Talbotville; great free camping near Dargo

The Victorian High Country will forever be one of my favourite places in Australia, and it doesn’t take too long for those visiting to realise why. On our second visit to this absolute paradise, we were on the hunt for somewhere to base ourselves to do three well known 4WD tracks in the area, that was suitable to drag our Hybrid Camper into, and we stumbled across Talbotville.

This is a big, grassy camping area right on the crooked river, with room for hundreds of people to set up and enjoy themselves. So, is Talbotville worth a visit, or not?

Talbotville Camping area
Talbotville is a hugely popular camping area on the Crooked River

Where is Talbotville?

You’ll find this big camping area roughly 32km away from Dargo, up the Dargo High Plains Road, and then down McMillan Road. You can also get to it from the south via the Crooked River Track, and from the north via a number of 4WD tracks that take you out to Blue Rag Range.

Letting tyres down earlier in the Victorian High Country
Stopped on McMillan Road to let the tyres down

Do you need a 4WD to get to Talbotville?

If you come in via Dargo High Plains Road and McMillan Road, you do not need a 4WD. That said, this is very dependent on road conditions and weather, and you’d be mad taking a low clearance 2WD vehicle in if the road is bad, or there’s been any rain.

If you want to come in from any other way, you’ll need a 4WD, and one with a snorkel is a must for the Crooked River Track.

The drive down to Talbotville is pretty steep and long
The drive down to Talbotville is long, narrow and steep

Can you tow a caravan in?

Again, this is an interesting one. I’m going to say unless you are extremely experienced in towing, can reverse well, use your engine brakes carefully and your van is built for a bit of rough road, you should stay elsewhere.

From Dargo, you climb a fairly substantial hill on bitumen, before taking a turn off onto McMillan Road. This is gravel, and starts off quite wide and well maintained on the flat, and then you start to descend. Much of the descent is not suitable for two vehicles, so if you meet someone else coming the other way, one of you is going to reverse until you can find somewhere to pull off. In some stretches, this is a lot of reversing.

Driving from Dargo to Talbotville
The hill from Dargo to Talbotville is pretty brutal

You 100% need to stay off the brakes as much as possible, and use your engine braking coming down, or you’ll cook your brakes. On the way back up, it’s a solid slog towing anything heavy, even in low range.

We left with a fairly cold engine early in the morning, in low range with tyres deflated for the corrugations, and with the heater on we arrived at the top about 20 minutes later with the transmission temperatures sitting at 114 degrees, and that’s with an external transmission oil cooler.

If you don’t have an external cooler (or know how hot your transmission temperatures get), this is one heck of a hill that can cause extensive, permanent damage to your 4WD.

That said, we managed just fine getting down and back up again, and saw a number of smaller vans camped here (like Jayco’s, AOR’s, Forbes and different types of camper trailers). In that regard, with the right vehicle and driver, its a suitable High Country camp for a Hybrid Camper.

McMillan Road is steep and narrow
McMillan Road is steep, long and narrow most of the way

If you’ve got something big and heavy, I’d really reconsider staying here.

The Crooked River at Talbotville
We towed our Reconn R2 in and out easily enough, but its not for the inexperienced

What’s the camping like?

There’s a number of places you can camp at Talbotville. The main camping area that you first arrive at is a huge grassy area that follows the Crooked River, and there’s quite a few options for camping close to the water, and lots more further back.

Talbotville has a heap of camping
There’s lots of camping choice

If you continue along the river you’ll get to some smaller, more private camp sites that lack the grass. From here, you can cross the Crooked River at the main crossing or the one further along, and you pop up into another big area that you can camp on.

Talbotville Camping areas
There’s a couple of other big areas nearby too

You can keep driving up the Crooked River Track to another couple of big areas, and we ended up camping in a spot just a bit further, on the corner of the Crooked River, in a spot where no one else would come, with great creek access and brilliant privacy.

This was a magic camp site, and one that was hard to beat, but even the normal ones at Talbotville are great (just you have others nearby).

Epic camping on the Crooked River
We had a truly magic camp site just further on
Kicking back at camp near Talbotville
You couldn’t ask for a better spot

Watch the mine shafts

There’s a number of signs around the place stating to watch out for mine shafts, and you’ll see green markers pointing them out. I didn’t get too close to any of them, but I suspect you’re wise to stay away (and keep your kids well out of harms way!).

What does it cost, and do you need to book?

Like the vast majority of the Victorian High Country, Talbotville is completely and utterly free, and cannot be booked. It does get busy on the weekends, but there is a crazy amount of room available.

Stunning creek at Talbotville
With so many beautiful spots to explore nearby its no wonder this place gets busy

4WD tracks nearby

Our primary motivation for visiting Talbotville was that it made for a great base to do Billy Goats Bluff, the Crooked River Track and Blue Rag Range. Our Hybrid isn’t suitable to be dragged up these tracks, and we’re not keen on spending hours on end in the car with our two young boys, so a base where we could head off for a few hours and come back made sense.

Base camp at Talbotville
We find it easier to base ourselves somewhere and explore out

Billy Goats Bluff starts about 40 minutes away from Talbotville, and the Crooked River track literally goes through Talbotville. The southern section is easy and picturesque, and the northern section is difficult, and just as scenic, before taking you up Bulltown Spur Track and back onto McMillan Road.

Crooked River 4WD track
We thoroughly enjoyed the Crooked River 4WD track

We were going to do Blue Range Rag track from Talbotville, but when I looked at the maps more carefully, I thought we’d be in the car for 5 – 6 hours return, and that’s pushing the friendship with our kids. Instead, we moved to the stunning Devils Hollow Campground, and drove 15 minutes from there to do the track.

Devils Hollow Campground
We spent a few nights at Devils Hollow Campground after, which was incredible too

Other attractions

Talbotville has a number of other attractions you can check out, which include a huge number of historical sites. 

Is Talbotville worth a stay?

We really liked this place, and ended up spending 4 nights camped up, which is almost unheard of for us. Yes, this was mainly because of access to the 4WD tracks, but it’s a ripper place to pull in and spend a few nights.

Talbotville is fantastic
We’d go back to Talbotville and the Crooked River any day of the week

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