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Why Rapid Bay campground?
Rapid Bay, South Australia was our first ever camping trip that Sara and I took together. It was what gave us the camping bug, and now we want more!
Located right on the beachfront, it is the perfect place to relax and unwind with plentiful views and sounds of the ocean.
The unpowered campground is a large open space, with both grassed areas at the rear and gravelled areas towards the beach. Facilities include coin-operated electric BBQs, play area, toilets and outside cold showers. Large vehicles can access, generators are allowed until 10pm and dogs are permitted on a lead. The downside is that campfires are prohibited all year and you cannot camp on the beach.
Shade is available, but around the only around the perimeter. Water is bought in by truck, so fine to drink once boiled, but during peak periods, ensure you don’t rely on this supply as it may not be available. Tables and benches available near the entrance of the ground.
Rapid Bay is a popular destination with South Australian’s and it’s not difficult to see why. It does get busy during weekends, school holidays and long weekends, so just bear this in mind as it may get a little noisy. There are no site bookings so advisable to get their early, especially for a good spot!
As of 2018, prices are adults $9 per night and children $4.50 per night.
Where is Rapid Bay?
Rapid Bay is in the Fleurieu Peninsula on the east coast of St. Vincent’s Gulf and easily accessible from Adelaide, following signs for Cape Jervis.
It is exactly 100km south from Adelaide CBD, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes drive. It is a scenic route from from the north with some beautiful scenery of the coastline, with some ideal spotting places at Aldinga Beach, Myponga, Yankalilla, Normansville, Second Valley and Wirrina Cove.
From the South, it is located 55km from Victor Harbor, approximately 45 minutes drive with places such as Waitpinga, Newland Head Conservation Reserve, Deep Creek Conservation Park and Cape Jervis all worthwhile places to explore.
The campground is situated at the bottom of a valley, which is what can cause it to become quite windy, but is picturesque with turquoise waters.
For us, the ultimate camping experience is being next to the water, preferably the sea but happy with rivers and lakes, where you have uninterrupted views and the sound of the waves. Perfect.
Although there are quite a few spots along the beaches edge, these are limited. We were lucky to arrive on a Saturday afternoon of a long weekend in October and get a prime location. A number of vans, some pretty big, were set up on the grassed area behind, and it had apparently been windy the night before so they were glad to be set a bit.
As were setting up our hired VW Camper, a passer-by did let us know that it had been pretty windy and it might not be a great idea to be so close to the beach. It was worth the risk!
We had a postcard picture view of the beach and ocean from the window of the camper. Waking up to this view was truly a moment where I thought we were in heaven. This moment has been what has driven us to keep working away at our dream. We will always want more of this.
I must admit that this was the first time I had totally relaxed in a long time. Being outdoors, so close the beach and the ocean made this experience truly memorable. The pounding of the footy balls hitting the ground in the background and whirling of the wheels from bicycles as they went past, just added to the feeling that people were here to enjoy.
Not only was this our first camping experience together, it was also our first unpowered experience together. We hired solar panels with the VW Camper but unfortunately the regulator had died. With a drone I wanted to fly and a phone I wanted to work (although no reception with Vodafone), it meant running the VW to keep pulling the power in.
Running the VW also meant using more fuel. As we didn’t know how much fuel it consumed, we became concerned that we might run out! Sara decided to take the VW to the nearest fuel station in Delamere (just 7kms away, towards Cape Jervis). We’d also run out of milk!
There was one problem with this. Everything needed to be packed up. Everything. Shade and all. It took us a while but we got there. It highlighted straight away to us that travelling the big lap in a camper van of any sort is probably out of the question.
The long weekend was absolutely chilled out. However, the poor Whale that seemed to get slightly lost into gulf waters and trying to navigate around the two jetties made us a little anxious. It wasn’t long before they found their way out, but it certainly caused some attention. Pods of dolphins could also be seen in the distance, reminding us just how luck we are to enjoy a coastline like this.
What is there to do at Rapid Bay?
The new jetty, which was opened in 2009 stands proud next to the old which was damaged in storms several years ago. It is a fisher persons delight with plenty of squid, whiting, salmon, Australian herring (tommy ruffs), snook, garfish and crabs when they are running (September to March) to be caught. Sara had a quick go for an hour or so as I played with the drone, but her patience wore thin after catching nowt! She should have persisted like the group that were out there until midnight!
Beach fishing is also popular and many keen campers had set out their gear for the duration of the evening. And it looks like they got a good feed too! Sara tried a bit later from the beach, but I think the wrong rod became too much of a frustration!
Tinnies and inflatables are easily launched from the beach (by foot, not vehicle) and great for going out fishing, or exploring some of the coves to the north. Head a bit further north and you’ll reach Second Valley and Wirrina Cove, both popular locations.
The bay is also ideal for kayaks and stand up paddle boards. Adventure Kayaking SA offer a ‘high end adventure’ tour around the rugged coastline, meeting the friendly seals, exploring the mysterious caves and pristine isolated beaches. Check out this review for more on what to expect from this tour.
It is a great spot for some swimming and is classed as a relatively safe beach by Beachsafe.
Diving is also popular due to the ease of access, from both the new jetty and the beach. We saw 3 divers taking their inflatable out from the beach on the morning we left. It is a relatively shallow depth and protected from prevailing weather so is ideal for both diving and snorkelling around the jetties, especially as it is known for the leafy sea dragon.
The caves to the north of the beach are also good for exploring, although the coastline limits the distance that can be walked. Head into Rapid Bay itself, just before you reach the campground if you fancy stretching your legs a little further.
What would we have done differently?
Nothing about the campsite. Great location and we would set up exactly in the same spot next time if we can.
There are quite a few things we learnt and would do differently about taking a camper van – post coming soon!
Would we come back?
Absolutely. Can we go tomorrow?
Our Score out of 10
By far one of the best camping spots in South Australia. Great location, well maintained and it’s easy to fall in love with.
It would be even better if it had hot showers, campfires were allowed out of fire danger season and that so many people didn’t love it so much so it was quiet all year!
Good to know
Fuel (Petrol & Diesel)
Delamere – 7km – Main South Road
General Store & Australian Post Office
Delamere – 7km – Main South Road – basic supplies including bottle store, plus camping and fishing supplies.
Cape Jervis Tavern – 18km south
Supermarkets – (Foodland)
Wirrina Boat Ramp – 17km north
Cape Jervis Boat Ramp – 18km south
Normanville Boat Ramp – 25km north
Nearby water activities
Adventure Kayaking SA Rapid Bay Sea Tours – Rapid Bay
Fleurieu Charters – fishing charter departing from Cape Jervis – 18km south
Glenelg Fishing Charters – also depart organised Charters from Cape Jervis – 18km south
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!