DOWN BY THE WATER
Let us show you how to get the most out of camping by the water
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY GRANT HANAN AND LINDA BLOFFWITCH
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 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 actually being 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 to 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.
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.
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!).
5 MUST HAVES 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.
WHY CAMP BY WATER?
There is nothing better on a hot day than to have a swim to cool off. You don’t have to swim like you’re preparing for the Olympics, but it’s a great way to get a bit of exercise – and if you have a noodle or tube to help you float, even better. We all know there are “things” that bite and sting in the water so you need to be cautious. And don’t dive from the bank of fresh water without checking the water depth first.
We know everything needs water to survive and that’s why it’s often easier to spot birds around water. They say the early bird catches the worm, so get up early and take advantage of the opportunity. You could get some great sightings and listen to their early morning calls as a new day breaks.
Animals won’t roam too far from a watercourse. Our outback can be a dry and desolate place, so if you set up your RV near water you’ll catch a glimpse of all sorts of creatures that rely on it.
The most widely practiced water-based pastime has to be fishing. Depending on your style, this can be a relaxing couple of hours or an adrenaline-fuelled chase for an elusive catch. This is one sport that caters for all ages. Some of the best eating fish comes out of our waterways and oceans.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
As lovely being around water can be, it’s important not to become complacent. While the water 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 may 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?