Camping at Colo: The Last “Pristine” River in NSW

The Pristine Colo River

The planning and preparation that preceded our weekend camping expedition to the Colo River led me to the conclusion that camping with kids is all about the destination and not the journey. Of course we must try our best to escape the trappings of modern life and leave the kitchen sink at home, but my advice on camping with toddlers is be prepared and take what you need to have a comfortable and relaxing time. We can wait until they are least six or seven before we make them carry their own pack and eat rehydrated food.  If this means the adults must succumb to lamb curry (Saag Gosht), blueberry and honey porridge, damper (Cornish style), pot roasted chicken and lemon sponge pudding in the camp oven then so be it.

Having spent so much time focusing on equipment and provisioning, I ran out of time to properly read the directions which resulted in a slight detour in the direction of Lithgow. This didn’t matter as it was a pleasant drive and a stop to consult a local near the end of our journey to see if we were on the right track, meant we could meet Bony the retired Stockton Beach camel (who, please be warned, can’t distinguish between carrots and the fingers of small children) and pat some cows.

Bony The Camel, Retired to the Hawkesbury from Stockton Beach

We chose to camp at the Upper Colo Reserve because its less than two hours drive from Sydney (about 30 minutes from Windsor) so quite feasible to do on the average weekend during daylight saving. More significantly the Colo Wilderness has been recognised as one of the twenty remaining real wilderness areas left in New South Wales and one of the last “pristine” rivers, granting it special protection from the effects of development.  It is adjacent to the Wollemi National Park, where the now famous prehistoric Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) was discovered by a bushwalker called David Noble in 1994, testament to the area’s isolation, despite its proximity to Sydney.

Constructing the "Taj"

Motivated by Marshmallows...

Another bonus was that dogs are allowed on a leash and we were pleased to find that fellow campers were all responsible dog owners resulting in zero canine “incidents”. Sharing a tent with a toddler and a Labrador is an interesting experience, which Rhubarb will elaborate on in a future dog blog.

We took the tinny with the idea of exploring the lower, less shallow reaches of the Colo, but found that we had more than enough river to explore with the kids, and when we returned to the camp later on Saturday, the tinny and its emergency oars became an imaginary pirate ship, keeping three lively little boys under the age of four entertained for over an hour.


Undoubtedly the big draw card of the Upper Colo Reserve campsite is the Colo River itself; a beautiful, clean, slow flowing river with a sandy river bed, ideal for kids to splash around in and for adults to wash off the camp fire smoke and soak up the sound of running water; cleansing in every sense.

The trip home included a stop in Windsor for lunch and purchase of strawberries, strawberry jam and fig preserve from the Windsor Markets, as no trip to the country is complete without collecting some local produce.

Campfire Companion

Getting There:

From Windsor  go over Windsor Bridge, heading to Wilberforce Road, which turns into Putty Road at Wilberforce (do not turn right into King Road). Stay on Putty Road for approximately 15km and then turn left into Upper Colo Road, just before Colo River Bridge. Travel another 13.8km along Upper Colo Road and then follow the signs into the camping ground. Note that Putty Road is also known as Singleton Road.


  • The Colo River
  • Low density camping (bookings are only taken for 50% capacity)
  • Beautiful drive into the valley
  • Well behaved dogs (and owners) permitted.


  • There was some music noise from fellow campers but this was minimal and did not go late into the night.


The campsite is managed by Hawkesbury Council and bookings must be made by calling 02 4560 4528 or 02 4560 4647 between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm Monday to Friday


  • $6 per night for adults
  • $4 for children 5-12
  • Children under 5 are free.

Important Information:

  • Dogs allowed on leads
  • Firewood cannot be collected inside the reserve so you will need to bring this with you
  • A range of activities including cycling and canoeing can be enjoyed in the area
  • No trail bikes


Hawkesbury Council Camping Information (Upper Colo)

Wollemi Pine

Upper Colo River

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11 Responses

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  1. Great trip Charley. Your writing is thoroughly inspiring and has got me totally enthused for planning some adventures of our own this summer.

    1. That’s great Polly, I’m trying to pack some adventures in before number two arrives, after which I may need to write about other people’s adventures from an armchair for a few weeks! Keep me posted on what you get up to :)

  2. just came home from a weekend at Upper Colo River Reserve. Full on real camping (with toilets :)) We have 5 children ranging between 18 months and 15 years and everyone loved it. Honed our barbeque skills and tent building talents. Built a fire to shame the “Great fire of Rome”. Very family place, love the pristine river, the “rock” for jumping off into the river pool, just wonderful. Even better, it’s only a short drive from Sydney to discover this secret wilderness.

    1. Hi Galanto family!
      What a great way to spend the October long weekend. Colo is definitely on our list of camping spots for repeat visits. Thanks for visiting Secret Water and contributing :)

  3. […] fun on the water this Easter Weekend, wherever you are. We’re heading to Colo River for a spot of camping This entry was written by Charley, posted on April 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm, […]

  4. I have owned 50 acres about 1km upriver from the reserve, for over 20 years.
    I have not built a house, and “camp” there about every second week.
    Glad you like the place. I love it. It getting harder to keep the lantana down lately, with all the rain.

    1. Must try and head back to Colo soon. Its magic :)

    2. Your entry is awaiting moderation.
      Hi all. We’re looking for somewhere to camp out. We have 2-3 family’s (all up 5 adults and 6 kids) .. What’s the best place along colo river to go? I heard Bielany is good , I went there about 10 years ago but don’t remember much.. Can someone email me some info?? Plllleeease! Much appreciated ! Oh n were planning to arrive on 2nd Jan for about 2-3 nights! Thanks all.

    3. I went to the reserve couple of month ago with the family… Best place to be, my kids loved it…..We were planing to camp there this Easter long weekend but I left it too late and now it’s all booked out….. Kids are very disappointed …….. Do you know another spot at colo that we can camp…?

    4. Hi Sandro,
      I’m afraid I don’t :(

  5. Hi all. We’re looking for somewhere to camp out. We have 2-3 family’s (all up 5 adults and 6 kids) .. What’s the best place along colo river to go? I heard Bielany is good , I went there about 10 years ago but don’t remember much.. Can someone email me some info?? Plllleeease! Much appreciated ! Oh n were planning to arrive on 2nd Jan for about 2-3 nights! Thanks all. :)

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