Trial Bay Gaol campground

Arakoon National Park

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Overview

Trial Bay Gaol campground is right by the beach and perfect for a family camping holiday. Bring your caravan, motorhome or tent for a weekend of swimming, fishing and fun.

Accommodation Details
Camping type Tent, Camper trailer site, Caravan site, Camping beside my vehicle
Where 63 Trial Bay Goal Access Road, Arakoon, NSW, 2431 - in Arakoon National Park
Facilities Amenities block, picnic tables, barbecue facilities, boat ramp, cafe/kiosk, carpark, drinking water, showers, toilets, electric power
Price
  • Rates and availability are displayed when making an online booking
  • A minimum nightly rate applies which includes the first 2 occupants
  • Only 7-night (Saturday to Saturday) block bookings are available during NSW and QLD school holidays
  • Peak season: December, January and school holidays (excluding winter). 
  • Shoulder season: February to the start of Easter school holidays. 
  • Off-peak season: Rest of year.
Please note
  • Check in after 2pm, check out before 12pm.
  • All campers must check in to the office on arrival and late arrivals must contact the office during business hours. Fees apply for late check outs.
  • Sites near the boat ramp may experience some early morning noise from 4am during January to April as fishermen gather for marlin season.
  • Mermaid Pools is near this campground but is not recommended for swimming. Large waves wash over the area and visitors can be swept off the rocks.
Book now

Trial Bay Gaol campground offers campsites for tents, caravans and camper trailers in an enviable position beside Front Beach.

Pack your snorkels, swimmers, fishing rod, walking shoes and surfboard, because you’ll have time to use all of these when you’re enjoying this delightful campground and picnic area. And if you’re too tired after a day exploring the park to cook up a feast, treat yourself to a meal at the Trial Bay Kiosk Restaurant. It's the ideal place for families to take a weekend break in the beautiful Arakoon National Park.

Thinking of going in winter? Make sure you take your binoculars - Arakoon is a great place to see whales making their annual migration north. And even better in spring as they make their way south hugging the coast and resting with their calves in Trial Bay, just off the campground.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation/campgrounds/trial-bay-gaol-campground/local-alerts

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Trial Bay Gaol campground.

Getting there and parking

Trial Bay Gaol campground is in the Trial Bay Gaol precinct of Arakoon National Park.

From South West Rocks:

  • Follow Phillip Drive
  • Turn left onto Cardwell Street
  • Continue along Cardwell Street, following the signs to Trial Bay Gaol ruins and campground

Road quality

  • Sealed roads

Vehicle access

  • 2WD vehicles

Weather restrictions

  • All weather

Parking

  • Parking is available next to your campsite or on the adjacent side of the road.
  • There is a limit of 1 vehicle per site. Extra vehicles must park in the carparks.
  • For walk-in campsites: there is no allocated parking next to your campsite. Campers must park their vehicle(s) in the carparks available.

Best times to visit

There are lots of great things waiting for you in Arakoon National Park. Here are some of the highlights.

Spring

The wildflowers will be out so it's a great time to hike the park's walking tracks During the spring, when the she-oaks produce fruit, glossy black cockatoos come in to feed on the ripe seeds .

Summer

School's out and it's a great time for a family camping holiday – spend your days swimming, snorkelling, fishing and exploring the park's attractions.

Winter

Catch the whales on their journey north along the coast.

Weather, temperature and rainfall

Summer temperature

Average

20°C and 26°C

Highest recorded

41.7°C

Winter temperature

Average

12°C and 20°C

Lowest recorded

4°C

Rainfall

Wettest month

March

Driest month

September

The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

343.7mm

Facilities

  • Campsites are marked, with some powered sites available.
  • Campsites are suitable for a range of camping including tents, camper trailers, campervans and caravans.
  • There's a camp kitchen with hot plate, cook top, fridge/freezer, microwave and sink with hot water.
  • A garbage/recycling station is available, as well as a Dump Ezy for caravans (key required).
  • Campers may visit the Trial Bay Gaol and museum for an additional entrance fee

Amenities

  • Laundry facilities are available
  • PIN codes are required to access the amenities. PIN codes are provided in your booking confirmation email or during check-in at the office. 
  • Day-use amenities have cold showers and toilets and can be accessed without a PIN code

Toilets

  • Flush toilets

Picnic tables

  • Shelter areas are available

Barbecue facilities

  • Gas/electric barbecues (coin-operated)

Boat ramp

  • There is a 4WD boat ramp off Cardwell Street, Arakoon (open all year round).
  • There is also a concrete boat ramp at Laggers Point (closed 9pm to 7am during NSW and QLD school holidays and during major events).

Cafe/kiosk

Carpark

Drinking water

  • Drinking water is available onsite. Taps are located throughout the park.

