Up, up and away from all the wildlife
When our children were young, our weekend camping trips took huge organisational skills to fit everything in the station wagon – tent, sleeping bags, large esky, surfboards, food and all the paraphernalia that goes with camping.
With all that early experience, we are now efficient campers who travel a lot lighter.
Of course we do like our comforts and having a rooftop tent (RTT) certainly allows for easy setup with a comfy mattress.
The RTT is quickly and easily assembled and is a great compromise between regular camping and towing a camper trailer.
It is a compact package securely attached to the roof rack on the vehicle that can be instantly unpacked into a comfortable bed with a decent mattress.
All you have to do is unzip the bag, unfold and drop the ladder that gives access to the ground. It’s a very quick setup.
The RTT is easily lifted and fitted to most vehicle roof racks with no need to modify and are small enough for easy storage when you get home.
We found we could set up camp in about 10 minutes. The bedding, annex, walls, pegs and guy ropes are all part of the package on the roof, which leaves plenty of room for the esky and the rest of the gear in the back of the car.
“Climbing the ladder is easy but not recommended to anyone with bad knees or hip problems”
Tents can fold out to the rear or the side of the vehicle.
Climbing the ladder to a rooftop tent is easy although I would not recommend this mode of camping to anyone with bad knees or hip problems.
Once perched on top of the car you are welcomed by 360-degree views and safe from all the creepy crawlies on the ground – crocodiles, snakes, ants etc.
Recently while staying in Mackay, we set off with the RTT for a few days at Smalleys Beach in Cape Hillsborough National Park, and left the van behind.
The Cape got its name in 1770 when Captain Cook named it after the Earl of Hillsborough.
Smalleys Beach is about 50km north of Mackay on the Hibiscus Coast. This tropical palm-lined beach nestled beside a rocky headland has 11 secluded shady camp sites (some large enough for a group camp).
The camp sites are popular with travellers and locals so you will need to book online prior to arrival to ensure you have a spot.
The usual Queensland National Park fees apply.
The only facilities are toilets with picnic tables on most sites. You need to take everything including plenty of water for drinking, cooking and showers.
Generators are not permitted but fires are allowed in off-ground fire containers. Only gas/fuel stoves are allowed, and bring your own wood.
Once you are set up, all that is required is to make a cuppa, sit back and look out to the beautiful blue ocean and watch life go by.
The campsites have walking tracks to access the beach and most have
You are also likely to see a wallaby jumping along the beach and dolphins swimming by or hear the laugh of kookaburras in a nearby tree.
Obviously, because this is the tropics, the best time to camp is autumn to spring as the summer months are extremely hot and humid.
Access to the campground is via 6km of good gravel road and breathtaking views of the ocean and Cape await. There is also a parking area for day trippers.
A short walk up the beach leads to an estuary which looked very enticing for the keen angler.
It is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park but fishing is permitted.
Remember though, that this is crocodile country and box jellyfish and marine stingers are common.
RTT camping is a great alternative to caravanning and lighter on fuel.
You have the flexibility to go off road where the caravan can’t go and get the full experience of a particular area.
As bedding is part of the roof tent you really only need to pack some essential cooking utensils, food, esky or car fridge and clothing/toiletries and water.
It definitely rounds out the experience while on the road.