5 Unexpected Life Lessons Learned Camping in Australia

Camping travel tips

Have you ever put off doing something only to find, when you finally took the plunge, it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it would be?

I hate camping. The idea of it makes my skin crawl. I’d rather stay somewhere proper, not that I need solid walls (an open air hut in Mike’s Camp is my idea of heaven) but a comfy bed and good food are essential for a good travel experience.

Now I’ve learned that, just because you’re camping, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo those things.

In June the Mucho Man and the Candy kids went camping and I stayed home alone. I couldn’t stand the thought of camping.

It was mid winter here in Australia and rainy too. But they all bought wellington boots (or gum boots as they call them in New Zealand) and were as happy as pigs in mud as they wallowed in mud for three days and nights.

At least that’s what it looked like when I saw the dirty laundry they brought back with them.

I was happier at home.

The last school holiday were in September, spring time in Australia. The air had warmed a little, the earth dried and my kids wanted their mummy to go camping too. So, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I did.

As a parent I do a lot of things I don’t want to out of guilt but in the end I had fun camping in the Conondale National Park in the Sunshine Coast hinterland in Queensland, Australia.

The days flew by. I spent them with the kids, with the other family we camped with and with the wildlife.

I love nature. I love wildlife and especially birds.

Many times I crept off alone to sit by the creek and see what birds came to see me. It was exciting and I learnt a few things too.

Camping in Australia: 5 Lessons Learned

Camping Australia, travel tips

Tent with a view

1. Life’s better when you pare it back to the essentials

Food, a bed and warmth are all you need but if you have good food, a comfy bed and real warmth, you’re laughing.

My best camping meal is creamy, garlicky tuna pasta. As a bonus I discovered I could palm off the grunt work of chopping onions and garlic onto willing children. They’re keen to wield a big knife and proud of their ability to provide.

As long as you don’t overcook the pasta and use real, freshly grated Parmesan you can’t go wrong.

I also insist on a big salad to go with the pasta. Fresh tomatoes, cucumber and red onion with olive oil and freshly ground pepper will create a gourmet experience for fastidious fresh food eaters.

For a bed we use Oz Trail self-inflating King single mattresses. They’re big – you couldn’t take them backpacking – but if you have a car they’re just as comfy as a really good bed. I take my own 100% cotton bedding including feather duvet and latex pillows. Call me a princess but if you get a good night’s sleep you can put up with anything.

Between the camp fires outside and the feather duvet inside I stayed toasty warm with all the essentials to keep me happy.

2. Simple pleasures are best

Camping in Australia, Queensland

The creek offers endless opportunities for play, fun and discovery

As I sloped off to watch the birds by the creek the kids played as kids should.

Forget Gameboys, Wiis, PlayStations and their ilk. Sticks are way better.

The nine children we took camping (only three are mine!) spent three days playing with sticks. They used them for creative play, for drawing, for whittling.

Of course, they fought over them too.

Who’d taken whose stick was a cause of endless debate but fortunately there were endless sticks to be found with the perfect stick around every corner. Sticks for cooking damper, sticks for toasting marshmallows and sticks for poking things.

Forget plastic toys and bring on the sticks.

3. Nature and your environment is everything

Camping in Australia, Queensland

Big, hungry goannas patrol the campsite

I’m proud to be a country bumpkin.

My kids are country kids too. They climb trees, they play with bugs, they dig holes.

Sure the city is sophisticated but it’s an unnatural environment. If you’re surrounded by nature, by trees, by natural waterways and by all the creatures that live there you will feel happy.

We spent our days chasing giant goannas away from our camp, marveling at the old eel who lives in the creek and defending our tucker from hungry kookaburras who will swoop down and even snatch food out of a kid’s mouth.

That’s what life is all about. Surviving in nature. Do that and you come away feeling happy.

4. People first

Camping, Australia, Queensland

Crazy campers abound

It’s not where you are but who you’re with that counts. The people you spend your time with are all important so choose them wisely. The most abject surroundings are irrelevant if you’re with people who are positive, smart and fun to be with.

