OUR EXPERT’S GUIDE TO WATERSIDE FREE CAMPING
When you’re planning your route, it’s worth taking the time to locate a campsite near or around water—this can make a good camping experience into a great one! Search for locations near either fresh water (a river, creek or lake) or a beach, and you’ll find that having water around you adds another whole dimension to freedom camping.
FINDING A CAMP
The use of free camping publications and apps will help identify some excellent waterside locations without much effort. Don’t miss an opportunity to ask fellow travellers, though: their information can often be the most current.
CONSIDER THE ENVIRONMENT
You have probably heard of the saying “leave no trace” and this is applies to the disposal of soiled/grey water, too. Sullage hoses and buckets of washing water need to be kept well away from a watercourse, whether it is above or below ground. Nobody wants to drink contaminated water!
CAMPING WITH A BOAT
Wherever you go, being actually out on the water gives you a completely different experience. Small recreational boats today come in many forms, from air-inflated to a tinnie (or car-topper, as they are sometimes called). You have a range of options if you want to tote some sort of watercraft on top of your vehicle. If you are considering a boat with a motor, you will also need to obtain a boat licence. Not all waterways lend themselves a motorised boat. A canoe or kayak is light and has a shallow draft. A major benefit of a canoe is that you can glide silently through the water. With less noise, your ability to get closer to the wildlife is increased.
“THERE IS SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT HAVING WATER WITHIN VIEW OF YOUR CAMPSITE”
WHERE TO SET UP
Imagine that you have turned off the highway and the road you are taking runs alongside water. What do you need to look out for, apart from the standard setup criteria like flat ground, shade, sun and wind direction?
• The view: there is something relaxing about having water within view of your campsite.
• Don’t get too close to water: it may look picture perfect right now, but consider how it might change. Be wary of crocodiles if you want to camp near water in northern Australia, be mindful of tides if camping by the sea, and be ready to make a quick exit if the weather changes.
• Wildlife: are you likely to be in the pathway of animals that use the watering hole nightly? Also check above you, as trees can be home to birds, possums and other animals.
• The popularity of the location: it might be quiet and peaceful now, but a popular water sports location could lead to an influx of more neighbours than you anticipated (or want!).
DEALING WITH INSECTS
A campsite near water is popular not only with you, but with the insect population! Try these suggestions to ward them off, especially at night.
1. Cover up by wearing lightcoloured clothing to prevent unwanted bites, but don’t wait until it is dark to do this. You’ll find that they often begin to appear in the hour before sunset.
2. Use soft lighting at your campsite. There are many good portable LED type lights available.
3. Smoke from a small comfort fire and scented candles will also help reduce insect numbers.
5 MUST-HAVE’S WHEN WATERSIDE CAMPING
Binoculars – whenever you are close to water, all sorts of wildlife can emerge. A set of binoculars in your kit will reward you with a close-up view.
Camera – capture nature at its best with some sort of camera! If you’re keen, invest in a DSLR, but these days even mobile phone cameras can take excellent shots. These images will be a permanent record of a fantastic waterside stay.
Insect Spray – Mother Nature dishes up all sorts, including insects that like to bite, so a good repellent is essential.
Sunglasses – When you combine water and a bright sunny day, you get plenty of reflection – and glare! Wear good quality sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Your Favourites – A comfy chair with a book or magazine; swimming attire; snorkel and goggles or a floating device; a canoe or boat; some fishing gear. A campsite near water adds many more enjoyable options.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
As lovely being around water can be, it’s important not to become complacent. While it might look good enough to drink, consider treating it before quenching your thirst. Camping near water inevitably brings some element of risk. Water isn’t always predictable and seaside waves and rips/ undertows can quickly become dangerous. Freshwater rivers can also look calm, but hidden pockets can be fast-moving and some river banks can be likened to quicksand. It’s a must to supervise children at all times. Even the most competent swimmer should approach unfamiliar waterways with a level of caution.
The choice of a campsite next to water could make all the difference between a good and a great camping experience. With a little preparation and so much fun to be had at a waterside camp, why not incorporate one into your next adventure?