“And how many nights will you be staying in our luxury resort?” the ranger asked with a cheeky grin. It was only four and although he joked, we knew we were somewhere better than a luxury resort.
Like Sandy Cape, Contos is another well-known and well-used camping ground for city folk. However, despite our many camping adventures, we had never stayed at Contos. Our usual site is Boranup, nestled within the stunning forest. When the Anzac Day long weekend offered the opportunity for four days off, we seized the chance and booked our first visit to Contos near Margaret River.
Contos was upgraded in 2015 and your stay can be booked. Use the DPAW ParkStay website to easily book the section you want to stay in and pay in advance. The website provides information on the type of camping each section can accommodate, from smaller sites for tents-only, to larger bays for caravans and camper trailers. You are able to book which section you want to stay in, but not specific sites.
There’s a Ranger’s station at the entrance for checking-in when you arrive but he also does rounds of the camp regularly. As our booking was already sorted, and admittedly we just wanted to set up after a long drive, we drove straight in and caught up with him later.
About three and a half hours south of Perth, Contos is a short drive from Margaret River town along Caves Road, turning south from Walcliffe Road. The entrance is well-signed and the road is sealed up to the camp entrance. Even the drive to the campsite is enjoyable, as you wind your way along Caves Road taking in farmland and lush forest.
Being close to the coast means on still mornings and evenings, you can hear the waves roaring with their power as they battle the coastline. As it was mid-autumn, the weather was ideal for camping. Cool in the mornings and evenings and pleasant during the day. We dodged the rain until the last day – which is traditional for us – when it drizzled and wet all our gear before we packed up. Ah, the camping life.
We chose Isaacs for its dense, native bush vegetation. As you arrive, you drive along a narrow road surrounded by dense, green bush. There are 13 sites in this section of roughly the same size but with varying configurations. Isaacs is ideal for tent camping. Each site has a wooden picnic table and chairs and there was enough space for us to set up our tent, shelter and park the car with room to spare.
Unlike a caravan park, you are not so tightly packed in that you become over-familiar with your neighbours. You may catch glimpses of fellow campers in nearby bays, but the Isaacs bush envelopes each site protectively. There was a little noise, particularly on Saturday night, but it settled by 9pm.
Some sites within Isaacs are more shaded so would be more preferable in the warmer months. Winds were light for a couple of days and any harsher gusts mostly went straight over the top of the camp. There’s one well-maintained long drop but no water and, unfortunately, campfires are not permitted within Isaacs.
Other sections have firepits included within the sites and well-stocked wood piles so choose carefully if this is a priority. I found it was not clear on the website which sections did or did not have firepits.
Sites outside of Isaacs also appear to have more modern facilities, although the toilets are still long-drops. We checked out Chuditch briefly, which also seemed to have a washing up sink. A quick look on the DPAW site also shows images of the different vegetation and camping sites available at Contos so there is something to suit any style of camper.
Contos is located within easy reach of so many great activities, depending on what you are seeking. Follow the unsealed road out to Contos Spring Beach or keep going to the end of the road to watch in awe at the power of the waves at South Beach. Each site is worth a visit to experience the coastline. The Cape to Cape runs through here and a short walk from the road can take you to a stunning spot overlooking the beach. Fishing, swimming and surfing are also popular activities in the right conditions.
After three days of camping and only washing with wipes, socialising with others in upmarket wineries is not ideal. Fortunately, there are so many adventures to be had for those not there for the tourist experience of winery tours and expensive restaurants. Each day we ventured off sightseeing, bushwalking or bike riding. We rode the Rails to Trails track from Cowaramup to Margaret River and filled each day with activity, which I’ll write about more in my next post.
The campgrounds are easy to get to, clean and bookable, making it a great escape for a long weekend for Perth-dwellers. Any campgrounds featuring beautiful sheltered bush close to the coast is always a winner. Contos is ideal for seasoned campers wanting a short getaway or for those less experienced who want to try bush camping within easy reach of town. There is too much to see and do in one stay so we know we will be back there again.