Craving some salty canvas therapy, we loaded the Oztent and swimmers and headed to the Coast. Considering the undecided shoulder season, we thought our chance of a beachfront camp slim, but possible.
The turn off for Termeil Point Camping Area in the Meroo National Park is a strange hairpin, no signage, straight off the highway. Winding through the eucalypts, the track is rougher than you would expect. We were slowed by an overladen hatchback. Down to the bumpstops, they didn’t appear to be enjoying the potholes. Dry today, but evidence of regular water damage.
The suspense was palpable.
The glimpses of colour amongst the muted natives didn’t bode well. Sure enough, a small shanty town greeted us. Each dusty patch contained a tent or caravan. Some of which, looked well settled.
Out of hope(less)ful curiosity, we drove to the other sites, but they were worse. Weekend camps here almost exclusively start mid-week.
National Park’s map of the area
Rocking and rolling our way back to the highway, we regained reception and David looked at the National Park online bookings website for nearby Pretty Beach. There were plenty of vacancies. The online system allows you to select your site from a basic map.
Selecting a ‘Camper trailer’ suited site, which backed onto the bush, we paid for the night, crossed our fingers and made our way there.
National Park’s online booking map
Driving through some suburbia, the enclosed camping area comprises of a circuit road. The amenities are almost central. There are cabins. This drives home the civility of south coast camping. Finding our site, we lurk. There is a stationwagon parked there. There are plenty of other sites empty but we booked that Lucky 19 and weren’t entirely sure on the decorum.
What were the rules of engagement? Within a few seconds however, a friendly bloke appeared and offered to move his car. We almost apologised for inconveniencing him. Did I mention we were more accustomed to the first-in-first-served of the backcountry?
After he had inched his vehicle over a bit, we reversed in and inspected our grassy patch. Once outside the LandCruiser, the sound of the ocean roars and the seabreeze whispers through the dune’s forest.
We booked 19, a close Site 20 was empty
Popping up the Oztent in a few minutes, we locked the LandCruiser and took an enticing path from behind our Oztent through the coastal garden to the beach access. Boots and all.
Access behind our tent
Something like 100m of grass to the dunes. With rock pools to explore.
Lurking about in our jeans, we absorbed the warm, salty air. Until eventually, the dimming afterglow of sunset. The tide was out and the mirror like water was calm. Kids were knee deep on a sandbar, making the most of the mild temperature.
Back at camp, our neighbours were wrestling dinner into their kids. They put up a brief struggle before eating their BBQ and are tucked silently into bed. Meanwhile, I took a walk about the camp. The amenities block is a clean older building with a laundry. There are clotheslines nearby. Under the yellow glow of anti-insect lighting this building is surrounded in a garden screen, providing shade.
Grey Kangaroos graze the area in number, obviously at peace with their transient neighbours, as some would approach begging food, others happy with a neck scratch.
Cooking up some steak I then stirred in a rice and vegetable concoction in the juices. We cooked on the Coleman as it was a gloriously hot day and a fire ban was in place. Also, not all campsites have a fire ring. This site is shallow against the driveway running through the area, perhaps that was the reason for our missing fire ring.
There is mobile reception here, so amongst our usual conversation and star gazing, we browsed social media whilst we digested. Utterly dark now, we grabbed our camera gear and took the short walk back to the beach.
The moonlight was bright, lighting the way. However, the beach itself is a dark and pretty experience. Despite the lack of wind and the vignetted silver water, I found the constant sound of waves and seashells beautifully numbing and isolating.
We negotiated with the moon and light pollution further down the coast and enjoyed the solitude. The beach is obviously empty at this time of night and the drop in the usual ocean gale was perfect.
A couple of hours went by before we packed up and return up the dunes to camp. The tinnitus subsided enough for me to listen to the ocean anew, from under the covers, in bed.
The light woke us, there were no other disturbances through the night. Our few neighbours were thinned out some more, our closest remaining were packing up chattering kids and a hungry baby for a day drive. So by mid morning, we were in company of less than half the day before.
It was warm but not hot like the day before, but we changed, ready for a swim nonetheless.
The beach is not patrolled by Life Savers. Unlike yesterday, we arrived to an empty beach and only saw the occasional folks starting the bushwalk nearby. The water was cold and loud; a new day, a new tide.
No longer a black silvery mirror, the ocean was now a hyperactive aquamarine, with white frosted waves. As bright as it was cold. Up close it is clear. I could see my white feet goose-pimpled, stirring the sand of the ocean floor as I wandered out into the break. Our Sunday morning was all about paddling and wandering, intermittent conversations with the beach dwelling Kangaroos.
The wind had returned and so after a few hours, I was ready to retreat behind the dunes for lunch and shelter.
Cucumber and salmon sandwiches, under the watchful eye of the Kangaroos, followed by Ginger Beer and sunbaking. Listening to the cicadas, the ocean. If that doesn’t ooze Sunday vibes, I’m not telling this right.
Wandering the grounds, near empty, I was able to inspect the varying sites available.
There are obvious differences, power for example. But there are also those in and out of shade, corners, with or without your car and communal open plan. The main BBQ pagola was clean and also had a couple of fire rings and lumber for communal bush telly.
Add Summer, and the right kind of neighbours, this would be a pleasant but bustling campground. Plenty of shade and surf for everyone whilst fairly cosy. Literally jammed between some forest and a couple of cabins.
Quite relaxed with the lack of neighbours, we soon packed and were rolling out. A souvenir amount of sand gathering on the floor mats of the LandCruiser. Stopping not far up the road for freshly caught and crumbed fish, we shared a second lunch with the seagulls.
A few hours later and we were closer to home, and Monday then yesterday, but sun kissed and relaxed after our overnight ocean escape.
Campsite: Pretty Beach Campground
Location: Murraramung National Park, 200km south of Wollongong NSW
Access: 2WD via unsealed road
Cost: Online booking system $24.60 for two adults, one night, unpowered. ($34.60 powered)
Facilities: Flushing toilets, hot showers, laundry, (non patrolled) beach access, BBQ, some fire rings, bush walks, 60 varied shaded, grassy sites, Telstra 3G reception, Telstra phone box
For information and bookings click here