Rough Guide to Christmas Camping Tasmania
It’s started again. ‘We’d like to book two waterfront campsites at Cosy Corner for 27/28 December’. ‘How can we book a campsite at Wineglass bay, arriving Boxing Day’. “We are trying to book a campsite on the East Coast of Tasmania for New Year, but everything is booked – any suggestions’. Yes, we have a suggestion, but we’ll keep it polite! It happens every year without fail, lines of massive caravans being towed by a 4WD full of kids, bikes on the back and canoes on top. They head along Binalong Bay Road and can’t work out why 20 vans are parked along the side of the road. Surely we can just turn up at Bay of Fires on Christmas Eve and take our pick of a prime waterfront campsite? NO! Vehicle after vehicle, same scenario and the same situation at Freycinet, Friendly Beaches, Fortescue Bay camping, Lime Bay, Bruny Island etc. You get the picture. Locals new to camping, and interstate visitors alike, simply don’t do their research, so let us help. Camping over Christmas has always, for as long as we can remember, always been crazy busy over Summer, and that was well before Tassie was the flavour of the month to both visit and live. Tasmania continues to gain in popularity, even more so with international travel restricted due to COVID-19 restrictions. We’ll say it again, camping is a very popular local pastime in Tasmania. It is common for the most popular campgrounds at Bay of Fires to be completely full to overflowing around mid-December when school holidays start. Rightly or wrongly, families set up a ‘tent city’ in many prime locations and stay there for the full (or longer) 4-weeks of free camping that is allowed at sites such as the Bay of Fires. At Freycinet, a ballot system operates that you must enter 6-months in advance to have any chance of getting a campsite at Freycinet over the busy Christmas period. To help you plan, and to avoid turning up at a campground only to find there are no spots and you are literally miles away from alternative accommodation, we’ve put together this rough guide to planning your Christmas camping trip in Tassie.
In all cases, please CALL in advance where you can. Not all campgrounds have a telephone number, and some don’t answer on weekends, but please try.
Please avoid the following campgrounds unless you can get there at least a week before Christmas Day. And if you are visiting from interstate and new to camping in Tassie, PLEASE book commercial caravan parks well in advance of travelling to give you peace of mind and to ensure you simply don’t end up stuck in the middle of nowhere. For the east of Tassie, most caravan parks are booked 9+ months in advance.
The following campsites will be near impossible over Christmas if turning up around Christmas Day or the week following:
- Anywhere at Bay of Fires, with the possible exception of Moulting Bay – it’s less popular, but a good site if you are interested in some river fishing and the closest of the Bay of Fires campgrounds to the town of St Helens.
- Freycinet National Park and Camping Friendly Beaches or River and Rocks – simply avoid unless you have a booking, you will be wasting your time and be left in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to camp.
- Foretescue Bay – again, unless you’ve booked don’t waste your time. It will be fully booked and the drive in and out isn’t the greatest on narrow, gravel roads.
- Lime Bay – same deal, this is a great campground but not over the Christmas, New Year holiday season. If you really want to stay on the Tasman Peninsula (and who wouldn’t), try a commercial caravan park and you might just get lucky.
- Chain of Lagoons – this is a big campground and one of the most popular in Tasmania, but it is also next to a beautiful beach and is simply packed over Christmas.
- Mayfield Beach Campground is in an awesome location, and again is super popular most times of the year – definitely avoid it over Christmas. You may get lucky after Australia Day.
- Bruny Island – The Neck and Cloudy Bay (South Bruny) will be full – there is limited camping on Bruny but Google private operators, there are a couple.
- Cockle Creek Campground – this place gets very, very busy (sadly often full of party-goers) over Christmas and other popular times – stay away from is our advice.
- Montagu Park, Peggs Beach, and Black River – are all great campgrounds on the beautiful far North West Coast of Tassie but always very full over Christmas. Definitely call in advance if thinking of trying to camp at these locations.
- Arve River Campground – a small, but very popular campground in Souther Tassie that is always full over Christmas with people either just relaxing near the river or bushwalking in the area.
- Narawntapu National Park – is usually very full, if you are thinking of this option RING the caretaker well before travelling.
- Macquarie Heads Campground Strahan – an amazing location (can be very wet and windy, but a spectacular location). If you must try this campground, 100% call the caretaker in advance.
- Marrawah campground, it’s only small and fills up early and quickly. Avoid from app. 15 December until 10 January.
- Trial Harbour camping – there is a caravan park here now, but you can’t book in advance. Again, simply stay away and especially in travelling in a caravan or big rig or try a commercial park in Burnie, Somerset or Penguin.
- Cradle Mountain – you must ring in advance, the only real camping option is in a commercial caravan park, and that is typically booked up to 12 months in advance.
OK, so we’ve given you the list to avoid, here is our recommended list of options to try.
- Mt William National Park, and in particular Stumpys #2 if in a tent or small campervan. We love camping at Mt William, it’s simply spectacular. Policemans Point is generally very popular, but you might just squeeze a spot if you can get there around 18 December, or after 10-12 January.
- Lake Burbury Campground – a big campground close to Queenstown and great for fishing and kayaking. Call before travelling to check how busy it is, as it’s a long way from nowhere.
- Maria Island – there is excellent camping options on Maria, at Darlington, Frenchs Farm or Encampment. Will be busy, but a great option for independent travellers (walkers). Please note you have to carry 100% of your camping equipment to Maria Island and must have a Tasmanian National Parks Pass.
- Arthur River Campgrounds – so many great options, and yes it will be busy but you might be lucky given the great range of options. Call the Caretaker before travelling.
- Hamilton Campground – is a great option for kids and not that far from Hobart if you’re an inexperienced camper and just want to try camping. Lake Meadowbank is another option close by.
- Central Highlands Tasmania – you don’t have to be a trout fisherman to enjoy camping in our magnificent lake area. Check out our camping fishing Tasmania guide for a wide range of campsites in this area, and where you will generally find a spot over Christmas.
- Private Camping Tasmania – there is a growing list of private camping operators in Tassie who offer low-cost or free camping, and often for fully self-contained vehicles. A great East Coast option is Coles Bay Paintball.
- Camping Flinders Island. OK, so this is a little left field, and it’s quite the exercise getting to Flinders. But if you can make it, camping is sensational.
- RV Friendly overnight stops – if you have fully self-contained vehicles (shower and toilet), there is an excellent range of self-contained friendly camping options across Tasmania. Most of the popular ones will be busy (St Helens, Preservation Point Penguin, St Marys)
- Waterhouse Conservation Area Camping – generally popular over Christmas with families and fishermen, but you might be lucky given it is quite large as long as you get there up to 1-week before Christmas Day.