Lets Go Camping: Lake Tinaroo

Lake Tinaroo has some of the most beautiful getaway campe sites in Far North Queensland. Located just within less than 2 hours drive away south-west of Cairns is the Lake Tinaroo campgrounds in Danbulla National Park , a popular area for camping place for both locals and travellers. The Lake is surrounded by various campgrounds and most of the camping sites are just metres away from the Lake. The whole area is surrounded by tropical rainforest and pine trees. Here, you get to experience camping close to nature’s secluded pristine environment around you. It is peaceful and quiet. The Danbulla National Park has an abundance with wildlife, like a massive outdoor zoo. This gives you a glimpse of what it is like camping outdoors, what nature has to offer, seeing and appreciating things from different perspective.

Why Go?

Where do I begin? A work colleague of mine was telling me, how he enjoyed his time, camping at Lake Tinaroo with his friends. He continued to state, how wonderful it was to go camping and simply having a great time at this camp site. They were sitting by the camp fire, with a drink or two, while enjoying the night-sky filled with millions of stars above. What a great way to spend outdoors under the stars and it sounded just so peaceful to me. As I continued to listen to his camping adventure, I was filled with adrenaline and couldn’t wait to go camping. To be honest, it sounded like heaven on earth to me. I haven’t gone on a camping trip for over 15 years and I must admit, I totally missed the freedom of outdoor atmosphere and being close connection with the nature. Being a keen camper and done camping in so many locations around Australia, I just couldn’t wait. Having few days off from work, was a perfect timing for me to spend couple of days camping on my own exploring and experiencing many things that I have missed for so long. It was time for me to go on a self-drive adventure around Lake Tinaroo, a short drive away from Cairns city.

Getting there?

Leaving Cairns, early hours of the morning before sunrise to Ravenshoe township, gave me plenty of time to unpacked few things and loaded few camping gears before making my way to Lake Tinaroo. I took the windy Gillies range route, by passing Yungaburra town and through Malanda town before heading up East Evelyn road drive towards Ravenshoe, where my countryside home is located. At this time of the morning, it was misty, raining, cold and foggy. For any campers, this wasn’t a great weather for outdoor camping. This weather wasn’t going to deter me from camping. I had the time and the opportunity to go camping and taking some photographs along the way, especially in and around Lake Tinaroo campground area.

After packing few camping gears, I left Ravenshoe town and travelled along quiet country lanes, windy and dusty pathways and tasting some of the local produce in picturesque villages along the way. Atherton Tablelands is known as the farming heartland in Far North Queensland which has some of the most fertile lands in the region.

Along the way, I walked along some of the ancient tracks in the footsteps of pilgrims draw me back in time what it was like during those tough and rough years. The beauty of a self-drive adventure amongst some of Lake Tinaroo’s most spectacular landscapes is that you can travel at your pace. The views from some of these locations are incredibly breathtaking.

Lake Tinaroo Dam


Arriving in Lake Tinaroo Dam, the gateway to all camping sites was foggy but it was a perfect place to have a good view of the dam from the lookout before making my way to Fong-On Bay campground.



Road to Campground


The drive beyond Lake Tinaroo Dam to campgrounds are rough, bumpy and dusty dirt roads. At times, these roads can be dangerous during rainy periods where they can be muddy and slippery.

For many campers, 4WD are required beyond the Tinaroo Dam but if you plan to get off the beaten tracks and other campgrounds, reliable vehicles are required and most dirt tracks are not suitable for smaller vehicles.

In taking this back road through the Danbulla National Park, it is one of the most scenic drive in the region. It is not only very popular among campers but this location is a gem for photographers, birdwatchers and hikers.

With 8 official camping sites across Lake Tinaroo and beyond, these camping trips offer a leisurely way to explore the countryside on self-adventure drives. For those planning to camp for a night or more, it is compulsory that you book your camp-site online. Booking online is easy and your required to state which camping ground you will be camping, to ensure to track back if any issues may arise. Once, a unique identification number is given, grab a tag which you have to collect before entering the camping site. The tag needs to be tied onto your tent or somewhere that is visible for the ranger to see and check if necessary. This permit allows you to camp legally and also to avoid any penalties, which rangers patrol the areas on regular basis and unexpectedly. Booking online with Queensland National Parks is easy and is available 24/7. To avoid disappointment and penalties, I booked my camping spot online prior to my date of travel.

