Australia has countless places to pitch a swag or stay in greater comfort off the beaten track, but these spots might just be the most memorable off-road stays.
Words and images by Grant Hanan & Linda Bloffwitch from My Aussie Travel Guide
With the cooler months not too far away, travelling to the northern parts of Australia is a great place to escape to, especially when warm winter days are the norm. So as regular visitors to our country’s outback, here’s some of our best memorable outback stays that have made a lasting impression and continue to draw us back.
1. Home Valley Station, WA
Home Valley is located at the eastern end of the Gibb River Road, and is one of those places we love because of its laid-back Outback hospitality and numerous activities and facilities. There’s no doubt that having the stunning Cockburn Ranges as a backdrop adds to the station’s charm, so it’s the type of place where you can easily lose yourself in for a few days. There’s plenty of accommodation options at Home Valley: unpowered bush camping along the Pentecost River, powered sites, Eco Tents, guest house accommodation, and even five-star luxury in a Grass Castle that lines picturesque Bindoola Creek.
When you can do as much or as little as you like at Home Valley, it’s a big visitor drawcard. It’s one of the few stations along the Gibb that has a swimming pool where you can kick back with a book, or for a little more exercise, take one of the station’s self-guided walks. Other tour activities include shore and boat fishing, a station history tour, a range of helicopter tours, and the sunset tour which was amazing. If you’ve ever wanted to go horse riding, this is the place to give it a try. We loved the fact all levels of riders are catered for, and that Cockburn Range backdrop while riding has to be one of the best views in Australia.
After a full day of activities, it’s easy to relax and unwind at the station’s Dusty Bar & Grill which provides regular nightly entertainment, and it’s a popular place to meet fellow travellers to exchange a yarn or two. Whether Home Valley is the start or finish of your Gibb River Road adventure, it’s one place we never miss when visiting this part of the Kimberley.
2. Punsand Bay, QLD
If you’ve ever dreamt of standing on the northernmost tip of Australia, you’re not alone. Whether you choose to tackle the Old Tele’ track or the sometimes-corrugated development road to get there, you’re going to need somewhere to stay for a night or two. So, to be as close to the Tip as possible, we stayed at idyllic Punsand Bay. We found there to be a casual island atmosphere in Punsand Bay, while the beachfront camping blends in with the surrounds; ensuring there’s some shade on those warm tropical days. There’s power available on some sites if you need it too, and small or large groups can be catered for if you book ahead.
The Corrugation Bar suited us well for a range of meals and drinks, including fantastic wood oven pizzas which are served nightly. Other facilities here include a swimming pool and a small convenience shop, while the kids can be entertained with big screen movies shown during the main tourist season. The helpful staff assisted with Cape York and island tours, and provided an area mud map to visit some of the local historical sites and points of interest. The trip to the Tip can be an adventure in itself, and the campground at Punsand Bay is a great place to have as a base while at the Tip, as well as to reflect on that adventure before heading south again.
3. Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, WA
Western Australia has some amazing outback camping opportunities, and a stay at Kooljaman would have to be one of our most memorable. Located 200 kilometres north of Broome on the Dampier Peninsula, the spectacular coastline here has rich red cliffs and pristine white sand (and is also home to some of the biggest tides in the southern hemisphere). While Kooljaman offers a range of accommodation options including powered or unpowered campsites, cabins, and Eco Tents, we chose one of the private beach camping shelters perched high up on the pindan cliffs that overlook the brightest of blue seas. They’re designed for the self-sufficient camping couple or family, and include a fresh water shower and a small amount of firewood.
Dinka’s Café is the place to relax and have coffee and cake, or perhaps an ice cream or smoothie for the kids. A small amount of groceries is also available here which includes bait and ice. For something more substantial, we took a night off from cooking to visit Raugi’s Restaurant, which serves modern Australian cuisine and some local bush ingredients. At the end of the day, packing some drinks and nibbles and driving down to the western beach to soak up the view as the sun sets is popular with all visitors, and is something we never tire of seeing.
4. Adels Grove, QLD
If you’ve ever heard the expression “an oasis in the desert”, this is exactly what we think when visiting Adels Grove in Queensland’s Gulf Savannah region. When the property operated as an experimental botanic garden from the 1920s-1950s, numerous species of trees and shrubs were planted. Many still survive today, making camping in the shady grove a wonderful Outback experience - especially the campsites located close to the spring-fed Lawn Hill Creek. We’ve also camped outside the grove area in a natural bush setting where water taps are provided, or you could choose another level of accommodation such as an onsite tent, the bunkhouse, or and ensuite type room.
The restaurant here is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, or you can simply pop over for a drink or to enjoy an ice cream out on the deck. There’s plenty of activities at Adels Grove which includes fishing, self-guided walks, swimming and canoeing (canoe hire available), and if you’re a keen birdwatcher, we’ve found a phenomenal number of bird varieties when visiting in the past. Visiting reception, we’ve learned about the tours offered, which includes a day visit to the Riversleigh Fossil site 50kms away. Lawn Hill Gorge and Boodjamulla National Park is only 10kms away, where you can also swim and hire canoes to take in all its beauty. If you ever find yourself on one of the many Outback Queensland dirt roads out that way, set your GPS for Adels Grove and allow a couple days for a relaxing and refreshing natural experience – we think you’ll love it!