Bush camping fees in Victoria: Too pricey?

By: Claudia Bouma, Photography by: Chris Bouma

Going bush has been our way of escaping the rat race for many years, but increasing camping fees have become a common bugbear.

Bush camping fees in Victoria: Too pricey?
Are you willing to pay these camping fees to go bush? Do you think it’s reasonable?

There are several reasons why we choose a simple bush camp over a powered campsite at a caravan park.

Firstly, we enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with heading out to a secluded spot, far away from the hustle and bustle of a town or city.

Secondly, the kids love the space and freedom they have – and so do we.

Thirdly, we are a home-schooling family and there’s a lot to learn from living in the bush. The kids see animals they otherwise only read about in books or might see in the zoo. We teach them about the importance of water, the consequences of littering and the beauty of creation.

Last, but not least, the price tag plays a major role. Taking four kids to a caravan park means paying a minimum of $40 per night and can blow out to as much as $60 for a plot of grass for one night. Sure, it means we have a hot shower, a flushing toilet, drinking water and bins, but our holiday budget is soon drained.

Over the years we’ve ensured we are self-sufficient in terms of water, power, etc, so we can camp in the bush for a couple of weeks without breaking the budget.

However, we’ve just come back from a three-week stay in the Grampians where we were surprised to learn about the huge increase in camping fees since July 1, 2014. Two years ago we camped in the Grampians (pit toilet and tap with creek water) and paid $15 a night for a family of five.

Currently, a campsite costs $30.60 per night (up to six people) in the off-season and you need to book ahead online, on the phone or at the information centre. During the peak season, the price goes up to an incredible $37.80 per night.

In addition, an astonishing number of national parks with very basic facilities now attract a fee of $13 a night, whereas they were free before the introduction of the new fee schedule. One such park is Cobboboonee NP, near Portland, where we camped for four days a number of years ago at no charge. Other parks that are affected by this change are Baw Baw NP, Lerderderg NP and Bunyip State Park, just to name a few.

Parks with shower facilities, such as Mt Eccles NP, will now cost $48.70 per night (up to six people) during the peak season. We camped there two years ago and paid $21.20 per night. To top it all off, an unpowered site at Wilson’s Promontory will cost $59.20 per night (up to eight people) during the peak season.

Needless to say, bush camping is no longer the same and caravan parks suddenly look a lot more attractive. I wonder what affect this radical fee restructure is going to have on people’s holiday choices.

According to Parks Victoria, this fee restructure is necessary to maintain the campgrounds in the national parks across the state. I can understand their reasoning but my fear is that people will actually stay away and choose to camp in a caravan park instead.

What do you think? Are you willing to pay these camping fees to go bush? Do you think it’s reasonable?

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