Several off-road tracks near Melbourne are set in the forest and they are one of the best ways for you to get closer to the natural environment. However, isn’t it nice to have the option to drive on the wilderness or take a dip (or surf) on the beach? Well, Croajingolong National Park has the best of both worlds – lush forests and beaches with magnificent rock formations.
Croajingolong is one of the best among Australia’s national parks and it encompasses Sydenham Inlet to the border of NSW. It covers an area of 87,500 hectares, so you will certainly have your fill of adventure. In addition, the park is situated about 450 km east of the city of Melbourne and about 500 km south of Sydney. So, compared to other 4WD destinations, it can be reached in just a couple of hours.
Are you planning to head to Croajingolong on your next trip? Read more about it here…
How Do I Get to Croajingolong?
As the park is quite near to Melbourne and Sydney, we will include the route for both of these cities.
- Head south by following Elizabeth St and turn right on Bourke St.
- After 240 metres, turn left onto Queen St and use the right lanes to turn right onto Flinders St/State Route 30.
- After about half a kilometre, turn left onto Kings Way/State Route 60.
- From here, turn left to merge onto Citylink/M1 after 900 metres. This road leads to Suburbs/Dandenong.
- Stay on the right lane to stay on M1 and continue onto Argyle St/Princes Hwy/A1.
- At the roundabout, drive to the second exit to stay on Princes Hwy/A1.
- Repeat this until you are approaching Sale-Heyfield Rd/C491 where you need to keep left.
- After 170 metres, turn left to merge onto Sale-Heyfield Rd.
- Turn right onto Myrtlebank-Fulham Rd after 1.8 km.
- After 5 km, turn left onto Maffra-Sale Rd and turn right onto Montgomery Rd after four kilometres.
- Turn left to merge back onto Princes Hwy/A1.
- After 8 kilometres, there will be a roundabout where you’ll need to go to the 3rd exit which leads onto Dawson St/Princes Hwy/A1.
- Forty-nine km down the road, there will be another roundabout where you must take the 2nd exit which leads onto Main St/Princes Hwy/A1.
- After 3.9 km, take the first exit on the roundabout that will take you to Great Alpine Rd/B500.
- Continue onto Bruthen-Nowa Nowa Rd/C620 and Princes Hwy/A1.
- After 70.5 km, turn right onto Sydenham Inlet Rd/C615.
- Turn left onto Old Coast Rd after 18.4 km. This road will then become Coast Rd which will lead you to Croajingolong National Park.
- Head east on King St and drive towards Castlereagh St.
- Turn left at the 2nd cross street which leads onto Elizabeth St.
- From here, continue onto Chifley Square and Phillip St.
- From the latter, turn right onto Bent St.
- Use the two left lanes to turn a little to the left onto Shakespeare PI. In addition, follow signs leading to Eastern Suburbs/Airport/Wollongong/Canberra.
- After 350 metres, merge onto M1 and keep left to stay there.
- After 12.1 km, use the right lanes to take the A1 exit which leads toward Rockdale/Wollongong.
- Continue onto General Holmes Dr/A1 and follow this road for 2.7 km.
- Turn right onto President Ave/A1.
- After 3.7 km, use the left lanes to turn left and continue onto Princes Hwy/A1.
- Use the left lanes to turn left onto Acacia Rd/Princes Hwy/A1.
- After 16.1 km, keep left to continue onto M1.
- Drive on the left lane to turn slightly left onto Princes Hwy (look for signs leading to National Rte. 1/Nowra).
- After 62.4 km, take the 2nd exit at the roundabout which leads to Princes Hwy/A1.
- Do the same for another roundabout 1.3 km down the road.
- After 138 km, turn left onto Campbell St/Princes Hwy/A1.
- After 40.7 km, turn right onto Riverside Dr and turn left onto Davidson St after 1.6 km.
- Turn right onto Princes Hwy/A1.
- Take the 2nd exit which keeps you on Princes Hwy/A1/National Route 1 after 75.1 km.
- After 27.2 km, turn right to stay on the same road.
- Take the 3rd exit that leads onto Mitchell St/Princes Hwy/A1 after 25.6 km.
- From here, follow the Princes Hwy and turn left on Tamboon Rd or other smaller roads that lead to Croajingolong.
What Should I Know About Croajingolong National Park’s History?
In 1770, Point Hicks was the first sighting by Captain Cook of the east bank of Australia. It wasn’t until the 1830s that the European pioneers and pastoralists arrived. By the 1850s the vast majority of the great land was taken by these pastoralists for their own.