Showers

  • Hot showers
  • Cold showers

Electric power

  • Power is available on powered campsites with most also including water and sullage
  • Main, Beach Front and Terrace amenity blocks have lights and power points
  • The Sea Front amenity blocks have lights only
  • Little Bay amenity blocks (not in a campground) have no power
  • Please note that power points are not to be used for recharging car batteries

Maps and downloads

Safety messages

All caravans and camper trailers must have drawbars to the road for emergency evacuation.

Beach safety

Beaches in this park are not patrolled, and can sometimes have strong rips and currents. These beach safety tips will help you and your family stay safe in the water.

Boating safety

If you're out on your boat fishing, waterskiing or just cruising the waterways, the safety of you and your passengers is paramount.

Camping safety

Whether you're pitching your tent on the coast or up on the mountains, there are many things to consider when camping in NSW national parks. Find out how to stay safe when camping.

Fishing safety

Fishing from a boat, the beach or by the river is a popular activity for many national park visitors. If you’re planning a day out fishing, check out these fishing safety tips.

Mobile safety

Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency + app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

Mobile coverage may be available for Telstra and Optus customers.

Paddling safety

To make your paddling or kayaking adventure safer and more enjoyable, check out these paddling safety tips.

Accessibility

Disability access level - hard

  • Wheelchairs can access most areas within the park, assistance to the beach is required. 
  • Most campsites are wheelchair accessible, with parking next to campsites. 
  • Wheelchair accessible toilets are available in four amenity blocks.
  • Wheelchair accessible showers are available in three amenity blocks.

Permitted

Fishing

A current NSW recreational fishing licence is required when fishing in all waters.

Prohibited

  • Amplified music is not permitted
  • Ropes, clothing, towels and any camping or fishing equipment must not be attached to trees. 

Camp fires and solid fuel burners

Please bring your own gas barbecue.

Generators

Pets

Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

Smoking

NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

Nearby towns

Kempsey (31 km)

Kempsey is a historic river town close to national parks and majestic beaches. Kempsey is a convenient place for an overnight stop for anyone driving between Sydney and the North Coast.

www.visitnsw.com

Macksville (22 km)

Macksville is a relaxed fishing and oyster-farming town centre of a rich rural district. It's on low-lying land around the Nambucca River.

www.visitnsw.com

South West Rocks (3 km)

South West Rocks is a sleepy coastal retreat at its barefoot best. It's an oceanfront holiday town on north-facing Trial Bay.

www.visitnsw.com

Learn more

Trial Bay Gaol campground is in Arakoon National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

Abundant bird life

Little Bay, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Michael Van Ewijk

Birds are abundant in Arakoon National Park. In wetland areas, you might see black swans, egrets, herons and spoonbills. On the heath, there are fantails, wrens, honeyeaters and quails. Hawks, falcons, ospreys and eagles soar above the cliffs and forage along the beaches. During the spring, when the she-oaks produce fruit, glossy black cockatoos come in to feed on the ripe seeds. Despite its small size, Arakoon harbours several threatened species, including the osprey and glossy black cockatoo. You're also likely to spot wallabies and echidnas, and the nocturnal brush-tailed phascogales and sugar gliders. During September and October, you can often see humpback whales just offshore, on their return journey to Antarctica.

Fascinating heritage

 Trial Bay Gaol, Arakoon National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

Dating from 1886, Trial Bay Gaol is a unique example of a public works prison. It was also used as an internment camp in World War I and today the ruins continue to intrigue visitors. It'll take you about an hour to wander through the gaol and the museum. The region has high cultural and spiritual significance to the local Dhungatti people.

  • Bridle trail Bridle Trail walking track is an easy short walk offering a glimpse of the historic heritage of Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park near Kempsey.
  • Friends of Trial Bay Gaol The historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol, in Arakoon National Park on the NSW Mid North Coast, are a significant heritage area. Friends of Trial Bay Gaol invite you to volunteer to help in the protection and promotion of this amazing piece of local history, especially during the annual Sculpture in the Gaol.
  • Heritage detectives Help unlock mysteries of the past while exploring historic Trial Bay Gaol from top to bottom. Who were the prisoners were and where did they came from? What crimes did they commit to deserve their punishment and what work they carry out in captivity? This Stage 3 (Years 5-6) school excursion to Arakoon National Park focuses on HSIE. 
  • History mysteries Explore the old granite gaol at Trial Bay and help to unlock mysteries of the past on the History Mysteries school excursion. This is a Stage 2 (Years 3-4) excursion to Arakoon National Park, focusing on HSIE.
  • Monument Hill walking track Featuring stunning coastal views, the easy Monument Hill walk takes in the historic monument built for German gaol internees before finishing at Little Bay picnic area.
  • Powder Magazine walking track Powder Magazine walking track is a short walk near Trial Bay, in Arakoon National Park, offering scenic views and historic heritage.
  • Trial Bay Gaol For a glimpse into Australian history, head to South West Rocks to explore the historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol. Make sure you see the view from the sentry’s lookout.
  • Trial Bay Gaol: Life behind bars kids tour Come along and find out what life behind bars was really like for the prisoners here. Trial Bay Gaol, in Arakoon National Park, is brimming with stories.
  • Walk on the dark side: Sunset tour Wander through the old Trial Bay Gaol at sunset. Visit the darker side of history and hear about stories of prisoners' crimes, sordid tales and gore during World War I.
Show more

