Victoria continues to shock me in delivering spectacular camp sites that are low cost, or free and Aire Crossing in the Great Otways National Park is up there with some of the best that we’ve done so far.
In WA we are spoilt for choice when it comes to amazing coastal camping, but Victoria is a whole different world and has so much incredible camping inland, and we are completely and utterly in love with it.
After a one night stay at Aire River West campground (as that was all that was available!), we departed on a Saturday morning, in search of another camp site until the weekend blew over. The thought was that things would quieten down during the week, and whilst I’m sure there is some truth to this the Great Ocean Road appears to be a seriously busy part of the world, regardless of when you go.
Before we go into the campground though, I want to encourage you to spend some time inland from the Great Ocean Road as well. Yes, the main attraction and one that is always talked about is the Great Ocean Road, but the inland sections (especially inland Great Otways National Park) are truly amazing, and who knew there is Rainforest in Victoria?!
Where is Aire Crossing Campground?
This beautiful campground is located north of Cape Otway, directly East from Princetown and roughly 14km from Lavers Hill, on the Great Ocean Road. It also appears to be at the bottom of a fairly substantial gully.
How do you get to Aire Crossing Campground?
There’s a couple of ways to get to Aire Crossing, but not all of them are suitable for every type of vehicle, so make sure you know the way in. If you come in from the West, via Johanna, there is a sign that says not suitable for buses, caravans and trailers, which rules out a massive number of people travelling.
If you come from the North via Colac-Lavers Hill Road then there is a sign that says no caravans, and its fairly windy, narrow and gravel. This is the way that we entered in with our Hybrid Camper and had no issues, but it is a tight squeeze meeting any oncoming traffic, and you’d be silly to drive anything big down here.
Apparently you can also come in via Halls Ridge Road, which is 4WD accessible only. I wouldn’t recommend this though, unless you’re an experienced 4WD owner with some substantial clearance and good tyres!
Do you need a 4WD?
There were mainly 2WD vehicles at Aire Crossing Campground, which I was surprised about. We are talking Toyota Corollas and Mazda 3’s too, with limited clearance. There was a grader parked off the road from the north, so it clearly gets looked after, and if you take it slowly, and drive sensibly you should have no issues in a 2WD.
From the Aire Crossing though, you either turn around and drive back up the windy hill, or you need a 4WD to continue.
Is Aire Crossing Campground Caravan or Motorhome friendly?
It’s fair to say that Caravans are not suitable to be taken here. You’d probably get one in (if there was space) if you didn’t meet anyone else, but even trying to turn it around near camp would be a whole heap of fun.
We did see a motorhome coming out of the campground, which says its possible, but I’m probably not going to advise it. Even our tiny Hybrid Camper didn’t have much room to fit in camp site number 4, and it takes up very little room.
If you have a small footprint camper trailer, tents, swags, a small motorhome, roof top tent or on vehicle camper you should be perfectly fine, providing there is space.
What is the Aire Crossing Campground really like?
This campground is stunning. There really is no other description for it. You’re camped amongst massive trees, but also sort of a rainforest, and from the campground you can hear water rushing down the river.
On the flip side, the camp ground is tiny. It has 5 formal sites, all around the 3.5m x 7m mark, with some of them not even large enough to have your vehicle nearby.
Arriving on a Saturday morning at about 10AM and seeing the size of the campground I took a few photos before heading back to the car, realising we’d have to find somewhere else to camp. However, as I turned around I spied a tiny section that looked quite open, and I wondered if it might have been a free site.
Sure enough, site 4 was vacant, and whilst it was probably the worst one to back into with a trailer, I said to Sarah we had to grab it and she quickly agreed.
Not only was the site large enough for our camper, but we could easily leave our vehicle out of the way in front of the camper (which meant accessing our fridge was easy), and the kids had an amazing little cubby house behind our camper. We also had a fair bit of room on the other side to relax, which was unreal.
That night though, there were about 9 groups of people jammed into the campsite, despite there only being 5 designated camp spots, and one of them had a huge number of people with a mini fold out house that was set up in the car park, so it can be busy.
Night two was just us and two others, and it was much more enjoyable, but if you can get this place to yourself it would be stunning.
You can walk down to the crossing, which is literally about 50 metres away, and its nothing short of stunning. Water cascades down a myriad of falls before landing in a big pool lined with fern trees, shadowed by huge trees way up above.
In short, if you get a spot at this place, its absolutely brilliant, and our initial thought of only staying one night quickly changed to two nights.
Amenities at Aire Crossing Campground
There’s a decent drop toilet here, about 100 metres away from the camp up a scenic little pathway. There’s also a water tank full of untreated rainwater, that a lot of people were using for washing dishes.
Mosquitos and leaches
Not long after arriving I was wondering if we’d see any mosquito’s, as it seemed like good territory for them. Sure enough, we saw a handful on day 1, and then a few more on day two. Interestingly Sarah didn’t get bitten, and I did, which is not the norm.
Oliver was also playing in the ferns one afternoon when he let out an almighty yelp, saying ‘there’s a worm on me!’. This was a small black leach that was going crazy, and I have no doubt that they would be around the area, so check yourself as needed!
What does Aire Crossing Campground cost?
From what we’ve seen, Victoria seems to be leading the charge when it comes to National Parks. Not only is there no parks pass required to enter these amazing places, but they have a huge number of free campgrounds, like Aire Crossing. There are zero national park campgrounds in Western Australia that are free, and we’ve already stayed at a handful in Victoria, which is awesome.
When you are paying $30 a night at the Princetown Recreation Grounds (which is really good value), and then $50 – $85 a night at caravan parks along the Great Ocean Road, it makes this place a gem.
What can you do in the area?
There’s a number of attractions that you can do near Aire Crossing Campground. The Halls Ridge Road was high on our agenda (any 4WD track always is!), but you can also take the Young Creek Track to Triplet Falls, or head out to Little Aire Falls, Hopetoun Falls, Beauchamp Falls and The Redwoods (giant trees).
Halls Ridge 4WD track
If you continue past Aire Crossing campground, you’ll start on the Halls Ridge 4WD track, and we headed off for a bit of a look one afternoon. The track starts off easy enough in the dry, and you soon arrive at a heap of mud, and it just gets muddier and muddier the further you go.
We’ve got a dedicated post on this which you can read, but its a great 4WD track
Would we stay again?
Sometimes I think that camp sites that deliver the unexpected are the most enjoyable, and we fell completely and utterly in love with Aire Crossing Campground. The peace and quiet, running water, perfect campsites and scenery make it truly amazing, and when its completely free you literally can’t ask for anything better.
We’d highly recommend a night or two here, but arrive early if you want a spot!