If you haven’t been camping at Lake Catani yet then you need to get there! Lake Catani is situated at the top of Mt Buffalo and you are able to camp as well as visit for the day. We had been camping up there once before kids and were itching to get back up there with the kids to take them on the fabulous walks. We took a 3-day weekend and drove to Bright late on the Thursday night (we stayed in Bright). This meant we had 3 full days to enjoy ourselves, and we loved every minute of our family time together, hiking, camping, sitting by the campfire and swimming in the lake.
Mt Buffalo is a good 3.5 or 4 hours from Melbourne so I don’t think we would venture up that way unless we had 2 or 3 nights to make it worth while and not feel rushed.
There are plenty of camping accommodation options in Bright, but for a camping experience under the snow gums you’ll need to head up the mountain to the Lake Catani campground.
To get to the Lake Catani camping area, take the turn off to Mt Buffalo near Porepunkah. Once near the top you will pass a road on your left which heads to the chalet, continue along past the Parks Office on your right to Lake Catani Campground and the Day Visitor area. Lake Catani is approx. 50 minutes from Bright.
It’s quite a windy drive so you might need something to calm any green faces in the backseat. Popcorn and bickies always seem to work for us!
The camping sites here are booked online through the Park Victoria’s Park Stay website. On this website you’ll find a range of bookable Parks Victoria camping areas as well as overnight walks, accommodation and wilderness retreats. You can browse through the categories or we generally use the tab at the top as we tend to already know our dates. You can also enter number of people and either pick a particular site if you know the name or leave it blank and it will bring back a list of all available areas. You are then able to click on each camping/accommodation (etc) option for more information and to make a booking. There are photo’s of each site and information on site size etc.
The Lake Catani camping ground is open from the beginning of November until the end of April. Please bear in mind that there is a ballot system for the peak times. For Christmas this year, the bookings opened on the 1st September at 10am and you were required to book a 7 night (Saturday to Saturday) stay. For other times you can book 12-18 months in advance.
You can even camp at Lake Catani over winter from the Friday of Queens Birthday weekend until the end of August. No camping fees or bookings are required – but I imagine it would be pretty chilly!
The one thing that is a bit annoying with camping at Lake Catani is that there are only a few fire places dotted around the campground. When you are camping with kids you definitely need to have a camp fire close by – you don’t want to be too far away from the kids sleeping. You can see on the camping ground map where the fire places are located – you can find the map here.
The map also classifies the sites as to whether they are suitable for tents or campervans or caravans. All the sites are unpowered and the maximum number of people per site is 6.
We booked sites 50 and 51 even though the closest fire place was a little walk away (this was our best option as many sites were already booked – even on a normal weekend in March) but when we arrived we saw that they had changed the layout slightly and camping site 52, which was across the road, had been made into a little area with a fire and a picnic table – perfect for us! The fire places are there for all to use and you should share with your fellow campers if there is room – we had 8 of us around our fire so there wasn’t any room for others this time.
There are wonderful big boulders dotted around the campsite which kept the kids entertained for long periods of time.
The road winds around the camp ground, and we never saw anybody driving particularly fast, but there is a day area next to the lake, so over the peak periods there may be day visitors driving around the camping area.
There are hot showers, toilets, a basic laundry (no washing machines – just a larger sink) and a small kitchen sink area for dish washing. The toilets and showers were kept very clean. You are not allowed to collect firewood, but you can purchase some from the ranger shed.
Both nights we heard dingos but it was hard to tell how far away they were. The first night I was too scared to go to the toilet in the middle of the night (going to the toilet in the middle of the night is one of the things I don’t like about camping!!!) and when I told the kids the next morning, Olive then told everyone for weeks afterwards I was too scared to get up because I could hear the ‘bingos’!
The lake is freezing but beautiful, and nice for a dip on a hot day. Last time Ross and I took our kayaks which was lovely but a bit of an effort to get them down to the lake, and then it is not overly large to paddle around. This time another lovely camper offered us the use of his boat to take the kids out. I have never paddled in a row boat and we went around in circles a lot! There was a lot of singing row, row, row your boat and the acoustics meant it is very loud, even on the shore – how embarrassing!!
On the way home we stopped at a secret water hole! I am not sure if I should give away the location or not?!?!?! Ok, it’s called Sinclair’s waterhole. Once you think you are nearly there you just need to keep driving a little further and you’ll get there (the first time we didn’t find it as we stopped driving and turned around about 20m too soon – but we were going off a hand drawn map!). There is not much parking so on a busy day you might need to park further up the road. It is dusty and rocky and there are no toilets or tables etc and you need to scramble over the rocks to get to the water. It was freezing but refreshing, the current was quite strong in sections and I imagine quite deep as there were quite a few people jumping high off the rocks. The kids freaked out a bit with the cold and the current. They’ll be more confident next time. I’ll send you directions if you are keen to check it out – just let me know.
We stopped on the way home for dinner at the Milawa pub and sat outside in the shade, which was a great way to finish off the long weekend before the 3-hour drive home. I do much prefer driving home at night these days if it’s a long drive as you really feel like you have made the most of all your time away (and the kids sleep rather than complain!!!!).
Want to read all about the fantastic walks we took the kids on? Check it out here.
Have you camped at Lake Catani? Did you love it as much as us? Please leave me a message below to let me know.