We had a fun camping crowd so a good time was had by all.

5. Productivity is over-rated

Camping, Australia, Queensland

Putting my feet up

Doing nothing rules.

Life isn’t about achieving, reaching newer heights, earning more or being respected for what you do. It’s about being at one with who you are, being able to do nothing and being happy doing nothing.

That’s what we should all aspire too. That’s where true happiness lies. If you can spend 30 minutes sitting on a log just watching flowers blowing in the breeze, wondering what’s playing in the tree tops and trying to get a glimpse of the bird that calling then you’re winning.

You’re on top of the world.

I hope you are.

I’m always putting off things I don’t want to do but when you get round to them either they only take a few minutes to achieve, or they’re not nearly as bad as you thought they’d be.

Sometimes they’re even fun.

Time whizzed passed when we were camping and when we left I knew I’d be back.

I won’t miss any other camping trips. Except the ones in mid winter when it’s raining.

Have you learned any lessons in unexpected places lately?

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  1. Catherine White October 7, 2011 at 10:55 am - Reply

    I love your tent with a view. Many moons ago when my boys were younger, we went on a camping trip with my sister, who loved camping. I don’t like camping.

    We didn’t have just one hole to view the stars from, as well we slept on sheeps droppings, because the tent floor was left at home.

    The entire trip was spent propping up the roof, which was labouring under a non stop bucketing rain fall, that leaked through the windows with a view.

    We laugh about it now, but I was not happy Jan :-D

    I like camp, but camping is not my style.


    • Annabel Candy October 7, 2011 at 11:03 am - Reply

      Hi Catherine,

      Lol at the sheep poop mattress. Ew. If you’ve had a good night’s sleep you can cope with anything but I can see why you still don’t like camping after that experience!

      I’ll probably quit camping once the kids leave home but they love it. Running wild, never washing and brandishing big sticks is heaven for them;)

  2. Sara ar Saving for Someday October 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    He’ll Annabel! Your are much more brave than I. Fortunately my husband is not the camping type either. I camped when I was in scouts but now it’s just not appealing. I love the outdoors, but I need a few creature comforts. But, you’re right that we do things for our kids that we may otherwise not do. So if my daughter wanted to go camping I’d figure a way for her to have that experience.

    I’m glad you went. I’m sure you had some much needed tech free time.

    Hugs, Sara

    • Annabel Candy October 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Sara,

      Ah yes, the tech free time was fab! Be careful, if you take your daughter camping once she may want to go all the time;)

  3. Linda ~ Journey Jottings October 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Camping IS fun…

    It’s just all the packing up to go, making sure you’ve got everything, having to set up camp after a day’s drive to get to the destination…

    But as you say when you go super prepared with soft warm bedding and filling comfort food its delicious being in and amongst nature, so close to the elements and the experience of basic survival –

    • Annabel Candy October 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Hi Linda,

      Ah, finally a camping fan;) Hooray. I actually love camping vans. I hope to write about that sometime!

      It is like playing house when you’re a kid:)

  4. Robin Dickinson October 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Wonderful memories of camping triggered by this post, Annabel. May be time to get the tent out again! ;)

    Best to you,


  5. Jessica Schanberg October 8, 2011 at 12:22 am - Reply

    I love this blog post! It sounds like a wonderful trip. I’m not much of a camper, but since I live in a city, I miss that experience sometimes. Thank you for painting such a wonderful picture of your experience!

    • Annabel Candy October 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Jessica, lovely to see you here:) Ah, the camping experience here without the actual camping. That sounds good!

  6. Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living October 8, 2011 at 5:24 am - Reply

    My first and only camping trip was with my husband and young kids.
    You should hear my husband, “Who needs a tent? We can sleep on the ground.” We got a cheap tent and the rocks poked in my back. Horrible! He likes roughing it, and is very frugal.
    I woke up at 4, and by 5, we left. I needed coffee and we drove all over for a small coffee shop in the closest town, and hot food.
    Hated it. Didn’t your duvet smell of smoke when you came back home?

