Camping on Wallis Lake, Sundowner Tiona, NSW

The Unlikely Camper

October 11, 2012

in blog trip, camping, Nature, New South Wales

Full House was in its sixth season. Bill Clinton was in his first term as President. Kurt Cobain was still alive.

That’s what was going on in my world the last time I went camping.

So when I was recently invited to suss out two Sundowner Tourist Parks on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales to show how you can spend less than $500 for a weekend away, the 10-year-old, giggly Girl Scout in me cheered while the 30-year-old, comfort-loving woman in me cringed.

Me – in a tent? I just couldn’t picture it.

I’m not a particularly girly girl. I like the outdoors. I’m not even that clean. In fact, sometimes I downright smell. But I don’t like discomfort. And I am what my friend Tom once coined a “diva sleeper.” Since the age of 8, I’ve required a fan going at all times when I sleep. As I’ve gotten older, an eye mask has become necessary every night and I sometimes wear earplugs because the littlest noise can wake me up (except, of course, the fan). And I get spooked kind of easily. Woods scare me. Not being behind a locked door scares me.

So sleeping on the ground behind frail flaps of fabric, many metres from a bathroom with “hygiene lite” as my only bathing option for days seemed both uncomfortable and a bit frightening.

So how did I fair going on my first camping trip in 20 years? Surprisingly, amazingly well.

Camping doesn’t just involve the woods

This is the picture that greeted us when we arrived at Sundowner Tiona Tourist Park. And this spot is exactly where we set up camp.

Wallis Lake, Tiona, NSW

During my handful of times camping as a kid, it was in the straight-up woods — the kind where Leatherface springs from the trees and chases you with a chainsaw. No pretty, peaceful lake. Just serial-killer-harboring woods.

I learned that this was Wallis Lake, part of Booti Booti National Park. This area is just northeast of Myall Lakes, which I discovered last winter. Many people I know — born Sydneysiders included — don’t know this kind of secluded serenity is waiting for them four hours up the coast.

And if the glistening lake isn’t enough, right across the road is Seven-Mile Beach. Relatively secluded, it’s a prime spot for fishing and surfing — you can even get the Sundowner Tiona team to cook up a beachside barbecue lunch for you. And to punctuate that perfect picture, there’s a chance you’ll spot whales breaching quite close to the shore. Our group spotted a trio of them roughly 100 metres out to sea, certainly the closest I’ve ever seen them.

Seven Mile Beach, Tiona, NSW

Tents have come a long way…in my world

The last time I camped, it was in a standard tent held up with poles and held down with pegs. That’s the only way I thought it possible to do the camping thing. It didn’t occur to me that there are different types of tents and that they aren’t always flimsy and exposed.

Then I was introduced to the OzTent. Funnily enough, this tent hit the market the year after my last camping trip, so it’s not necessarily a new thing. Rectangular in shape rather than dome or ridge and made of a poly-cotton canvas with double-stitched seams, these tents popped up in just a few steps without the need to insert poles — they have an internal frame that stretches out to keep the tent erect.

The OzTent makers claim the average Joe or Jane should be able to set up their tents in 30 seconds. It wasn’t quite so quick for me and the two others young ladies I asked to help me, but the end result  was sturdy and roomy.

Camping on Wallis Lake, Sundowner Tiona, NSW

You don’t even have to sleep on the ground!

Our tents came with a stretcher bed that looked bit suspect until I actually curled up in sleeping bag on top of it. It felt like a real bed. I could even toss and turn without feeling like I was going to break it or fall out. I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d slept at home. OK, so I did wear my customary eye mask and earplugs to stop the sounds of the rustling leaves from freaking me out that a serial killer or dingo was about to rip into my tent and kill me.

So there you have it — a successful night camping for the first time since 1992. Did I do as well the second night? Stay tuned to find out.

Camping — do you love it or loathe it?

I was a guest of both Sundowner Tiona and Sundowner Port Macquarie, however, all opinions on the tourist parks, camping gear and activities are my own.

18 Comments - Add Yours!

    1. Lauren Post author

      Amanda, it is one souped-up beast! Lake Erie sounds like it would be amazing — would you ever came in the fall, or prefer to wait till spring/summer?

  1. Rebecca

    Camping has changed loads since I was a kid too! I wasn’t sure how I could handle two weeks of it in Alaska (where bears can eat you before you even know what is going on!!) and it was really good. Between the easy of tent set up and air mattresses, most of the group would have rather slept in tents then huge bunk houses any day.

    1. Lauren Post author

      You are a badass for camping in Alaska. Did the tent keep you pretty warm? Someone mentioned on this trip that they brought an air mattress, before we knew we got stretcher beds — I never would’ve thought of that! I wonder if some camping purists think that’s selling out?

      1. Rebecca

        The sleeping bag does most of the work and having two people in the tent is extremely helpful in keeping warm. I think mattress are standard these days. They are so small and are so helpful, I doubt purest have issues. And if they do, whatevs!

  2. Annie @ Go Camping Australia

    Congrats on surviving the wilds of camping! I was very much a non-camper (the thought of no bathroom close by sent me into a spin), but its amazing how we can adapt to changing environments and actually enjoy them!

    I think its all about being comfortable (and warm), which you had on this camping trip. If you get that wrong, then your camping trip can be a miserable experience, and a lot of people have had that, and it puts them off camping for life.

    As for me, I have gotten over my “must have bathroom” need, and now love camping and the freedom it gives me and my family. Plus once you have all the equipment, its a cheap way to get away for a holiday!

    So when is your next camping trip????

    1. Lauren Post author

      Hi Annie — thanks a lot! You are right, a lot of the issue is probably that people psych themselves out before such a trip instead of just going with the flow and adapting. I can totally see now how camping is an affordable and flexible way to travel and see places. Brendan and I have talked about getting a group together in the coming months, and we definitely are considering it for when we travel to the Outback, which will hopefully happen in the first half of next year. What camping trips do you have coming up?

  3. Jade -

    haha i knew you didn’t camp alot but I didn’t know you had such strong feelings!! Im a little bit afraid of the woods and things that go bump in the night as well…. my one suggestion to you – don’t ever watch the movie “dead snow” about kids being chased through the woods by nazi zombies. It pretty much ruined my camping experiences for the next year following my viewing

    1. Lauren Post author

      Yeah, I really was freaked out that first night by the rustling of the leaves! I will add this movie to my list of “Not to Watch” along with Wolf Creek and others like it.

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  5. Terri

    Hey you! I am so behind on my blog reading but I have to note two things:

    1. Nick also MUST sleep with a fan on at all times. Is this a Bricktown thing?
    2. Last year we went camping on one of the hottest weekends all year (yeah, I don’t know why either) and it turned out we had electric hookup at our site. So Nick brought a fan for the tent. True story.


    1. Lauren Post author

      Wow, that is amazing — I think the four of us need to go camping if only for Nick and I to indulge in our fan quirks 🙂 Hope all is well — can’t wait to see you in a few months for a fist-pump-filled wedding.

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  7. Suzy

    I am definitely more of “a cabin is my form of camping” kind of girl. However that tent looks far better than just sleeping on the ground!

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