Well, a few weeks back the boss of this brilliant mag said he wanted me to show him some of the best camping spots in New South Wales, and the best part was, he’d even foot the bill – not a bad boss, eh? Well, I’m sure you would agree there are dead-set hundreds of places I could have gone but, for me, good old Georges Junction Camp Reserve is just one place that always stands out from the crowd, and, with the weather heating up, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get out and amongst it!
Why is it one of my all-time favourites? Well, every now and then, you stumble across a place that makes you realise just how much you love camping and, in my opinion, Georges Junction is one such place. There’s just something about taking a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Macleay River on a warm afternoon. Steep scenic mountains make you feel like you’re in a totally different country and billions of smooth river rocks are pretty much the ultimate setting for a relaxing weekend away. Then you go and add in a great little low-range track that follows the river, along with a dozen other cracking little swimming spots along the way, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a weekender!
Heading north from Bellbrook, the road quickly turns to dust, and it’s a good idea to travel this road in the morning, as the sun is right in your eyes in the afternoon. About an hour-and-a-half later, you’ll arrive at camp, which is surrounded by those scenic hills and escarpments I mentioned earlier.
You’ve got a few option when it comes to choosing your home for the night – the main campground is nice and flat, and sits right above the river. The other option is to hook a left as you enter the campground and follow the river up a bit to find a slightly more secluded spot. For the ultimate hidden hideaway, take the track right through the guts of the river along the rocks and grab yourself a piece of prime real estate down by the water, if your setup doesn’t need to touch the ground.
THE RIVER RUN
One of my dead-set favourite parts of Georges Junction is the track that runs alongside the river, which is commonly called The River Run. You’ll want to drop your tyre pressures down to about 18-20psi to help them mould over the thousands of odd-shaped river rocks, lock the hubs in and select low-range. It’s not a hard track, but you’re better off leaving your camper behind to avoid bottoming out here and there. The first obstacle is a rocky river crossing that’s a good 100m long. Having a rocky base, there’s a fair bit of traction, but the rocks can get a bit slippery. Plus, there’s a few bigger ones (especially at the start) that have a nasty habit of banging your diff housing, so take it nice and easy – you’ll end up bouncing around like a rabbit on Red Bull if you give it too many berries!
One short but mildly steep exit and you’re back on dry land heading upstream over a variety of different terrain. Stock standard vehicles might struggle with ground clearance over some of these obstacles, especially on one particular S-bend that’s quite tight with a few rocky boulders thrown into the mix. A few up and downs stretching several kays, and you’ll find yourself back down on the river bank at yet another pristine water crossing. Now, you’ve got a few options here – either take the track that follows the riverbank back downstream which, might I add, is an awesome spot for a riverside barbecue, or cross the river and keep following the track to a million other gobsmacking spots right on the water. Whichever you choose, there’s three things I recommend you bring along for the ride – a hammock to help you relax to the max, an old tyre tube so you can float around in the water and an esky – full of water, of course!
Eventually you’ll end up at a locked gate, but this track has plenty of spots to stop and hang out for the day.
WRAPPING IT UP
Now, you might be wondering why you would choose to camp over at Georges Junction rather than camp closer to the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park or surrounding national parks. It’s because not only is this campsites very attractive to the eye, and has some absolutely awesome water-based activities and opportunities, but it’s actually on a New South Wales Travelling Stock Route. That means it’s Crown Land that’s been set aside for stock, along with recreational use, so it’s much less restricted than national park camping. That means the dog can come along for the ride as well – you beauty!
The Georges Junction Camp Reserve is about 80km east of Armidale, NSW.
Visit the Walcha NPWS park office at 188W North Street, Walcha, for keys to the Youdales Hut and Stockyards historical site.
Check out the full feature in issue #94 November 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.