Rapid Bay; insane coastal camping in South Australia

There are a few places in South Australia that we expected to be really, really good and Rapid Bay was one of them. We’d heard from a huge number of people that it is absolutely magic, and our folks had stayed a few months prior to us and raved about it too, so the expectation was high when we rolled up.

We knew it was going to be busy as well though, with our stay booked for early in January when its peak season, and it absolutely was, but the destination more than made up for it.

Rapid Bay views
Rapid Bay is one of the most spectacular places we’ve ever been to
Views from camp at Rapid Bay
Amazing views from our camp site at Rapid Bay

Where is Rapid Bay?

This truly incredible location is just under 100km from Adelaide, or about an hour and a half by car. It’s also 13 minutes from Cape Jervis, and 43 minutes from Victor Harbor.

Lining up for the Ferry to Kangaroo Island
A lot of people heading to Kangaroo Island stay at Rapid Bay

What is at Rapid Bay?

Rapid Bay is home to a fairly large campground, a couple of houses, an oval, day use area and a big, beautiful jetty. It’s also at the bottom of a number of huge, rolling hills that are so beautiful they take your breath away. The beach at Rapid Bay is turquoise, with great sand and a clearness that is hard to comprehend.

Rapid Bay Camping
Rapid Bay is on one of Australia’s nicest beaches
Amazing water colour at Rapid Bay
Despite being cold, the water was incredible

We’ve seen a lot of stunning places over the years, and Rapid Bay had me thinking we were in another country all together at times. Being able to camp so close to the water in an easy accessible camp site that is nothing short of beautiful is exactly why its become so popular.

Rapid Bay Campground
It’s one big, beautiful campground

What does it cost to camp at Rapid Bay?

Camping is $12.50 per adult per night, and $7.50 per child between 5 and 12, but the rates do go up over long weekend and holidays. We paid $30 per night for two adults and a child over 5, and one under 5 in January 2022, and didn’t question the pricing.

Rapid Bay camping cost
The signs at the entry to Rapid Bay

Watch our vlog

Keen to see more? We’ve got a vlog from our visit to Rapid Bay below:

YouTube video

Do you need to book Rapid Bay Camping?

I cannot stress how popular Rapid Bay is, and that means if you want a spot, you need to book it. You can roll up on the day and if its not busy you might get a spot, but there’s a good chance you won’t, and you’ll have to drive off a fair distance to find something else.

We booked our early January camp site more than a month before, and arrived to ‘camp ground full’ signs in multiple places, and it was really busy.

Rapid Bay can be really busy
If you want a spot, you should book; it gets insanely busy

To book, you need to ring Wayne, or message Reena. Reena’s number is 0418 833 653, and Waynes is 0478 117 661. If you don’t get a reply, or the phone isn’t picked up, know that these two do an amazing job and at times are basically run off their socks, so try again later.

On a personal note, we had a few dealings with Wayne and were thoroughly impressed with the way he runs the place, his demeanour and the way he just keeps everything ticking along. We didn’t have much to do with Reena except for a few messages, but I’m sure she does an awesome job too.

Rapid Bay entry
It’s no small feat to run a campground like this, and the caretakers do an amazing job

What amenities are there at Rapid Bay?

The Rapid Bay Campground shares the public toilets at the front of the park. There are only two male cubicles, and a urinal, and it can get fairly busy. There’s BBQ’s at the front of the park as well, along with picnic tables and shelters.

There is water available, but its not potable (drinkable), and you should bring your own for drinking.

With the number of visitors in the area, I am surprised that they don’t use some of the profits to put a few more toilets in, and maybe a shower block.

Amenities at Rapid Bay
There’s some amenities at Rapid Bay, but not a huge amount

How busy does it get?

We generally avoid really busy places, unless we can get in on the off period, but we had no choice with Rapid Bay, and I honestly don’t think you’d be able to get much busier. We arrived and managed to squeeze into the last beachfront site (after speaking with two amazing neighbours), and then watched the park fill up more and more as the day went on.

On the second day we came back to people camping so close to us I could hardly get around our camper (more on that later), but it certainly does get busy in peak periods, and if you don’t have a booking there is zero chance you’ll get in.

Beach front camping at Rapid Bay
It gets really busy at Rapid Bay

On the flip side, if you visit outside of school holidays, and especially during the week you should have no issues getting in. Peak period is always going to be when the weather is best, but its stunning in late spring and early summer when the hills are bright green too.

With business does come more noise, and whilst the campground wasn’t ever rowdy, there was a lot more noise here than what we are normally used to, with people just out and about, enjoying themselves (which is awesome to see).

Rapid Bay views on the beach
On a warm day, the beach is packed with people
Lots of campers at Rapid Bay
Our new neighbours were really close to us!

Do you need a 4WD?

Rapid Bay is one of the easiest to access camp grounds around, with no 4WD required. You come down a fairly long and steep bitumen hill, and turn in towards the camp ground where you can set up on the grass. It’s all nice and flat, and good gravel with no need for a 4WD.

Rapid Bay fishing and boating

Fishing is always popular in South Australia, but there were more rods and fishing gear thrown around at Rapid Bay than I’ve seen elsewhere. Squid in particular were on fire, with people catching a really good feed fairly easily off the jetty every single day. My Dad caught one (and a tentacle!) mucking around off the Jetty, but they are in big numbers.

Rapid Bay Jetty
The jetty is hugely popular for fishing off, and delivers well too
Squid off a jetty
If you are patient you can do well with the squid at Rapid Bay

There were also a lot of boats in use at Rapid Bay. Some people launched off the beach, with the bigger ones being launched around the corner.

Boating at Rapid Bay
There were quite a few boats out and about each day too

Is Rapid Bay good value?

In terms of amenities provided, no, its not good value. However, the views are next level, the beach and jetty are stunning and we really haven’t been to a camp site in South Australia that compares in that way, and so I’m not going to complain about the price at all.

If you went when it was quieter, its probably one of the best camps you’ll ever do, and that makes it decent value. We went when it was packed which was an interesting experience!

Rapid Bay camping
It’s a truly stunning place, regardless of how busy and what it costs

Would we stay again?

There is not even a sliver of doubt that we’d go back to Rapid Bay again. Despite the huge number of people, it rates as one of the best camp sites in South Australia for us, very easily. The sheer beauty impressed me on many occasions, and despite the water being cold (we’ve hardly swum in South Australia!), we had good weather, and really rated the place.

If you are looking for a truly next level camp site not too far from Adelaide, you can’t go wrong with Rapid Bay!

Rapid Bay caves
Views from the Rapid Bay Cave; we’ll be back for more!

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