Finding a decent place to camp within an hour from Sydney in native bushland, on the water and not too over run with people, on a weekend is nigh on an impossible ask. After scouring maps and national park websites we eventually settled on Basin’s Landing in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. We hoped a two-night stay would allow enough time to connect with nature.
Getting To Basin’s Landing
A unique feature of Basin’s landing is that arrival is almost exclusively by ferry. Departing from Palm Beach wharf, the Fantasea Ferry service operates an hourly service from Palm beach to Basins landing. The ferry performs an essential connection to civilisation for residents and a very accommodating service for campers.
Many weekend campers laden with gear efficiently stow it in designated spaces on deck. The short 20 minute trip to Basin’s landing is scenic, passing sailing ships and dodging the occasional seaplane. It’s all hands on deck on arrival with a human chain formed to unload everyone’s equipment to save what would be an otherwise chaotic and unruly process.
Getting Orientated at Basin’s Landing Campground
We were met at the dock by the friendly park rangers who checked each groups booking and gave a few instructions to enjoy our time at Basin’s Landing. The campsite area occupied half of Basin’s landing which is a large grassed area about 500m long by about 300m wide divided into two sections. An overnight camping area and an area for day visitors.
We were on the 2pm ferry on a Saturday and the camping was about three-quarters full. Still there was plenty of space and as there was no marked sites we were free to put the tent anywhere within the camping area. While it was a little close quarters for our objective to ‘get away from it all’ for a weekend so close to the city it was still a nice escape. Luckily for us we were in for two nights and keen to compare what the ‘off-peak’ experience would be like on Sunday night.
For a campground that feels remote, the facilities were pretty well equipped. There were flush toilets and a shower block (albeit a cold shower). There were vending machines selling cold drinks, snacks, ice-blocks, even an espresso machine! Mobile coverage was solid and a secure charging station accommodated up to 10 devices at a time.
Ice was sold by the ranger twice a day (9:45am & 2:45pm) and free electric BBQs were available at both the north and south end of the campground. Taps with drinkable water were also scattered around retty frequently. There were enough trees to get natural shade with views of the water. Swimming was available either in the open bay or in the more sheltered waters of the basin which was free of any motorised watercraft.
In the late afternoon, local wallabies make their way to the grass in search of a snack, so too waddling groups of ducks and also the ever-present goannas who roam like miniature dinosaurs across the grounds, tongues flicking in and out to get the lay of the land. There was even a red-bellied black snake spotted slithering into the bush on one occasion.
As subsequent ferries arrived, more campers filled the remaining spaces between the existing city of tents. It got pretty crowded so not the same idyllic campground we were aiming for. Still, everyone was in good spirits and enjoying themselves and at least during our stay there was no loud or unruly behaviour. Most were pretty quiet after 11pm and the rangers run a night watch service and are in contact with water police should anything get too out of hand.
Hiking from Basin’s Landing
The next morning, we took a hike up the hill into the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Our first stop after a steep 2.5km was the Guringai aboriginal carvings which is also close to West Head Road. These consist of many figurines carved into a flat sandstone clearing. It is actually possible to park your car here and walk down to Basins Landing campground, but it is steep so it would be a hard slog back up the hill with all your gear in tow!
We headed back down to the coast via a different route towards Mackeral Beach. We were determined to reach the coast and loop back to Basins landing, even through the trail seemed determined to keep us on the clifftop. We reached Sinclair Point with 270 degree views of Pittwater high on the cliff. A route then seemed to wind down the cliff to the water far below.
Eventually this trail forked. It was a left to Mackeral Beach and a right to Currawong Beach which eventually continued back to Basins Landing. Walkng along the rocks was possible at low tide.
Sunday night solitude
Arriving back to camp in the afternoon and there were only 4 other tents other than our own remaining. A few day-trippers were still about. A massive contrast to the Saturday experience. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. A nice sea breeze came across from Palm Beach and an afternoon siesta under the shade of a tree was a perfect relaxing afternoon, keeping an eye out for wandering goannas of course!
We departed on the Monday morning. We were the only campers on board and the few locals heading out for the day were the only other passengers. We got a further tour of Currawong and Mackeral Beach via the water before arriving back at Palm Beach.
Basins Landing was a great campsite. Definitely better during off-peak times, but still not a terrible experience if you can only manage a weekend stay. It is close to civilisation, yet feels very far removed. It’s well-equipped and easy to access, yet not too easy that it has been destroyed from over-use. Let’s hope it stays that way!
Key Information: Basins’ Landing Campground
- Bookings essential: Book campsites online via the National Parks Website – cost $34 per campsite
- Ferry Schedule: Fantasea Cruises run the ferry service. Tickets can be purchased on board or across the road from the Palm Beach Ferry Wharf – cost $16 per person return.
- BBQs: There are 8 electric BBQs and about the same wood-fired BBQs. Wood is available from the Ranger. There might be a wait on Saturdays to use the BBQs so consider bring your own stove.
- Picnic Tables: There are a few picnic tables near the BBQs but best to bring a small table and chairs.
- Wildlife: The Goannas, Wallabies and Ducks are all pretty tame and harmless if left alone. Keep food and waste secured to keep them from coming too close.