot, then set up camp anywhere in the grassy, tree-shaded area. The camping spots aren’t labeled, and you don’t need to walk far from your vehicle. So this is one of the most convenient and accessible camping spots in the Blue Mountains.
Once you’re all settled in, you get to spend the night in the heart of the Megalong Valley. Listen for the squawking of cockatoos and gaze up at the stars. Make a small campfire and roast marshmallows. You may find a few other campers here, who are most likely outdoorsy locals preparing to do some hiking around Blackheath. This is the perfect place to camp before a day of hiking the Grand Canyon Trail or visiting attractions like Govett’s Leap Lookout and Pulpit Rock.
Fee: Free. There is no prior booking available, but you can visit this website for more info.
Bouddi National Park
About 1.5 hours north of Sydney on the Central Coast of NSW lies Bouddi National Park. Known for its unique rock formations made of layered sandstone, its flora and fauna, and its lengthy, coastal hiking trail, Bouddi National Park is an amazing getaway from the city.
Bouddi National Park is stunning at all times of the year. In the winter, it’s common to see whales breaching off the coast as they migrate along eastern Australia. In the spring, you can inhale the sweet scent of wildflowers as you hike through the forest. And in the summer, when Australians really seem to come alive, you can enjoy the social atmosphere around the communal campsite barbeques. Grill some food, drink a few cold beers, and chat with some friendly locals around the “barbie”.
Putty Beach Campground
This is the ideal campground for anyone who wants to complete the five-mile Bouddi Coastal Walk. The famous hike begins right at Putty Beach, so it’s convenient to camp near the start of the trail. With 20 campsites in total, this campground has a social vibe where everyone is laid-back and friendly. The parking lot is also right beside the grassy campground, so you won’t have to walk more than a minute to your site.
Putty Beach Campground is extremely organized and well-equipped. You have all the amenities you could need, and the campground is just steps away from the beach. So after swimming and surfing all day, you can shower and cook dinner easily before falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing. Just watch out for the bush turkeys who like to wander through the campsite and scavenge for food.
Fee: $34 for two people
Facilities: Toilets, picnic tables, barbeques, drinking water, outdoor beach showers
Little Beach Campground
A more secluded camping option in Bouddi National Park is Little Beach Campground. With only six campsites and fewer facilities than Putty Beach Campground, it will leave you feeling more immersed in nature. Make sure you bring all your own water as there is none available here.
The campground is set in a little cove next to the shores of Little Beach. You have to park your car at the end of Grahame Drive, then walk a half-mile to reach the campground. This is the ideal camping spot for those who just want to surf, swim, fish, and relax by the ocean. You can start the day with a refreshing sunrise swim, and end it with a peaceful sunset walk along the coast.
Fee: $34 for two people.
Facilities: Toilets, picnic tables, barbeques
Visit the NSW National Parks website to book a campsite in Bouddi National Park.
The Wollongong area is one of my favorite places in Australia. The city of Wollongong is multicultural and exciting, and it’s surrounded by mountains and beaches. Just north of the city is a string of charming beach towns that continue up until the Royal National Park. Each town is peaceful but full of trendy cafes and bustling weekly markets.
A beachside cycle path stretches along the coast, starting in the town of Thirroul and running 10.5 miles until Wollongong. The Illawarra Escarpment sits on the western edge of the towns, providing gorgeous lookout spots and challenging hiking trails. The Wollongong area is just one hour south of Sydney, so it makes a fun and scenic day trip. But if you’d like to extend your visit here and further explore the area, there is a stunning campground that I recommend.
Coledale Beach Campsite
This is easily one of the nicest camping spots near Sydney. Drive south of the city along the Grand Pacific Drive. You’ll pass some fantastic lookout points such as Bald Hill Lookout, and you’ll drive over the famous Sea Cliff Bridge that juts out from the cliffs over the ocean. If the drive itself wasn’t beautiful enough, you’ll be amazed when you reach Coledale Beach Campsite.
Coledale is one of the lovely towns in the Wollongong area. It is home to some cute cafes, a classic Aussie pub, and a few small local shops. And on the fourth Sunday of every month, the town hosts the Coledale Markets which are full of stalls selling vintage clothes, artwork, homemade treats and trinkets, and other goods.
Coledale Beach is a small but stunning stretch of golden sand. It is also a popular surfing spot among beginner and experienced surfers alike. Lining the grass next to the beach are powered and unpowered campsites. You can drive straight into your campsite, so it’s ideal for those with vans or RVs.
