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Camping around Darwin

From waterfalls and plunge pools to monsoon forests and wetlands, experience the diverse natural attractions in and around Darwin on a camping trip.

There’s no better way to appreciate the stunning natural beauty of the Top End than by pitching a tent in one of the many campgrounds.

You can choose your level of adventure - from the most isolated 4WD-only campground to the more accessible sites near popular swimming and fishing spots.

Go bird watching at dawn, bushwalking during the day and wildlife spotting at dusk to see thousands of different species not seen anywhere else in the world.

Or just set up your camp and enjoy the silence.

No matter what you choose, the city of Darwin and its incredible wartime history, vibrant cultural scene and world-class attractions are just a short drive away.

Best time to go camping around Darwin

The best time to go camping around Darwin is in the Dry Season, between May and September when the humidity drops, the nights can be cool and it almost never rains. Make sure to book ahead if possible as it can get busy at this time of year.

During the Build-Up (October to January) and the Wet Season (January to April), you can camp if you’ve got a robust camping set-up and good shelter to withstand the rain and warmer days.

Can I camp for free near Darwin?

Camping or sleeping in any public place within the council areas of Darwin and Palmerston is actively discouraged with rangers regularly monitoring public spaces and issuing on-the-spot fines. This includes sleeping in a car, campervan, caravan or tent.

There are some free designated campsites outside of the city areas including Gunn Point and Robin Creek Falls – both an hours’ drive from Darwin.

Are permits required to camp in Darwin?

Most parks and reserves across the Top End are free to enter and have designated campsites where you can camp for a minimal fee without a permit. If you're planning to camp in a national park outside of a designated campsite or bushwalk overnight, you will need to apply for a permit.

If you're entering onto Aboriginal land that isn't within a national park, you will need a written permit from the Northern Land Council. These are approved on a case-by-case basis and cover activities such as entering Aboriginal land or waters for any purpose, travelling by private road on Aboriginal land or entering an Aboriginal community.

Camping under the stars in Darwin

If you’d like to camp in the open air and watch the stars, it’s best to do that between May and September. That’s when it’s coolest and least likely to rain. Outside of these times it’s hot and can rain heavily so it’s best to have good shelter.

Camping near swimming holes Darwin

There are limited options for camping near swimming holes within Darwin itself. Just outside of Darwin, there are plenty of great camping spots with access to swimming holes in Litchfield National Park.

Swimming is recommended only in designated safe swimming areas so look out for the signs and be Crocwise. Any body of water – including creeks and freshwater dams – can have crocodiles so play it safe and stick to approved swimming areas.

To swim safely within the Darwin City area you can take advantage of the lagoon at the Darwin Waterfront, the Wave Pool also at the Darwin Waterfront and Lake Alexander at East Point.

Lake Bennett, an hours’ drive from Darwin, is under new management and they’re offering camping while the rest of the resort is refurbished. Guests can kayak, fish, swim and trek surrounding bush walk trails with a day use fee of $5 to access the lake if you’re not an overnight guest.

Beach camping near Darwin

While swimming at beaches in and around Darwin isn't recommended, camping definitely is. The sea breeze and stunning sunset is your reward.

Gunn Point

Gunn Point is a free camping favourite of Darwin locals and has recently undergone some road upgrades to make it easier to get there. From March 2021, camping on Murrumujuk Beach is no longer permitted, with the best camping now 10 metres back from the cliff edge to protect them from coastal erosion. Camper trailers and caravans are not permitted on the beach or the cliff edge.

There are no facilities at Gunn Point so you must be completely self-contained. This includes taking care of all your rubbish, human waste and making sure you have enough drinking water.

You can drive on Murrumujuk Beach but it's for registered vehicles only and at your own risk. Be considerate of other beach users and local wildlife at all times.

Just a short drive away is the Saltwater Arm and Leaders Creek boat ramps if you fancy dropping in a line. As tempting as the water is, swimming isn't recommended due to the presence of crocodiles and stingers.

Wagait Beach

Wagait Beach is a 90-minute drive from Darwin or a 20-minute ferry ride from Cullen Bay. Basic beachfront camping spots are available in limited numbers at the Beachfront Beauty starting at $10. The site welcomes camping of all types from swags through to campervans and includes a communal kitchen, shower, laundry, swimming pool and a boat ramp. It’s best to book early as spots go fast.

Nearby is Cox Country Club where you can get a good meal and often enjoy bands and other entertainment. If you fancy fishing and don’t have a boat, the Mandorah Jetty is well set-up for fishing at all tide levels.

If you’d like something more upmarket than camping, there are plenty of AirBnB properties available for rent nearby.

Crab Claw Resort

Crab Claw Resort is a family friendly resort offering 19 shaded and semi-shaded powered camp sites just 75 metres from the water edge. Power is limited to 6 amps to run your fridge and air conditioning.

Sites cost $40 per night and facilities on-site include an amenities block and laundry as well as a restaurant, boat ramp and swimming pool.

There’s plenty to do at Crab Claw including bushwalking, fishing, bird watching or just relaxing. There’s also cabin accommodation available with views of the water for that extra bit of comfort.

