Often we travel for days to find a perfect camping location but sometimes the best camping destinations can be found right under our noses with a little history thrown in for good measure. Crowdy Bay National Park is a hidden gem that lies an easy 5 hours north of Sydney on the mid north coast. Spotted by Cook as he sailed past in 1770, Cook spotted a group of Aboriginals on the headland and named it Crowded Head, over the years the name soon changed. Crowdy Head, a sleepy fishing village where life slows right down is the perfect place to start a few days relaxation and exploring. Sitting high on the headland above the harbour is Crowdy Lighthouse. Built in 1878 to guide ships through the Manning River it was manned by a lone light keeper until full automation in 1972. It is another great example of an early stone building that has stood the test of time through high winds, rain and the forces of mother nature. Nearby the foundations of the old lighthouse keepers cottage can still be seen. The bay at Crowdy is well protected for the kids to take a dip and there is often some great snorkelling around the surrounding rocks.
Located back down at Crowdy Bay there are several options to be had. When the tide is low it is possible to drive the full length of the beach north to Diamond Head, where you can fish, swim or just explore to your hearts content, but be warned as you need a permit to drive along this stretch of coastline. Another option is to set up camp along one of the many campsites along Crowdy Bay Road. The road starts just out on the towns outer limits where it is well sign posted with all the relevant details. Crowdy Gap is the first campsite that you will come across on your right. A relatively new area there are free gas BBQ's, lots of grassy areas for the kids to roam yet there are still options to camp here wether you have a tent or camper trailer. A formed walking trail leads you down onto Crowdy Beach if you wish for a cooling dip or an afternoon fish.
A well maintained road, Crowdy Bay Road passes through a variety of low coastal heathlands, tea tree swamp lands as well as pockets of paperbark trees. The relatively small park of just 10,000 hectares was declared in 1972, yet before that it was privately owned, had several houses and gardens scattered throughout and there was even a bush racecourse on the western side of the road, which has now all but grown over.
There is nothing hard about Crowdy Bay Road, yet it is advisable to put your lights on, slow down and take a good look around. The biodiversity along here with the flora and fauna is nature at its best. In springtime the coastal flowers make a stunning statement, yet on a hot summer day the black cockatoos call each other from above.
Further along the entrance to Kylies Campground soon appears to your right, there is also 4wd beach access for those who prefer a beach drive looking for a little private fishing spot. Camping here is first in basis, and cannot be booked. The camp ground has several large areas that back onto the adjoining bush, giving a little privacy. There are several drop toilets here but no bins as this deters the pests from making a mess of the rubbish.
A short stroll from the campground will lead you to Kylie's Hut. This timber slab hut was built in 1940 by a reclusive local, Ernie Metcalfe, for Kylie Tennant as a writing retreat. Kylie fell in love with the area and with the story that surrounded old Ernie. She wrote many books from this hut including one on Ernie called The Man On The headland. The hut has been restored by NPWS and there is walk in camping around the hut.
Further along Crowdy Bay road is Indian Head camping area, again very basic with only one drop toilet. The most popular campground ( and indeed very busy during holiday times ) is the Diamond Head Camping area. This section is a little more refined with proper toilets and showers. Although refined you still need to carry in fresh water, firewood and other supplies. Located from Diamond Head are several walks around the base and to the top of the rocky outcrop to the Trig station. Here you have unrelentless views towards the Brother Mountains in the hinterland. Some say roughing it here is great, as you do have the luxury of the campground, yet you can unzip your tent and see the sun rise over the ocean. With kangaroos, possums, goannas and wallabies visiting the camp ground, you will feel like the visitor sometimes. Other activities here include swimming in the crystal clear waters around Diamond Head, fishing off one of the many outcrops or a beach stroll on one of the many pristine beaches located nearby.
It is possible to explore all of these camp areas, Kylies hut and Crowdy all in one day, but you need to ask yourself 'Whats more important, the journey or destination ?'. Crowdy Bay National Park is one of those parks that may not be very big in size, but holds a lot within.
The vegetation at the northern end of the park from Diamond Head camping area soon changes towards eucalyptus forests and thick rainforest sections as you climb a little higher towards civilisation and the end of your journey. This is one local hotspot that will make you come back for more.