    • Annabel Candy October 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Sonia, oh dear, that sounds bad! No, the fire was outside the tent! Just washed the duvet cover and aired the feather inner when I got home, no damage done;) My hair and all my clothes and family stank of smoke though:)

  7. Cate October 8, 2011 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel,
    I love the IDEA of camping – and, I do enjoy it when I go camping – but…
    Actually, last time I slept out in a tent was a weekend with a pile of Year 5s (during April, brr, quite a few years ago) where we investigated the bush, went for long walks, cooked amazing food, and stared up at clear, bright stars while listening to stories from the Dreamtime. And froze solid overnight.
    My favourite camp food – damper cooked on a stick with syrup drizzled down the hole… or maybe toad in the hole Aussie style (egg “fried” inside a hole torn out of the middle of a thick slice of bread). Both long gone from my eating plan, but, hey, on a freezing cold morning, long, long ago, hmm, heaven.
    Cate x

    • Annabel Candy October 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Cate,

      Lol, stories from Dreamtime sound lovely. Freezing solid. Yuck. I can’t take the cole! I must admit I didn’t try the damper but the kids loved it with nutella. I cook that egg//bread thing at home for the kids sometimes:)

      Oh yes, even bad food tastes good when you’re hungry and cold!

  8. Gavin Hyslop October 8, 2011 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    You are definitely on the right track with camping.

    Food always seem to taste better when you are camping, the simple things seem to be more complex.

    Camping in the outdoors also is rejuvenating, you can spend a couple of days camping doing almost nothing or being very energetic but you come back like you have had a couple of weeks holiday.

    We have had a few trips to Sydney and back from the Sunshine Coast and spend a week or so coming back, camping at different places along the way, with a night or two at each place. You get to go to places you would have never gone to otherwise and an experience the diverse country that we live in.

    On a summers day lying beside a creek reading a book and when it get too hot, you just get in the water and read your book there!

    Keep at it and maybe you will even get to like camping in the rain in winter, just remember to be warm and dry.


    • Annabel Candy October 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Gavin,

      Mmmm, I’d like to do that trip to Sydney from the Sunshine Coast slowly. But camping in the rain, surely not?!

  9. J.D. Meier October 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    > pare it back to the essentials
    Way to be and so true.

    • Annabel Candy October 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      Hi JD:) Well if you’re with me it must be good! Thanks:)

  10. Seana Smith October 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Lovely read Annabel and you remind me of lots of camping trip when I was a child- wet, rainy camping in Scotland, delightfully muddy. My big boys have only been a couple of times and this was the year I was planning to start taking the kids camping again – you’ve reminded me!!

    We’ve also really benefitted from some electronic free time; good for me as well as the children, I think. Simple living really is the best.

  11. Sandra / Always Well Within October 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm - Reply


    I love your essentials, but best of all I love the doing nothing challenge. Glad you had such an enjoyable time!

  12. Chris October 12, 2011 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    Yeah, the idea of staying somewhere wet and damp doesn’t appeal to me either. I’ve done my fair share of camping at home here in the UK and got soaked through, didn’t sleep well and froze at night.
    But camping in Australia is different, I loved it. In fact I spent over 3 months living in my van. The van started out minimalistic but by the end I had kitted it out with more things that made camping out in it more enjoyable. And there is nothing better than being amongst nature. I saw some animals I wouldn’t have seen if it weren’t for camping.

    Well, I am glad you ended up going and liking the experience.

  13. Eric | Eden Journal October 13, 2011 at 1:07 am - Reply

    The weather hear will soon be cool enough to enjoy some camping. We go a couple of times a year and it’s so nice just to be unplugged for a while. My daughter absolutely loves the adventure.

    We used to be very heavy campers, taking a full pickup truck load of stuff with us. So I can relate to being comfortable while camping. I’m glad you all had a good time. :)

  14. Sharon December 3, 2011 at 7:06 am - Reply

    It sounds like you and the kids are now almost addicted to camping, and good for you. We love getting out into the great outdoors and experiencing what nature has to offer too. It’s somehow so good for the soul :)

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