Fishing and camping near Darwin

To get the most out of your camping trip, you might want to grab a campsite that has nearby access to one of the Top End’s many fishing spots. The fishing is legendary in these parts and even the most inexperienced angler can have an enjoyable day.

If you're camping near any fishing spots, make sure you stay Crocwise and follow all signs.

Leaders Creek Fishing Base

Leader’s Creek Fishing Base is a great spot to launch your boat to access a lot of the Top End’s best fishing spots for tropical sports fish and mud crabs. Less than an hour’s drive from Darwin city on a sealed road, and with a 24-hour access boat ramp and secure car park, this is an ideal spot for fishing.

Powered and unpowered sites are available from $20 per person per night and includes access to shared bathroom amenities and a fire pit. The campsite is also pet friendly and accepts some types of generators.

Shady Camp

Located inside the Mary River National Park, Shady Camp can offer both freshwater and saltwater fishing just a few minutes from the campsite. The campsite is accessed by a 4WD track and is only open seasonally due to the high volumes of water in the Wet season.

Camping is available to accommodates swags and tents through to camper trailers with 4WD capacity. Camping is $3.30 per night and gives you access to toilets, picnic tables, fire pits and a boat ramp. There are no generators permitted at this campsite.

The campground is within a national park so pets are not permitted and if you want to camp outside of the designated campground or bushwalk overnight, you will need a permit.

Couzens Lookout

Also located inside the Mary River National Park is Couzens Lookout, a more secluded camping spot next to the Mary River which is one of the best spots to launch your boat and hunt for the illustrious barramundi.

Accessible by 4WD only, a basic campground awaits with toilets, picnic tables, fire pit and boat ramp. There is a small camping fee of $3.30 per night and permits are required if you're staying out of the designated campsite or bushwalking overnight. Generators and pets are not allowed here.

The best part about this campsite is the spectacular sunset from the lookout, a short walk away from the campsite.

Dundee Beach Holiday Park

Just a 90-minute drive from Darwin is Dundee Beach where some of the Territory’s best fishing and camping awaits you.

The holiday park offers a range of powered sites that sleep 6 people for the one fee of $42 per night – or $30 for an unpowered site. The park can accommodate every type of camping from swags and tents, right through to buses, and generators are allowed between 8am and 10pm.

A shared amenities block, BBQs, fire pits, pool and beachside bar await you with access to the boat ramp available by car at most tides making it great for all types of fishos. Fresh water is available only at the powered sites so make sure you have your supplies sorted.

Camping with kids in Darwin

Camping isn't just for the adults; it can be heaps of fun for the whole family. To make your camping adventure fun for everyone, there are some tried and tested tips to live by.

Choosing the right site

While all children are welcome in the campgrounds of the Top End, choosing the right one can be tricky. A designated campground with amenities is likely going to be easier for you and your family unless you're seasoned campers who can be self-sufficient.

If this is your first time camping with children, why not try a caravan or holiday park first to see how you go? These parks often have playgrounds, swimming pools or other on-site activities to keep the little ones occupied while still having a great camping experience.

Sun Protection

There’s nothing worse than getting sunburnt when you’re on a relaxing camping trip. Even on cloudy days, it’s important that you protect yourself and your family from the sun. Follow the Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide mantra:

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slop on sunscreen
  • Slap on a hat
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on some sunglasses.

Insect Bites

To avoid insect bites, bring an insect repellent for both yourself and your campsite. There are plenty of options available including insect spray, mozzie coils, citronella scented candles or a thermacell. Wear light-coloured clothing if you can as dark colours are more attractive to mosquitoes.

Lots of water and snacks

Even in the cooler months, it can still be really hot here in the Top End. It’s essential that you carry more water than you need especially for the younger family members who might feel the heat more than you do.

The general rule is half a litre of water per hour per person in moderate temperatures.

Be Crocwise

As much as the rivers and waterholes of the Top End campsites look tempting after a hot day, it’s essential that you follow the directions on all signs posted near waterways. Crocodiles are able to move from unseen in the water onto land at lightning speed so obey the signs and stay Crocwise.

Camping in National Parks and Reserves around Darwin

In the Top End, we're spoilt for choice with our access to national parks. You can try the world-famous Kakadu National Park or the more accessible Litchfield National Park for a range of great camping options. Mary River National Park – home to Couzens Lookout and Shady Camp – is an excellent base for fishing and wildlife watching.

Charles Darwin National Park, just outside of Darwin City, is a great spot to explore or use the mountain bike trails but there is no camping permitted, with the park closing at 7pm each night.

Umbrawarra Gorge National Park

Almost three hours’ drive from Darwin near the regional town of Katherine, Umbrawarra Gorge National Park is off the beaten track but well worth the drive. The road is accessible by car during the Dry season but isn't recommended for caravans due to the road corrugations, dips and creek crossings.

Camping is available at the designated campsite for $3.30 per person per night which give you access to a composting toilet, BBQs, picnic area, fire pits and a range of 4WD tracks. No generators or pets are permitted.

