4WD: Defy the pack for top winter camping spots
Conto’s Field campground is only 300m from the beach but well sheltered.

Bracing winter cold can be very attractive - when resting your boots on a handy fallen log and toasting your toes as the campfire blazes brightly, pushing back the dark night. Leaning back in your camp chair, as your eyes readjust, the stars shine serenely way, way above and everyday stresses fall away.

After packing up the fourbie and camper with weather-defying tarps and warm clothes, the trick to winter camping is to pick a destination offering a variety of options for both crisp blue sky days and wet-weather washouts which have everyone trapped miserably under a tarp.

Head south to Margaret River in cooler weather and most people are signing up for cosy chalets, leaving the best camp sites largely deserted. In the second week of school holidays, the popular Conto's Field campground had just two campers nestled among the beautiful coastal peppermint woodland in Hamelin Hollow.

The serene campers were spoiled for choice, choosing from 90 camp sites (48 for regular-size camper trailers/caravans; 20 for campervans/tents and 22 for tents).

Conto's Field is easily accessible via a sealed road. It's south-west of Margaret River (largest of nearby locations for fuel and supplies). Turn off Caves Road at the entrance to Lake Cave and then swing left towards the coast. The campground is only 300m from the beach but well sheltered with plenty of trees for shade and to break the force of any wind.

Multiple nearby beaches offer fair-weather fishing (or surfing and swimming in summer).

There's no immediate vehicle access to the beach but a few winding four-wheel-drive trails to explore through the nearby Boranup Forest for those who enjoy high clearance.

Take it easy, as oncoming traffic is hard to spot on the narrow winding roads. Tracks are littered with sharp limestone rocks that will stake the tyres of the unwary.

Follow Reserve Road (Bob's Track) - 600m north of Bushby Road and 3.9km from the Hamelin Bay-Caves Road intersection. Blink and you'll need to backtrack to find it. Definitely 4WD only, the initial steep ascent is frequently pitted with challenging wombat holes but the track usually improves closer to Boranup Beach - a long sheltered beach sweeping up from Hamelin Bay in the south to North Point.

It offers gleaming white sands, sparkling blue water and a sheltered fishing zone.

But if the rain sets in, just head for a winery, brewery, gourmet provedore or restaurant. Perfect.

FAST FACTS
•No generators or pets.
•Toilets and water available but taking your own drinking water is recommended.
•Camp kitchen located in Hamelin Hollow loop (sites are grouped along multiple loops making co-located large-group camping possible).
•Campfires permitted between April 1 and November 30. Take your own firewood.
•No bookings possible — first in, best positioned.
•Fees per night payable at entry station. Adults $10, concession cardholder $6.60, child (5-16) $2.20.
•Check out dpaw.wa.gov.au for latest information.

The West Australian

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