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Whilst we normally head towards the coast, we thought we’d head up one weekend (Oct 2018) to find out what all the fuss was about!
Chookarloo Campground Location
From Adelaide, take the South Eastern Freeway up to Hahndorf, turning towards Echunga and Meadows. Alternatively, take the Main South Road, turning off at Clarendon and towards Meadows. Signage for the campground begins several kilometres away.
Camping and gas BBQs are allowed between 1st April to 30th November.
Wood fires are allowed between 1st May and 31st October.
Get your head around those dates!
There are no powered sites within the campground.
Dogs are allowed, on a leash at all times.
Camping at Chookaloo Campground / Kuitpo forest works on a first in, first served basis. Kuitpo forest camping booking options are not available.
As this is a popular location, we recommend getting there as early as you can, especially if camping on the weekend. We luckily arrived early on a Friday afternoon, when we only just had a handful of ideal tent sites left to choose from. At 5pm, the campground was full and signs were put out.
If you do think you will be running late, a plan B might be a good idea. The Information Centre can be contacted on (08) 8521 1700 if you want to ring ahead and check availability. For other local places to stay, ForestrySA has more information about Mount Lofty Ranges Forests Campgrounds and accommodation available.
If you get really stuck, head west and you’ll find plenty of caravan parks available.
Prices are $5 per adult per night and $2 per child per night (2018 prices).
A self-registration permit is required from the Kuitpo Forest Information Centre, less than 2kms south to 495 Brookman Road (self-registration permit system is available 24 hours a day). So find your spot and head up there to register.
Camping sites at Kuitpo forest
There are 23 designated, unpowered camping sites of varied sizes. Most are reasonably flat, with some bigger sites available for one or more caravans and trees won’t be an issue.
Surrounded by gum trees and pines in the Eucalypt woodland, there is plenty of shade and shelter. They also act as a bit of a screen between sites and generally aren’t too close together (apart from the joint ones!)
There is a newly build toilet block (opened 2018) with another pit toilet available. With it being a busy weekend in the campground, it looks like these were well used. But they are there when needed!
Two timber shelters are available with picnic seating and a rainwater tank (although this was empty on our visit so it’s worth taking your own). Chookarloo and Heysen walking trails are also easily accessible.
Most sites have a fire pit and some campsites have picnic benches within the designated area. We did notice a few campsites where access is restricted to vehicles. Fires are only allowed in designated pits and the Park Rangers do come round to check.
The collection of firewood is allowed within the forest, but be aware that there was not much there – certainly when looking for it on foot. If you plan on having a fire, it’s worth being on the lookout before getting to the forest, to make sure you manage to get some for your arrival.
The closest town is Meadows, just 6km north of Chookarloo Campground, where there are limited facilities, but there is a small shop, or head to Willunga, just 20km south-west for larger facilities and service stations that sell wood.
Our Chookarloo Campground experience
Thankfully arriving early paid off. And it was up to me to set up camp before Sara arrived a little later in the day (I guess someone has to work hey!). We’d borrowed a swag from a friend so I was eager to see what it was all about (first-time excitement will never get the better of me!)
My indecisiveness kicked in for a while as I drove around 3 times trying to find somewhere. I was getting a bit fussy, even though I was only choosing from about 4 available! Stones are too big, ground too dusty, can’t back the car up – bingo! Found it, and thankfully that was because someone was leaving!
We’d heard Kuitpo forest camping is popular with local groups, and they weren’t wrong! A scout group made one area of the forest look like a music festival with its mass of tents all close together. And there were some even younger ones learning new lifelong skills in a pretty cool place!
Due to the space between the sites, it was quiet. By 9pm, you could hear a pin drop. And even during the day, there was nothing but birdsong and the odd reminder of tree leaves rustling around you. Perfect!
We Sara (somehow) managed to keep the fire going most of the weekend! A little bit of excitement meant a broke axe though! And it was the first use of the jaffle iron (thanks for the Christmas present Mum – it’s only taken us 10 months to get to use it!). I’ve never known a toastie taste so good. And campfire bacon…. mmmmmm! There really is something about the taste of food after being cooked on a campfire and one of the reasons we love camping!
We had a cheeky fella pay us a visit who did take us by surprise as he tumbled down the nearby gum tree! That was the first for me while camping!
What is there to do?
On Saturday, we headed into Willunga to the famous Willunga Farmers market. This market is on every Saturday between 8am and 12.30pm and not to be missed if you are in the area. It is by far one of the best open-air markets in South Australia.
There are loads of activities to do within the forest – walking, hiking, mountain biking and horse riding is popular (permits required). The shared trails are family friendly and well signposted. There is also a small creek that runs through the forest, adding fun to the exploring of this tucked away SA beauty.
Chookarloo campground isn’t open much during the warmer months of the year, so it’s understandable why it gets busy. Whilst I don’t think this will change our coastal mentality, it’s certainly worth a stop if you are on your way through.
Have you stayed here before? A lover of Kuitpo forest camping? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!
Water loving British girl who moved to Australia and seriously caught the travel bug! Loves to explore and share destinations that inspire others to spend more time on the water and in the great outdoors. Typically, you’ll find her on a boat or next to the ocean, often in a daydream!