Ideal family getaway

Trial Bay Gaol Discovery tour, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary/Seen Australia

Arakoon National Park is in a magnificent natural setting with a spectacular coastline. There are coastal walks with wonderful views and places to picnic and excellent beachside camping and cottage accommodation. If you’re looking for a place to swim and snorkel, head to sheltered Trial Bay and the kiosk is nearby if you’re looking for a relaxed lunch or dinner. The picnic area at Little Bay is popular with young families, offering barbecues and a large grassed area for games.

  • Front Beach Front Beach offers family friendly options including swimming, paddling, liloing and picnicking in Arakoon National Park on the mid North Coast of NSW.
  • Little Bay picnic area Little Bay, a popular beach picnic spot near South West Rocks on the north coast, features barbecues, shaded tables, children’s play equipment and a kangaroo or two.

Scenic headlands

Monument Hill walking track, Arakoon National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

The Smoky Cape Adamellite which forms Little Smoky and the Arakoon peninsula is significant as the only coastal outcropping of granite between Bundaberg in Queensland and Moruya Heads in southern NSW. It was used to construct the prison. The naturally vegetated hillslopes of Arakoon form a scenic backdrop to Trial Bay and the popular holiday town of South West Rocks.

  • Bridle trail Bridle Trail walking track is an easy short walk offering a glimpse of the historic heritage of Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park near Kempsey.
  • Heritage detectives Help unlock mysteries of the past while exploring historic Trial Bay Gaol from top to bottom. Who were the prisoners were and where did they came from? What crimes did they commit to deserve their punishment and what work they carry out in captivity? This Stage 3 (Years 5-6) school excursion to Arakoon National Park focuses on HSIE. 
  • Monument Hill walking track Featuring stunning coastal views, the easy Monument Hill walk takes in the historic monument built for German gaol internees before finishing at Little Bay picnic area.

Traditional lands of Dhungatti People

Monument Hill walking track, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Barbara Webster

The region surrounding Arakoon National Park has high cultural and spiritual significance to the local Dhungatti People. There are numerous Aboriginal sites within the park of great spiritual and cultural significance, with dreaming stories and cultural learning part of them, still passed on today. These include middens, stone arrangements and spiritual sites. We work with local Aboriginal communities to protect this rich culture.

Plants and animals you may see

Animals

  • White-bellied sea eagle. Photo: John Turbill

    White-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

    White-bellied sea eagles can be easily identified by their white tail and dark grey wings. These raptors are often spotted cruising the coastal breezes throughout Australia, and make for some scenic bird watching. Powerful Australian birds of prey, they are known to mate for life, and return each year to the same nest to breed.

  • Humpback whale breaching. Photo: Dan Burns

    Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

    The humpback whale has the longest migratory path of any mammal, travelling over 5000km from its summer feeding grounds in Antarctica to its breeding grounds in the subtropics. Its playful antics, such as body-rolling, breaching and pectoral slapping, are a spectacular sight for whale watchers in NSW national parks.

  • Swamp wallaby in Murramarang National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

    Swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor)

    The swamp wallaby, also known as the black wallaby or black pademelon, lives in the dense understorey of rainforests, woodlands and dry sclerophyll forest along eastern Australia. This unique Australian macropod has a dark black-grey coat with a distinctive light-coloured cheek stripe.

  • Short-beaked echidna in Ben Boyd National Park. Photo: Sharon Wormleaton/OEH

    Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

    One of only 2 egg-laying mammals in the world, the short-beaked echidna is one of the most widespread of Australian native animals. Covered in spines, or quills, they’re equipped with a keen sense of smell and a tube-like snout which they use to break apart termite mounds in search of ants.

  • Grey headed flying fox hanging from a tree branch. Photo: Shane Ruming/OEH

    Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)

    The grey-headed flying fox is one of several threatened Australian animals and the largest Australian native bat, with a wingspan that extends up to 1m. Known to inhabit woodlands, rainforests and urban regions, these fascinating nocturnal mammals congregate in large roost sites along the east coast of NSW.

Environments in this park

Education resources (1)

School excursions (2)

Looking along the beach near the campground. Photo:Debby McGerty