Australia, Camping

Off-Grid Camping in the Nariel Valley

Nariel Valley, a tranquil rural Victorian region located south of Colac Colac and around 296kms north-east of Melbourne. The area is noted for its peaceful beauty, colourful hills, a picturesque creek and valuable cattle and dairy farmland.

Many people around Australia will know the valley for the ‘Nariel Valley Folk Festival’. This event started in the early sixties, making it the longest running festival of its kind in Australia. Being a not for profit community event the artists perform without charge during the Christmas to New Year period. It is held at the Nariel Creek Recreational Reserve, 12 kilometres south-west of Corryong.

Nariel Creek Recreational Reserve

Nariel Creek Recreation Reserve has long held a special place in my heart. My husband grew up in Corryong and his parents had been involved with the festival for many years, with his Mum playing the accordion. I was introduced to the Reserve on our first family camping trip as it was a safe place to take young children. It offers a spacious grassed area alongside the creek with many shade trees for the hotter months. One end of the reserve is further away and fenced off from the banks of the creek, making it a safer spot for small children.

Since 2011, we have camped at Nariel a total of eleven times in our tent, camper trailer and more recently our caravan. It holds so many memorable moments for us and our extended family who on many occasions camped along with us. So what makes this place so special?

Aside from the natural beauty of the scenery and the fresh running creek, Nariel reserve offers a low cost option at just $5/night to camp off-grid in a safe well maintained environment. The camp fee, paid into an honesty box on site, covers the upkeep of the camp grounds, the use of drop toilets, water (not suitable for drinking) and fire pits. It is advisable to bring your own fire wood although on many of our trips fire wood had been left behind or donated by other campers. There is a fenced off section within the reserve with picnic tables, an undercover area and the stage used during the festival.

Even during the busier holiday periods (not including the festival period) due to the size of the reserve you never feel on top of anyone else. The expanse of the area also makes it suitable for all types of camping accommodation including caravans and big rigs. You won’t need to back up into a tight spot here!

The biggest drawcard to the reserve is the ability to camp right next to the creek. Nariel Creek gently meanders its way through the campground, offering swimming holes as well as safe shallow areas for younger children. It is also a great place to throw in a fishing line, although due to recent bushfire activity there are very few fish at the present time.

One of the greatest pleasures whilst camping off-grid is having a campfire. Fires should never be lit during total fire ban days, check the CFA website for up-to-date information. Please make sure that you keep the fire contained and have access to water nearby. Collection of firewood is permitted in certain places during autumn and spring, click here for more details.

If you find yourself travelling through this magnificent region make sure you stay at Nariel Creek Recreation Reserve and check out this wonderful spot for yourself as I’d love to hear about your experiences too.

Happy Camping!!

Australia, Camping

Our Camping Evolution

One of my greatest pleasures in life aside from travelling to other countries is to set up a campsite somewhere in Australia. I love the resourcefulness that comes with setting up your own accommodation and living with a minimalistic amount of stuff. It’s also very economical especially when we go ‘off grid’ and bush camp.

As soon as my youngest child started to walk we decided to invest in a Coleman twelve man tent. Yes, you read that correctly, twelve man! Why you ask would we need a twelve man tent for four people? Our reasoning was that we would have our children in one section we’d sleep in another section and the third would be for storage, getting dressed or a place for us to sit if the weather was inclement. We loved our tent and we had so many great adventures.

Coleman Tent collage

As the children grew, as they have a tendency to do, we had to create more space in the car for our camping needs. First a cargo barrier was installed so we could stack the boot to the highest point and a few years later a roof rack. We were loaded to the maximum and we still needed more space! It was time to make a decision, purchase a box trailer or make the bigger leap and upgrade to a camper trailer. The camper trailer won and we purchased a second hand 2004 Jayco Swan.

Our first Swan seemed so luxurious and it was a breeze to set up, usually taking us around 20 minutes. The layout of a Jayco Swan has not changed very much since they were first produced in 1975 proving that they are a great design. The advantage of these campers is they are lightweight, compact and easy to tow and once set up they provide plenty of space and storage. They offer a queen and double bed at each end and a dinette that can also convert to a single bed. The swan compared to other models has the added bonus of a club lounge and a wardrobe.

Jayco Swan Layout

I loved that everything we needed for a trip away was stored inside the van, kitchen utensils, pots, cutlery, plates, lanterns, bedding, it was all ready to go. The only items we needed to pack were clothes and food.

After experiencing a couple of trips we decided to explore our options for an ‘off grid’ set up. The van already had a 60 litre water tank, just enough for cooking and washing up for a week. We considered purchasing solar panels and having 12 volt plugs installed so we could charge devices and battery operated items. It was at this time that we saw a 2012 Jayco Swan for sale that had all the ‘off grid’ features we wanted. Our 2004 van sold quickly and on December 24th 2014 we purchased our second swan.

Our 2012 Jayco Swan

Our newest edition had a 90W solar panel on the roof and a battery system to run the led lights, bed fans and charge devices through a usb port. It enabled us to camp off grid for longer, although it soon became apparent that water storage was our weakest component. Nevertheless we managed to camp in remote spots for up to 7 days before needing to access additional water.

After numerous trips in our camper trailer and endless great memories it was becoming clear that as a family we were outgrowing this set up. Our son and daughter were at the age where they needed their own space and seperate beds. For a short time we persisted and used the dinette as single bed for our son but on wet days we would have strip the bedding to use it as a table. It was time to start thinking about our future needs.

My husband and I had always talked about purchasing a caravan for our retirement years to travel more of Australia. We considered a family van but soon realised our years of camping with children were numbered. Then the pandemic hit and we were in a lockdown, unable to get away for our usual autumn camping experience. It gave us some time to think about what we really wanted and it always came back to the same decision, we wanted a two berth caravan. You’re thinking ‘what about your children?’, well after many discussions with them they decided they would be happy in their own swag.

Welcome to our new caravan, the Crusader Lifechanger Passenge 2020.

In November 2020 we purchased our Crusader through RV World Albury Wodonga as it is a local dealership and they offered outstanding customer service. On collection day they spent around two hours taking us through step by step on how everything works, tips on loading the van and assistance with hitching. We were excited and nervous all in one and driving it home for the first time was a massive learning experience. For all the specifications and features on the Crusader Lifechanger series click here.

It is truly exciting to begin a new phase of our camping evolution, there is so much knowledge to acquire and many challenges to overcome but we are going to enjoy every minute along the way. I can’t wait to share all our discoveries and knowledge, I’d also love to hear about other people’s camping evolution.