We were a bit nervous about this one. We (mum and dad) have been camping before, but the thought of taking our little kids out into the bush and spending the night in a tent with them had us a bit worried. Plenty of other families get out camping all the time, so we figured that it must be possible and so we made the commitment to do it! We spent as much time planning as we could (it was a bit of a snap decision so this was only a couple of weeks or so!), researched potential campsites (we figured that we go somewhere with lots of room so as to not embarrass ourselves) and tried to block out of our mind all the things that could possibly go wrong (not the best way to manage risks, but sometimes that's what parents do!). Although there are lots of great camping spots around here in Brisbane, we thought that we'd have a look further afield, and decided on Emu Creek campsite at Benarkin State Forest, about 2.5 hours' drive from home!
We didn't really own much camping gear, so everything had to be rustled up from somewhere - we did splash out on a tent and a few other things but we tried to make the most of the things we had around the house. After all, this was our first camping trip and we weren't sure if we would enjoy it, so we tried to keep our spending down to a minimum. One of the reasons that we decided on Benarkin was that they do have toilets and (cold water) showers there, so there was no need for use to bring a camping toilet or shower along. It didn't take long for the car to fill up, though. It seems even a quick drive down to the shops with kids will fill the car up, so packing to be relatively self-sufficient for 3 days did require a bit of tetris-style stacking of the car! We have a medium-size SUV but we couldn't have fit anything else in.
For those that might be taking our advice, this is what we crammed in: tent (obviously), gazebo, tarp, folding table, folding chairs, inflatable mattresses, doonas (we haven't splashed out on sleeping bags yet), heaps of torches and batteries, eskys (x2), drinking water (slab of bottles), 20l drum of water, portable bbq, buckets, picnic set and all of our clothes. No room for the kids' bikes (probably regretted this) but we did bring a few toys. Frisbees and footballs were well used! Our poor car didn't know what had hit it! Benarkin State Forest is around 2 hours' drive north west of Brisbane, off D'Aguilar Highway, so it’s not too much of a hike. The drive is pretty easy and the traffic drops right off once you get out of Caboolture, however we did stop a few times along the way, just to double and triple check the gear that we had strapped onto the roof. Getting closer to our destination, the scenery changes in an instant. It really is stunning - one minute you are just driving through bush and farmland and then without warning you are in the middle of beautiful pine covered hills! Once you turn off the highway, the campsite is reached by following a dirt road through the pine forest for about 20 minutes before reaching the site on the edge of Emu Creek!
Emu Creek campsite is a large area, capable of hosting 150 campsites (and the vehicles that go with them). Making a decision of where to pitch your tent was harder than it was to find a spot, although there were a lot of people arriving when we got there. We found a clear spot, close to the creek with a little shade around and prepared for our second attempt of putting up our new tent, we did a practice run at home, although this time we had to do it with the pressures of seasoned campers watching on! Well, the tent went up without a hitch! A little bit of help from our 5 year old made a big difference - probably not the actual work that he did, but the fact that he wasn't running off getting into trouble! The little ones tried their best at helping, picking up a few sticks and banging on some pegs! Regardless of their actual contribution, they all had heaps of fun and we loved seeing the look of satisfaction on their faces!
So far, we had successfully packed the car up, made it to the campsite, pitched the tent and now we were settling in for the night. This was the part that we were a little nervous about! Luckily, our little kids were absolutely shattered from the day and went to sleep without a problem! Which gave us a little time to sit next to the campfire and enjoy each other's company under the stars! As we were shattered as well, we managed about 5 minutes before joining the kids for a well-earned sleep! Night-time proved to be no issue - it was a little noisy at times as there were a lot of people camping, but nothing that really bothered us. A little bit of rain in the morning tested out the water-proofing of the tent, which passed with flying colours.
The campsite itself has enough around to keep the kids entertained, although more than a two days here might be stretching it a bit – we used day two to head out of the campsite and explore the surrounds – places like Coomba Falls are within easy reach! There is a nice, large creek that you can explore - it was largely dry when we visited which was great for the kids as they could run around on the creek-bed, searching for nice rocks and sticks which they don't always have access to in the city! There were lots of other kids at the campsite (we stayed over a long weekend) so there were plenty of opportunities to make new friends. Lots of push bikes and balls and Frisbees! We didn't see too much wildlife although there was a bit of commotion with the kids when a large sand goanna wandered through the campsite. It was a real adventure for us and really worthwhile, it's great to be somewhere where you can be removed from the day to day distractions and spend some quality time together. We will definitely be scheduling in a couple of camping trips annually in future years.
Amenities: A bit limited - toilets and cold showers, however this is a bush campsite so we shouldn't complain! 👍👍
Cost: A reasonable price to maintain the facility! 👍👍👍
Parking: 150 pre-booked campsites so you shouldn't have a problem. 👍👍👍👍
Access: A bit of a drive down an unsealed road to get there - it's all part of the adventure! 👍👍
Entertainment: Camping is all about relaxing! 👍👍
Best for: Really good fun with kids, probably best for those 3 and over! 👍👍👍
Wildlife: Not as much as we would have liked, but I'm sure that there's plenty there that we didn't see! 👍👍
Summary: With a little bit of preparation, Benarkin State Forest is a great spot for first time campers! Heaps of room, lots of friendly, experienced campers to help out and plenty of kids to play with! And you really do feel like you are isolated! 👍👍👍
Hints: Don't forget to bring your own firewood!
Brisbane Family Explorers