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Sometimes you want to escape the hustle and bustle.
But if your budget doesn’t extend to jetting off to an exotic locale, these six quiet adventures within 100km of Canberra show the beauty of the simple life.
Flea Creek Campground
An idyllic creekside spot near the Goodradigbee river, Flea Creek Campground is one for the fishers, birdwatchers and four-wheel-drivers.
This is a campground in the most liberal use of the term. Sites are unmarked and unpowered so while there are unplumbed toilets and fire pit BBQs, visitors can expect to be entirely self-sufficient otherwise.
Torches and firewood are must-haves, and, of course, for the twitchers – binoculars. During the daylight hours, you might see yellow-tailed black cockatoos, peregrine falcons, olive whistlers or even the endangered pink robin. At night, the Holy Grail will be spotting the threatened Powerful Owl.
In the river, you can tickle trout (or use a rod and reel), for some of the most direct habitat-to-kitchen cooking there is.
Camping at Flea Creek is free and no bookings are required.
With its verandah, fenced garden and idyllic views of mountains, Nil Desperandum (Latin for “do not despair”) is the perfect cottage from which to take in the sights and sounds of the Tidbinbilla Reserve – and to transport you back to a simpler time.
The historic European homestead sleeps up to six on camp stretcher beds. Cold water runs from a rainwater tank into a simple kitchen, lit at night by solar power – though for a more immersive experience, you can’t go past a couple of candles stuck in the top of empty wine bottles.
To make use of the wood stove in the kitchen, and the outdoor fire pit, you’ll have to bring in wood (something to consider if you’re choosing between walking in or driving).
All-wheel-drive is required at the very least, with four-wheel-drive being the ultimate option. Those inclined can walk in, with directions for both provided after booking.
Hire fee is $140 per night with a maximum of six people per group for up to seven nights.
Bookings via tidbinbilla.act.gov.au.
On the southern bank of the Gudgenby River, in the hills of Namadgi National Park, sits a 1920s ready-cut shelter – Gudgenby Cottage.
As far as mountain huts go, it’s one of the more luxurious in the area. There’s a full kitchen, lounge and dining room, and three bedrooms sleeping eight in total.
Electricity and a hot water system are a plus for those who want a more comfortable outback experience, though with no mobile coverage you’ll still be firmly planted in the isolation of the hills.
The cottage is a wonderful base from which to explore the walks, drives, flora and fauna of Namadgi National Park.
Costs for hiring the cottage: $150 refundable key deposit, $500 refundable bond, then $30 per person a night or $15 per person each day.
Blue Range Hut
Built around the heritage-listed remains of an Italian internment camp from World War Two, Blue Range Camp provides a great base to explore the alpine walking trails of northern Namadgi National Park.
The hut itself is sparsely furnished, containing only a picnic table and open fireplace, but there are gas and wood-fired barbeques outside for hut-dwellers and campers alike.
The area around the hut is popular with horse riders, cyclists and walkers, and pets are welcome too, provided they stay on leash.
To hire Blue Range Hut it is $55.40 per night for up to six people. To camp at the site, it is $8 per person a night, free for children under 15. For exclusive use, there is an additional fee of $63.95.
Wee Jasper Reserves
Around an hour’s drive from Canberra, the Wee Jasper Reserves are a collection of campsites below the Brindabella ranges. Once a stopover between Sydney and the Kiandra goldfields, the Reserves now serve as a base for hikers, river-dippers, cave explorers, fishing enthusiasts, geologists (400 million-year-old seabed, anyone?) and stargazers.
While the campgrounds are unpowered, there is potable water at all but one (Carey’s), as well hot showers, toilets and electric barbeques. The kiosk has basic essentials, such as ice and gas, as well as being the place to go for fishing licenses.
There’s a playground for the kids and dogs are welcome on-leash. Relax by the river, wander the hills, and experience the depths of the caves – Wee Jasper has plenty of pleasure to soak in.
Camping is $11 per adult, per night.
Feature image: Nil Desperandum. All images supplied.
This article originally appeared in Magazine: Back to Basics for Autumn 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here.