Camping at Dalhousie Springs can be magic
At night, you’ll be gobsmacked by the endless ocean of stars, and we guarantee you’ll have your camera snapping the spectacular sunrises and sunsets before running off for a quick swim in the hot springs.
But what is the Dalhousie campground really like? Is it true that it gets really, really crowded? Or that there’s millions of mosquitoes?
This page tells you the good -and bad- things about camping at Dalhousie Springs including our secret camping spot!
In the late 1990s, the South Australian National Parks Service greatly expanded the camping area.
This also coincided with upgrading the roads and the explosion in 4WD tourism in Australia.
Great facilities are one of the reasons that camping at Dalhousie Springs is now so popular.
At Dalhousie, you’ll find:
- Hot showers
- Laundry facilities
- Shade shelters
- Benches to sit on or roll out a swag
The hot showers and toilets and are well-looked after and cleaned regularly.
There is also a nearby rubbish disposal area (not far from the way into the campground ). A payphone is located near the ranger houses.
UPDATE JUNE 2017: South Australian National Parks now require you to book campsites online, in advance.
Click here to go to the SA National Parks website to book a campsite.
Unfortunately, from 2013 you won’t be able to have a fire in Witjira National Park, if you are crossing the Simpson make sure you collect firewood before you enter the Park.
Solid fuel fires are prohibited from the beginning of November through to the end of March. Outside of these dates solid fuel fires are permitted in portable firepits, braziers or similar receptacles only.
Gas fires are permitted other than on days of total fire ban.
This is a change that is no doubt in response to issues surrounding fires but please respect this new requirement.
Besides the restrictions on wood fires, there are a couple of downsides to camping at Dalhousie Shprings that you need to be aware of.
With all these facilities and reasonably good gravel roads, the camping area here is very popular.
We counted 60 vehicles here one July weekend!
Even in March 2010, when it was still 35 degrees through the day, we were shocked to find about 25 vehicles camped here.
More remarkable again was that 2010 was a year when there was a fly plague in the daytime and a mosquito plague at night!
Yes, it’s true there are lots of mosquitoes at certain times of the year. You can either avoid these by visiting in July when it’s very cold and very dry, or take these simple precautions:
- Make sure you’ve got a mosquito dome or tent
- Wear tropical-strength (we mean it!!) mosquito repellant
- Wear light coloured clothing and long sleeves where possible
The good news is that there’s a couple of alternatives for those like us that hate crowded camping areas… And we’ve found one to be mosquito-free!
Alternatives to Camping at Dalhousie Springs
Thankfully, there’s a much quieter camping area only 10 minutes’ drive from Dalhousie, called 3 O’Clock Creek.
This is our ‘secret’ camping spot!
3 O’Clock Creek is a shady, bush camping area, where you can enjoy the serenity of the desert after escaping from the Dalhousie crowds.
As it’s bush camping, there’s no toilets or showers so you’ll have to be self-sufficient in this respect.
However, there is drinking water and a shade shelter.
In reality, for those that don’t enjoy camping right next door to somebody else, 3 O’Clock Creek is a much more pleasant, cooler and less exposed campground than Dalhousie because it’s set along a creek line.
There’s also the amazing Red Mulga with it’s unique Miniritchie Bark that looks like it’s been shaved by a wood plane!
There are also a lot fewer mosquitoes at 3 O’Clock Creek. We’ve camped here in a swag rolled out on the ground, without a mosquito net.
Most people drive right past 3 O’Clock Creek in a hurry to get to Dalhousie and don’t even know it’s there.
The other alternative is Purnie Bore.
Located 51km east of Dalhousie, it’s a great option for those heading into the Simpson Desert, or who are just a little more adventurous.
You’ll definitely need a 4WD to get there.
Purnie Bore is on the very edge of the 1100 parallel sand dunes comprising the Simpson Desert.
Here, you’ll get a taste of the real desert country and might have your heart stolen by the Simpson like us!
Like 3 O’Clock Creek, camping at Purnie Bore is bush camping, and you’ll have to be self-sufficient.
Purnie Bore is a man-made wetland, which was created when a bore was sunk into an underground water source, and let to flow out into the desert.
The bore has been capped (sealed), but still has a small amount of water bubbling up from beneath the ground
Purnie has a thermal hot shower and a toilet for those in need of creature comforts. You can’t swim at Purnie, because it’s become an important conservation area.
Although you can readily tow an off-road camper to Purnie, the track is not suitable for caravans.
Make sure you pick up a Desert Parks Pass before camping at Dalhousie Springs or either of the options we’ve mentioned here.
You can learn more about the Desert Parks Pass here.
More info: Dalhousie Springs home page