From the campsite, you can take an easy walk along the creek into the red cliffs and sandstone overhangs of the gorge and swim where it's signposted as safe to do so.

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park

Located on the Cobourg Peninsula, a 10 hour drive along an unsealed road suitable for 4WDs only, Garig Gunak Barlu National Park is home to stunning white beaches and rare wildlife you won’t see closer to town.

Camping fees are charge per vehicle at $232.10 which will cover 5 adults for up to 7 nights. If you want to extend your stay, additional fees apply. At the campsite, you have access to a toilet, limited bore water, fire pit, boat ramp, showers and a ranger station. All food, water and fuel must be brought with you as there is nowhere to buy these supplies nearby.

From the campground you can go bushwalking, birdwatching, fishing or boating and there’s a good chance you’ll see dugong or one of the six species of marine turtles.

The road is open seasonally and isn't suitable for caravans, and off-road trailers are taken at your own risk. Roads can be closed for ceremonial reasons with limited notice.

Bookings are recommended, especially during school holidays, and permits are required.

Channel Point Coastal Reserve

Two-and-a-half hours drive from Darwin is the Channel Point Coast Reserve. Well known for its excellent fishing, this a great place for self-sufficient campers with experience in 4WDs and unsealed roads.

A basic campground is available with toilets, picnic tables, boat ramp and fire pits at a cost of $6.60 per night. Generators are permitted.

The campground is limited to 50 people (or 10 vehicles) so bookings are essential and you’ll need to arrange a permit at the same time.

Camping at events near Darwin

During the Dry season, Darwin hosts dozens of incredible events that bring visitors from across the country. The Darwin Festival, V8 Supercars, National Indigenous Music Awards, Bass in the Grass, Mindil Beach Sunset Market, the Beercan Regatta and the Great Northern Cup are huge drawcards.

With such popular events, camping is a great option so if you’re planning a trip to Darwin during the Dry season, you need to book your spots ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

For events around Darwin, caravan parks are going to be your best option to make sure you can get around town easily. Try:

Camping near Darwin – at a glance

Powered Sites

Permit Required

Accessibility

Toilets

Drinking Water

BBQs

Swimming

Gunn Point

No

No

2WD

No

No

No

No

Wagait Beach

No

No

2WD

Yes

Yes

Yes

Pool on-site

Crab Claw Resort

Yes

No

2WD

Yes

Yes

No

Pool on-site

Leaders Creek Fishing Base

Yes

No

2WD

Yes

Yes

No

No

Shady Camp

No

No

4WD

Yes

No

No

No

Couzen’s Lookout

No

No

4WD

Yes

No

No

No

Dundee Beach Holiday Park

Yes

No

2WD

Yes

Yes (Powered sites only)

Yes

Yes

Umbrawarra Gorge National Park

No

No

2WD (Seasonally)

Yes

No

Yes

Where signed as safe to do

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park

No

Yes

4WD

Yes

Limited bore water

No

No

Channel Point Coastal Reserve

No

Yes

4WD

Yes

No

No

No

Where can I hire camping equipment for Darwin?

If you don’t have your own equipment, you can hire what you need or a complete camping package from Gone Bush Camping. Their packages cover everything from basic supplies for your hire car through to the full kit for a motorhome or 4WD experience.

Hire a camper trailer from Crikey Camper Hire or grab a boat from Outback Boat Hire.

Join a camping tour near Darwin

Whether you just want an overnight camping experience or you want to take a longer tour, there's plenty of guided camping tours that can take you to some of the best camping spots around Darwin.

Far Out Adventures works with local eco-certified tour operators to tailor camping tours to you. You can check out all the wildlife, scenery and Aboriginal art and culture under the safe and knowledgeable guidance of your tour guide.

If you want to go further afield, you can check out the camping tour options at Kakadu, Litchfield and Katherine.

Camping guidelines

Darwin is an amazing place to visit and we’d love it to stay that way. When camping, make sure you leave your site as you found it.

Rubbish

Make use of the bins provided at your campsite. If there are none, take the rubbish with you and find a roadside stop or shelter with bins provided.

Firewood

Fires are not permitted to be lit in any National Park and each campground has specific rules about the lighting of fires. Fires should only be lit during the Winter months and must be contained within designated areas.

Firewood must not be collected from inside National Parks unless it's signed as a designated area. Firewood can be purchased from hardware stores or camping supply stores across Alice Springs. Bringing firewood into a national park from other sources is a potential biosecurity hazard.

Pets

Pets are not allowed in national parks. Exemptions are available for guide dogs, hearing dogs and assistance dogs kept on a leash of no more than 3 metres long.

Each campground has its own rules about pets staying on their site so it’s best to check with them first. If you’re camping in a pet friendly campground but heading into a national park for the day, you can negotiate with a fellow camper to swap dog-minding duties. Dogs should not be left in campgrounds on their own.

Road Safety

If you’re driving, make sure you understand the challenges of driving in remote locations and check our road safety page for more information.

Caravan & camping grounds around Darwin