Due to the area’s biodiversity and historical value, two national parks around Mallacoota and Wingan Inlet were created during the 1900s. Eventually, in 1970 Captain Cook National Park was created at Point Hicks. In 1979, these parks were joined and the zone was widened which constitutes the current Croajingolong National Park.
How is the Drive and Attractions in Croajingolong National Park?
Ahead towards Mallacoota, the Princes Highway comes to Cann River, the main entryway to Croajingolong National Park and the way to Thurra River and Mueller Inlet campgrounds through Tamboon and Point Hicks roads. Tamboon Road is a very narrow bitumen street weaving through Tamboon State Forest. After a bit, the road then gives way to an unsealed road. It breaks down as it gets closer to Point Hicks and enters Croajingolong NP, with a whole lot of corrugations.
Thurra River and Mueller Inlet are a piece of a private leasehold, run autonomously inside Croajingolong. Thurra River is the biggest bush campground in the area, with 46 spots that differ in size and appropriateness for tents, campervans, and caravans.
Shade given by the tea-trees makes it perfect for the hotter months – yet not very good when the mercury drops. Finding a fix of daylight for a solar panel or two is a test, and generators are not allowed. The tea-tree forests additionally make a considerable lot of the campgrounds inaccessible for caravans. The greater part of the campgrounds is found near the beach, with the echoes of the Tasman’s beating surf hushing you into a trance.
In comparison, Mueller Inlet campground is found right on the bay, with direct water access for every one of the camp’s eight sites. However, there’s little space to move a camper or van. As the shut-off from the sea, this is a perfect area for flat-water kayaking without the impact of the tides and currents. Kayaks and canoes can be procured from the lighthouse keeper and dropped off at the Mueller Inlet itself.
There are various walking tracks at Thurra River. However, the Dunes Walk is certainly the best, rising 145 metres on Victoria’s most astounding hills; it’s a walk that is tough for the most part of the journey. It also passes through beachfront banksia forests and local wildflowers.
You could very well spend a whole day investigating this astounding area. The walking track lances out of the forests and unto the dunes, with the most noteworthy peaks a kilometre or so at least further away. In the hotter months, you can drop down the sand dunes and walk to the path leading to the shallow Thurra River back to camp. It very well may be warm out on the dunes, so take a lot of supplies like food, water and, sunblock.
Different walks incorporate the Saros wreck, the pier remnants, Sledge Track from which supplies were carried to the mainland long ago, and the Mueller Inlet shoreline walk. Mt Everard lookout can be accessed from Point Hicks Road by means of Cicada Track (which is subject to seasonal road closure). The track twists and turns through scorched eucalyptus forest, with several termite hills dotted around and new forest floor regrowth.
During summer, the Cicada Track makes its way to Wingan Inlet, with its campground set in the woodland. In the colder months, it can be accessed from the Princes Highway by means of either West Wingan Road or East Wingan/Wingan Link roads.
Following West Wingan Road, it will take about an hour and you will take the path going through Alfred National Park and Wingan State Forest before finally entering Croajingolong NP. There are logging trucks, so keep the UHF on channel 40 or the signposted channel and transmit periodically to caution others of your closeness.
The diverse plant life at the Wingan Inlet campground gives it an enchanted quality. The sites are usually bigger than Thurra River, with more daylight to charge your solar panels, yet the campground circuit is correspondingly tight, limiting mobility for bigger vehicles and trailers. The West Wingan Road is assigned as unsatisfactory for caravans, but it is manageable for those with experience. The track becomes much smaller as you approach the campground, yet it is nothing out of the ordinary for seasoned 4WD enthusiasts.
Following the entrance track to the inlet, the water is tainted brown by tannin siphoned from the tea tree leaves. It doesn’t look like it, but it’s safe for paddling around in your kayak/canoe. Like Mueller Inlet, no open-air fires are allowed, so you should bring your portable gas stove.
The campground has a wharf and an environment similar to a beach where you can drop in a tinny. You should also know that only boats with up to 20 horsepower and speeds limited to five knots are allowed on the park prevent further shoreline erosion. New, untreated water is rationed to the visitor’s area, or you can head down Boundary Track to the Wingan River for new supplies.
If your kids feel the urge to meander along the shoreline and gather shells or other sea junk, the main choice is Fly Cove which is a 3km return walk. There are also other walks that will take you to Elusive Lake, a freshwater lake with a sandy shoreline, Wingan rapids, or the stream gauge near Boundary Track. For the best kayaking experience, paddle up the Wingan River – its 6km of flat water will give you a new perspective of the rainforest, rocky outcrops on both sides, and little waterfalls.
