Winter camping is not always an appealing prospect. The thought of setting up a tent in the freezing cold is a big enough deterrent to stop some people taking to the road in winter at all.
Hiring an RV is the perfect solution to this. It provides all the freedom of camping with none of the tedious setups and allows you the freedom to explore different places to go in winter, and a wealth of family winter activities.
This July winter holidays, hire an RV and hit the open road. Canberra, the nation's capital, is an ideal winter destination packed with kid’s winter activities. Here are the best picks of where to camp and what to do to in Canberra to escape the winter blues.
Stay near the city and spend a day (or two) enjoying its attractions
Canberra, nestled in the heart of the ACT, is an essential Australian holiday destination that should be explored by all Aussie kids - and their parents. There are traditional attractions like Parliament House with its stately marble surrounds and wealth of Australian history. Parliament House has daily tours available to show you all the best parts of the immense building and let you in some of its secrets. Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre is full of interactive, hands-on science experiences that include an earthquake simulator and exhibits about air pressure, fossils, weather and so much more. Make sure to visit the Questacon gift shop on your way out to stock up on silly putty, kinetic sculptures and astronaut food.
It would be easy to spend an entire day at either of these attractions and wandering the city itself, so allow plenty of time to experience even the more well-visited city destinations. The Australian War Memorial is a sobering, history-rich experience that lends itself to being completely immersive for both adults and children. Canberra's National Zoo is spectacular and, while often skipped over for more patriotic ACT destinations, is well worth a visit.
With so many attractions nestled within the limits of the city itself, you are best off parking your RV somewhere close for the night. Free camping close to the city is very hard to find, so caravan parks fill that gap with cheap, easily accessible camping spots. Alivio Tourist Park is the best and closest to the city centre, just a 15-minute drive from the heart of the city. Alivio's sites are large and the facilities are excellent. It's also surrounded by picturesque walking and cycling trails.
When you've had your fill of traditional, city-bound Canberra activities, it's time to venture a bit further out and see what the city outskirts have to offer. Cockington Green is a quaint, whimsical tourist spot that will delight the kids and enchant the adults. It features tiny miniature towns and a miniature steam train that you can ride. The craftsmanship featured on every tiny piece is exquisite and it can be a pleasant change of pace from Canberra's more history-based offerings.
There is also the unique experience of truffle hunting available in the outskirts of Canberra's city centre. The Truffle Farm is a restaurant staffed by a Michelin star chef, and in the winter months (June-August) guests are welcome to join the farmer and his specially trained truffle dogs and pigs in a truffle hunt. Hang around and enjoy a sumptuous meal afterwards, garnished with the very truffles you just helped pluck from the countryside.
If you're looking for something more adventurous, there are a couple of hot air balloon companies in Canberra that offer a unique way to experience a distinctive bird's eye view of the capital’s interesting architecture and planning, as well as its natural surrounds. While a hot air balloon ride means a very early start, the toasty warm flame of the hot air balloon will offset the chill of a cold winter morning. Balloons Aloft Canberra and Dawn Drifters offer safe, reasonably priced hot air balloon tours throughout the year. Both these companies use the Park Hyatt Hotel in Canberra as their meeting point, so it's best to partake in this activity while still camping close to the city at Alivio Caravan Park.
Venture well outside the city for a more strenuous family holiday activity, getting on your bikes to take in the ACT’s beauty on the trails of Mount Stromlo Forest Reserve. The park offers a range of recreational activities, but its most popular with mountain bikers for good reason. With a network of well-maintained trails, Stromlo is home to some of the best mountain biking experiences in the world. Bike hire is available for a reasonable daily rate, and equestrian and cross-country running courses are also available. Stromlo also boasts a children's playground and bbq area, making it an attractive place to while away the day in the winter sunshine. Mount Stromlo Forest Reserve is only half an hour from Canberra but if you’re looking for free bush camping that’s only 15 minutes up the road, check out Cotter Campground (see WikiCamps for details).
Play in the snow at Corin Forest Recreation Park
It wouldn't be a winter holiday without a snow experience. Corin Forest Recreation Park is the perfect place to go for a stress-free snow experience, especially with kids on board. Corin's Snow Play sessions provide a family friendly 2.5-hour play session in a safe, snow-filled area. Tobogganing, snowmen and snowballs are all firmly encouraged, and snow gear is available for a very reasonable price. For those who are more confident in their skiing abilities, Corin also offers a selection of runs that are accessible for children and comfortable for more experienced skiers. Corin's ski sessions and Snow Play sessions run in limited numbers, so bookings are advised.
After your snow day you'll be wanting to get warm and comfortable as soon as possible. The Honeysuckle Campground (see WikiCamps for details), just 9 km's from Corin, is the ideal place to stop for the night. Honeysuckle Campground provides access to bbq's and picnic areas, toilet facilities and fire pits. Bookings are essential as the campground only has space for up to four RVs at a time, and you'll need to bring your own firewood.
Take a Hike (or a bunch of hikes) at Namadgi National Park
Honeysuckle Campground is close to the Namadgi Visitor Centre at Tharwa, and from there you can plan a selection of day hikes through the Namadgi National Park. Namadgi stretches across almost half the area of the ACT and borders Mt Kosciuszko. At a massive 106,000 square hectares, there is a lot to explore. Namadgi features 160 kilometres of walking trails, which means an abundance of day walks, ranging from a few hundred metres to larger 7-hour return treks (and of course multi-day hikes if you’re that way inclined).
Starting from Namadgi Visitor Centre, the 6.2-kilometre Yankee Hat Trail to Yankee Hat Rock is one of Namadgi's most popular walking trails. At Yankee Hat Rock you can view Aboriginal rock art that’s thought to date back some 3,700 years. The ochre and clay art features animals such as turtles, dingoes and kangaroos, as well as human-like figures. It was the first rock art discovered in the ACT and is well preserved and respected.
For a shorter walk, Booromba Rocks is 2.5 kilometres and also leaves from Namadgi Visitors Centre. While some parts of the trail can be steep, it's worth it for the beautiful surrounding forest and towering granite cliffs.
While all these walks are close enough to the Honeysuckle Campground for that to be your only stop, it might also be worth checking out Orroral Campground for the nearby Orroral Heritage Walk. A 6-kilometre track, it lets you explore the history of the local area - Indigenous, pioneer and even, surprisingly, space age with the signal from the first moonwalk being broadcast to the world via the ACT.
Canberra and the ACT come alive in winter and travelling in an RV is the perfect way to see both the city and the countryside. The typical tourist trails are just as rewarding as the natural environment and travelling through Canberra means you can have both within a short distance of each other with an exciting mix of sightseeing, snow, hiking and much more, before relaxing back at your hassle-free campsite, no tent required. Don't let the winter months keep you and the kids inside - winter camping is all about rugging up, sleeping warm and a big, cosy campfire. Embrace the cold and unleash some adventure.
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