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Yep – Rapid Bay campground certainly does get busy!
Most people in South Australia already know about Rapid Bay campground. It’s a popular camping spot right on the beach that has become a popular weekend destination. It’s not surprising with its gorgeous protected turquoise water for swimming, perfect for taking the tinny out for a run or fishing off the newly developed jetty. But this all comes with a warning during busy periods and school holidays.
We’ve been lucky with a few previous stays at Rapid Bay. Even on a public holiday in October, when we thought it would be busy, the weather was just cool enough to prevent it from overfilling.
Rapid Bay is a campground and not a caravan park. It is, therefore, more open to party-goers and people looking to have a good time into the night. You only have to read the comments on WikiCamps to see other’s experiences are hit and miss. Some can’t recommend it enough, even during busy periods, some wouldn’t go back if it was the last place on earth!
There is no ‘manager’ as such on site. Instead, there are a couple of caretakers who come round for the campsite money, empty bins, clean toilets, etc. But we’d be lying if we said this campground isn’t known to the police. One good thing from reading others’ comments is that the police are quick to attend when needed. And they do attend, which is the main thing.
We’re not writing this post to put people off (we’re not secretly trying to make it super quiet for when we want to visit!). It’s just that being prepared can help for a more enjoyable experience. It’s an honest review of what we encountered – what to expect and how to avoid disappointment.
Our recent visit to Rapid Bay between Christmas and New Year
We had a few days off between Christmas and New Year, so we decided to make the most of it and head down to the campground. It is a good value camping with a beachfront location.
It’s worth taking note of the different weather and temperature patterns compared to Adelaide. Although reasonably close, just 100km from Adelaide CBD, the temperatures can be vastly different, and the wind kicks up pretty wildly through the Rapid Bay valley.
We took some of our tips on coping with a busy campground and headed down around midday. After driving around twice, we were almost on the verge of giving up and going elsewhere. It was packed, and it looked like people were settled in for the New Year.
As a last resort, we drove further past the campground entrance to the beach car park entrance just to have a look. Doing this gave us a slightly different perspective of an area right on the far north corner, on the grounds parameter. It was big enough for what we needed, and glad we took a third look!
Out of courtesy to the guys next to one side of this area, we double checked they were ok with us setting up camp here. Of course, we didn’t need to do this, but it’s just a good thing to do, especially as our camp was going to block their view of the beach from their swags. It came at a cost though – a deal to partake in a game of beer pong once we’d set up! Not a bad deal, and they even came over to give us a hand!
Our new neighbours on the other side were not around to say hello to, but we were on the back of their spot so no real issues there.
Where is the best place to set up camp?
Given that we didn’t have a choice this time around, we would not actually recommend pitching up in this far north corner. Here are our reasons for this:
- No shelter from the wind
- No shade shelter
- A lot of dust comes over from cars going in and out of the car park
- The car park attracts a lot of attention, people walking through, cutting through the side of the camping spot, drunken rendezvous, etc.
- In busy periods, people camp for a few hours in the car park late at night before heading off early in the morning (and being told they can’t camp there)
- It’s the furthest away from the toilet!!
On the plus side though, it has an uninterrupted view of the beach and ocean as the beach ramp is just in front of this spot.
We did set up our camp as best we could – using an additional car from a friend who joined us to help protect against the wind and set up in a way it was difficult for people to cut through.
If you do have more of a choice, head more south of the campground towards the jetty. It’s more sheltered. Head further back in the ground, you’ll find more grass and trees, but less of a view. It just depends on what works for you. On a side note though – further back of the park seems to attract larger groups.
Still pumping after midnight
We expected there to still be some noise and movement after midnight, but not as much as there was. To be fair, it was not as bad as some of the reviews, but the main concern was people still looking to pitch up after this time. Who were drunk. Who were loud.
The following morning and there were camps set up the size of mansions in areas we didn’t even think were campable (i.e. the road!).
We had some guys who we thought were going to attempt to get in next to us, but the problem was there really wasn’t any room for a swag, let along anything else. At 2am, shouting to their mates about it startled us more than anything. Thankfully they gave up on the idea.
And guess who the idiot was who forget our earplugs? Yep, me! They would have saved a lot of waking up.
Too close for comfort
Naturally, we want everyone to be able to fit into the campground and have a good time. However, we, unfortunately, had one family decide to pitch their 6 person tent right next to us. There was nothing really we could have said to stop them, but if it had been us, we personally wouldn’t have pitched up there. It was just too small.
We have always use a rule of thumb. If your guy ropes are overlapping someone else’s (who you don’t know), you are too close.
We heard this family snore. All night. Each and every person. Oh, and sing. Randomly. And we don’t mean a good type of singing either.
Camping when hearing others snoring is one of those things that really puts us off. Puts us off campgrounds like this, and even caravan parks where you can be a bit close for comfort.
I guess, really, it just makes us appreciate bush camping more and the privacy it often offers.
Rapid Bay campground tips
Here are a few things you can do to make this whole experience easier:
- Get there as early as you possibly can during busy periods
- Give the contact number for Rapid bay campground a ring to see if they are full – (08) 8598-3003 (this number is not manned constantly)
- Consider alternatives in the area such as Second Valley Caravan Park (this place is very popular and needs to be booked well in advance), Deep Creek Conservation Park (which requires booking in advance), BIG4 Port Willunga Tourist Park, Beachside Holiday Park Normanville or aircamp is now getting more and more locations join their database
- Some often use the WikiCamps app to ask the question if it is busy on a certain day, but this does not often end up with a response
- If you are heading to Second Valley for the day, get their early as parking is limited
- If you can sacrifice the beach view, head towards the rear of the campground for more shelter
- Use your vehicle to prevent noise, lights or others trying to squeeze in spaces that are too small at night
- Use an aluminium foil sheet over the top if you are in a tent to stop a lot of the headlights and torch lights coming in at night
- Take earplugs!
But most of all, enjoy. Try not to let anything stress you out – it’s not worth it! Everyone is there to have a good time in their own way and it’s a perfect spot to enjoy a part of South Australia.
Have you had a good or bad experience at Rapid Bay campground? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.
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