In the hotter months, you can clear your path through forest tracks to Mallacoota, by means of the Wingan Link Road, Hard to Seek Track, Stony Peak Road, Betka and Centre Tracks. However, you will have to check for information as the creek crossing on Hard to Seek Track and Betka Track are usually closed after rain. If you want to take another route to Mallacoota it is accessible from the blacktop near Princes Highway.
The Foreshore Caravan Park still the best views overlooking the inlet, with no more than 710 sites. From this campsite, you can catch a variety of fish including leatherjacket, flathead, bream, snapper, salmon, and tailor. In addition, they can be gotten off the various areas around the inlet.
The most scenic views of the lakes are at the Bastion Point viewing stage, Captain Stevensons Point in Foreshore Caravan Park, and along Lakeside Drive which goes around the lake. Turn right anywhere you can to stay on the water’s edge. Climbing Karbeethong Road, past the wharf of a similar name, gives a raised viewpoint and perspectives on the palatial residences of abalone divers.
Bush camping is restricted around Mallacoota but you can head to Shipwreck Creek. It got its name because of the 20 wrecks found along the coast and it is just 15km away. Additionally, the area has five sites for camping. It can be reached easily through Betka Road and Centre Track, which follows along the shoreline before weaving through a tall woodland. Once in the forest, signs caution of a very challenging track ahead; however, it is relatively easy according to those who have driven on it before.
Where Can I Stay at the Croajingolong National Park?
You will have a number of options for camping at the park:
- Car-based camping: There are a number of campgrounds that can cater to car-based camping like Wingan Inlet, Shipwreck Creek, Thurra River, Mueller Inlet and Peachtree Creek.
- Boat-based camping: You can only do this in the southern part of Tamboon Inlet near the eastern shore. Building campfires are not allowed at these sites and there are no toilets for you to use.
- Caravans: The only caravan-accessible campsite at the park is the Peachtree Creek. It is situated on the eastern beach of Tamboon Inlet. The campsite has a boat ramp, fireplaces, and toilets. They can also handle tents, camper trailers, campervans, and recreational vehicles (RVs).
- Remote/wild camping: If you take the Wilderness Coast Walk, you will have the option to camp at the bush. You will have an opportunity to explore the beautiful stretch of coastline in the park. In addition, you will also reach secluded beaches and see unique flora and fauna. Did I mention that the views are spectacular all throughout this walk?
If you want to know more about specific campsites themselves, then we got you covered. There are only five camping areas in the park. These are:
- Mueller Inlet Camp: This campground is located on the shores of Mueller Inlet and it has breathtaking views of the estuary and the ocean. It is also protected by the dune system of Banksia Woodland and Heath. So, you don’t need to worry about the high tide. In addition, you will reach this site by taking on the Bald Hills Track which is certainly a plus for 4WD enthusiasts.
- Tamboon Inlet: This campsite is free and you won’t have to book in advance. It can be accessed only by boat but car-based camping is available at Peachtree Creek Reserve near the eastern shores of Tamboon Inlet. You can also engage in walking trails near the area like Clinton Rocks Walk and Sand Dune Walk.
- Thurra River: This campsite is situated in the coastal forest and it is nestled by the river and the ocean near Point Hicks. This is also a popular destination for families during the summer. The camp has non-flush toilets, picnic tables, fireplaces, and barbeque spots.
- Wingan Inlet: If you want to have some 4WD fun before camping then this is the track for you. The campground is located in a forest of tall Bloodwood near the western shore of the Wingan Inlet. You can also access it by taking a boat or the Fly Cove Walking Track. However, this campsite requires you to pay for fees and book ahead of time.
- Shipwreck Creek: This is a smaller campground but it has a lot to offer. It is set in a forest above an isolated cove that you can reach by taking a 10-minute walk. You can also find walking tracks that lead to both the heathland and the coastline mere minutes away from here. However, this camp is unpowered but it has amenities like toilets, picnic tables, and fireplaces.
What Things Do I Need to Prepare Before Heading to the Park?
You should know the following before heading off:
- Most parks in the area observe a first-come, first-served basis for camping spots.
- If you plan to travel to Croajingolong during school holidays or Easter, you will need to book for camping spots ahead of time.
- If you plan on exploring to other nearby parks, some of them require camper’s permits. These permits can be obtained from the respective park’s visitor centre.
- The minimum stay during peak periods is 1 week.
For more details regarding Croajingolong National Park (especially campsite bookings) and other Victorian National Parks and Reserves in the area, call or visit their website.
Parks Victoria Information Line: 13 1963. Website: Parks Victoria