Lake Tinaroo have fully checked routes with maps and directions and with visible sign board along the way on each camp sites. Danbulla National Park has the largest camping grounds in Far North Queensland, which Lake Tinaroo has it all. From its pristine wilderness of forests, wildlife, lakes and mountains to  small country towns, diverse landscapes and more adventures than you could possibly imagine. Lake Tinaroo offers a multitude of ways to experience and enjoy Danbulla National Parks’ spectacular natural area.

Fong-on Bay Campground 

To reach this campground from Tinaroo dam’s main entrance, it is approximately 20km of drive through some bitumen and dirt road. When I arrived at the campground, it was like hitting the jackpot, the weather was perfect. It was sunny and not a sight of storm appearing. The campground was amazingly well-kept, located right next to the lake. With hardly any other campers around, it was quiet and peaceful, except the sounds of ducks, curlews and many more other wildlife  roaming the area.

Not having to pitch-up a tent as I used my car as my sleeping tent by lowering the two back-seats folded forward, it was a full-length sleeping space from the back of the boot to the back of the two front seats. After organising my sleeping space, I felt my spirit was very high at this point. This campground didn’t have an allocated sections – like some camping sites at Davis Creek near Mareeba, so it was virtually, first in, best location. Apart from, meticulously clean amenities (toilets only), campers are required to supply their own hot and cold shower buckets. The campground have shower cubicles but without any facilities. I was pleasantly very surprised to see how clean the toilets were and how well the campground was maintained compared to the public amenities within Cairns city ground and picnic areas.

After getting myself organised, I went for a stroll around the area to scan the whole campground, along with my lens. Fong-On bay is a huge camping ground area and you have to drive around the area to find a best and suitable spot to erect your tent. This particular camping area is mostly a ‘speed boat’ paradise, where many campers come to display, enjoy and test out their speed boats. I have seen, why they come to this particular location because of its vast calm lake. Shortly after, I started a camp fire and cooked dinner early before sunset as I wanted to capture the sunset at this campsite location. As I just finished washing the cutlery, the sun started to go down which created a perfect picture moment. This is what I came to see and it certainly presented itself amazingly for me to capture. As I begin to prepare myself to relax for the day inside the car, the weather started to turn and spots of rain descended on what had been a good start to my camping trip.

Sunset: Fong-On Bay Campground

As I settled down to bed, the rain started to get very heavy. During the course of the night, it started to get very heavy rain and wind which kept me up most of the night. However, as the morning began to break, I noticed that it was just another perfect morning and the sky was crystal clear with no heavy clouds hovering above. At this point, I knew, it was going to be another beautiful day without any concern. Without any delay, I got out my camera to capture more of the sunrise as it starts to ascend above the pine trees which spread its array of colours over the lake. I could truly witness the true extend of the sunrise at this campsite which created a beautiful scenery to photograph. Just like the sunset before the nightfall, the sunrise certainly presented its morning glory in a perfect way for me to capture the beauty of this natural phenomenon.

Sunrise: Fong-On Bay Campground
Apart from the sunset, sunrise, cleanliness of the campground and the spectacular natural area, there was an abundance of wildlife. I must say, this was the highlight of my camping trip. The Fong On bay certainly spit out the true dwellers of the lake. I was totally in my photography glory and tried to use my amateur photography skills to capture this living creatures inhabit this gigantic lake. To avoid disappointment and not to miss out on any action, I couldn’t stop clicking on my camera. Every turn was vital to me and it was truly an amazing experience.

Being surrounded by wildlife both at day and night time was an unique experience. It is something that I missed for so many years. This short camping experience has given me back something that I love doing. It has brought me back so many great memories of camping and I should to do it more often. Yes, I had a great time camping alone. I will certainly be returning again but to a different camping location to experience other campgrounds and its attraction of wildlife.



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