Bush Camping Near Canberra – Dry Creek Camping Area, Deua National Park
If you’re looking for bush camping near Canberra, then check this out. At just over two hours drive from the heart of Canberra, Deua National Park is ideal for a weekend away.
From Canberra, take the Kings Highway to Braidwood. Then turn off to the right and follow the signs to Araluen. You’ll drop down into Araluen Valley, an incredibly beautiful area surrounded by insanely rugged mountains.
About 25km south-east of the village of Araluen on a winding dirt road, you’ll have a choice of two excellent bush camping spots.
If you’re coming in from the coast, turn onto Larry’s Mountain Road just north of Moruya. This joins up with Araluen Road. Alternatively, take Campbell Street west out of the centre of Moruya. This turns into Araluen Road. Either way, allow 45 – 60 minutes travel time from Moruya.
Where To Camp?
As we said before, you have two campsites to choose from.
Deua River Campground has plenty of spots to choose from and easy access to Deua River. It also has a drop toilet and some sites have fire pits.
A few kilometres south-east is Dry Creek Camping Area. If I was looking for weekend camping near Canberra, this would be my first choice. Why? Well here you can camp beside the river.
Dry Creek has a “formal” camping area up the hill from the river, with fire pits and a drop toilet.
However, you can camp along both sides of the river. As you approach the river crossing there’s camping on this (northern) side downstream to your left. Or you can cross the river and camp on the other (southern) side upstream to your right.
And these spots are right near the river.
We camped downstream from the crossing, intending to stay two nights. This quickly stretched out to four nights. Interestingly, we had accidentally coincided with a long weekend in Canberra. So we expected to be swamped on Friday night.
It didn’t get too busy though. Yes, other groups came and went, mostly families or groups heading along the challenging fire trails into Bendethera Valley. By Monday morning, the place was all but deserted.
Oh, and you pay a small daily fee. We paid $6 each per night. Fergus came around morning and night to collect fees (cash only) and make sure everyone was behaving themselves. Fergus and his partner live down the road and are well known locals.
We also had a visit from the National Parks ranger on Saturday morning. He’s based in Narooma and covers a huge area along the coast.
Take Care On The Way In
Deua River Campground is easily accessible. The short steep drop in shouldn’t pose too many challenges.
Dry Creek Camping Area is a different story though. The track is steep with scrabbly loose stones and some steep jump ups. You’ll get in okay, but you might not get out! It’s only accessible by 4WD and trailers are not permitted past the river crossing.
If you’re planning to cross the river and take on the Merricumbene Fire Trail to Bendethera Valley, make sure you’re an experienced 4WDer. Most of this track is incredibly steep and can be pretty nasty when it has been dug up.
This drone footage gives you a small taste of the rugged country leading towards Bendethera.
Relaxing On The River
We spent four days doing not a whole lot really. This is the perfect place to unwind. While the river was low and hardly running, it is really clear and clean. We watched a lizard come down to the opposite bank every morning and catch a feed of fish for breakfast.
At night you can hear the fish jumping and water rats splashing in the water. We noticed hundreds of opened mussel shells on the rocks and in the shallows. The ranger was telling us the water rats collect mussels and have figured out a way to break in and get to the meat inside. Clever!
He also told us mussels are an indicator of good river health. The vast numbers of fingerlings and tadpoles in the river is testament to this as well.
You can easily turn river-watching into a full-time job here. Bright red dragonflies, lizards and goannas wherever you look, lots of different birds, every kind of clumsy beetle, bees collecting honey from flowering gums, green grasshoppers and tiny frogs. The place is alive with wildlife.
We caught a glimpse of a small iridescent blue bird flying along the river. It landed and showed off its orange breast. According to the ranger it was a sacred kingfisher. I’m no bird person, but that’s a pretty impressive name for a pretty impressive-looking bird!
Late afternoon, yellow-tailed black cockatoos cruised over the mountains announcing their presence in their usual raucous fashion. And every night just up the river, a mopoke owl kept us company with his monotonous yet soothing call.
This place is teeming with life if you take the time to look.
The Downside Of Easy Access
Like most beautiful places within reach of populated areas, Dry Creek Camping Area attracts its share of people who simply don’t care about anything but themselves.
Wheel tracks down the creek bank and into the water… smashed beer bottles in the river… people leaving toilet paper and wipes everywhere because they’re too lazy to walk a hundred metres to the toilet… idiots driving up and down the riverbed to display their manliness… cigarette butts at every campsite… burnt cans in old campfires… live trees cut down for firewood.
We saw it all. And this is why soon, no one will be allowed to camp right beside the river.
National Parks have had enough of people trashing the place. So they are going block access to the camping spots beside the river. You’ll still be able to camp along the river, you just won’t be able to get so close.
No doubt the morons who trash place like this will whinge when this happens. Bad luck.
Despite the morons, Dry Creek Camping Area is still a beautiful place to camp. If you’re looking for bush camping near Canberra then this is certainly a great option.
And if you’re really after peace and solitude, go during the week. You’ll likely have the place all to yourself.
Dry River Camping Area is on Yuin Country.
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Any errors or omissions are mine alone.