Fee: Powered sites cost $36 for two people for Friday and Saturday night (there is a 2-night minimum). Unpowered sites cost $30 for two people. The prices increase slightly during the busy summer months. Visit the website and book online here.
Facilities: Toilets, picnic tables
Jervis Bay is a territory in NSW about three hours south of Sydney. Of all the best camping spots near Sydney on this list, this one requires the most traveling. But, it is undoubtedly worth the journey.
As a popular tourist destination in Australia, Jervis Bay is home to exquisite beaches, local wildlife, and a few fun little towns like Vincentia and Huskisson. Hyams Beach is the most famous spot in the area because it is claimed to have the whitest sand in the world. The White Sands Walk is an easy walking trail that passes Hyams Beach, as well as a few other beaches. Every single beach looks like something out of a postcard, with glistening white sand and clean turquoise water framed by forest.
Aside from being visually stunning, Jervis Bay is a great spot for activities like whale-watching, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, and bird-watching. It is the perfect weekend getaway from Sydney, and there are a few camping spots that will make your adventure more exciting. Booderee National Park is the local protected wilderness area in Jervis Bay, and all the campgrounds are within the borders of the park.
Bristol Point Campground
Just south of the famous Hyams Beach is a peaceful campground known as Bristol Point. It is a 50-yard walk from the parking lot to the campsites, so you have to carry in all of your gear. Once you arrive, you’ll find a sandy campground surrounded by massive trees. The campsite is very well-equipped, with fireplaces and barbecues, and even hot showers.
You’ll be camping just steps away from two breathtaking beaches, Bristol Point and Green Patch. The ocean near Bristol Point is often calm and flat, as the Jervis Bay peninsula curves and blocks most of the wind and swells. With crystal clear, shallow water, people of all ages can enjoy the beaches near Bristol Point.
Fee: Prices vary based on seasons and campsite size. Check prices on the Booderee National Park website booking page.
Facilities: Toilets, drinking water, hot and cold showers, fireplaces, and barbeques
Cave Beach Campground
For more dramatic views than the quiet and relaxing Bristol Point Campground, stay at Cave Beach Campground. This campsite is a bit more rugged and remote, so it’s less ideal for families. But for adventure-seekers who want to spend a weekend listening to the crashing waves, the rustling of the Tea Trees, and the squawks of the cockatoos, this is the place to camp. It is a 300-yard walk from the parking lot to Cave Beach Campground, and it’s a one-minute walk from the campground to Cave Beach. The beach has Jervis Bay’s signature soft white sand, but the edge of the sand is home to some rocky cliffs and even an actual cave to explore.
Fee: Prices vary based on seasons and campsite size. Check prices on the Booderee National Park website booking page.
Facilities: Water, toilets, showers, sheltered gas barbeque area, wood barbeques
The Southern Highlands
Two hours south of Sydney lies the Southern Highlands, a lush, green area full of forests, waterfalls, vineyards, and small towns. About 30 minutes inland, the Southern Highlands offers travelers from Sydney a different sort of landscape from the popular beachside campgrounds and coastal national parks.
The little towns in the Southern Highlands, such as Bowral and Robertson, are home to adorable local craft and antique shops as well as authentic Aussie eateries. In the rolling hills around the towns, you’ll find lots of vineyards and wineries. Full of dense forest, towering cliffs, and rivers, the Southern Highlands also have lots of swimming holes and waterfalls. It is a very serene and non-touristy area for soaking in some natural beauty outside Sydney.
Carrington Falls Campground
At 160-feet high, Carrington Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the Southern Highlands. So if you’re venturing all the way from Sydney to witness this stunning sight, you may as well set up camp at the nearby Carrington Falls Campground. The town of Robertson is just over a 10-minute drive away from the campsite, so you can grab food and supplies here if necessary. The campground itself has only toilets and picnic tables, so you’ll need to bring all your own supplies and water. With only six campsites, you’re bound to experience some peace and quiet at this campsite, with only the sounds of the native birds and the distant thundering of the waterfall.
Carrington Falls Campground is only a four-minute drive or a 20-minute walk from the waterfall. Imagine waking up in the early morning and watching a misty sunrise from the top of a 160-foot waterfall! At the top of Carrington Falls, the Kangaroo River is quite calm, and there are small natural pools for wading in the water.
Nellies Glen Swimming Hole and Picnic Area is another fun swimming spot, and it’s only a five-minute drive from the campground. Other highlights of the Southern Highlands, like MacQuarie Pass National Park and Belmore Falls, are nearby as well. So you have plenty of options for sightseeing, hiking, and swimming here.
Fee: $12 per night for 2 people, book online here.
Facilities: toilets, picnic tables