So, payday came, and you got a bit excited. ‘Treat yo’ self!’, you said. ‘You need the extra side of guacamole’, you said. ‘It won’t hurt!’, you said. Except now that the weekend’s rolling in, the account balance is looking, umm, a little sad and empty.

But that’s never stopped you from having a huge weekend before. It’s time to say hello to these nine next-level weekends away, each of them in the most beautiful natural surrounds, and each of them possible with less than fifty bucks. Yes, you read that correctly.

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    Lane Cove River Tourist Park – Lane Cove National Park

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    Lane Cove River Tourist Park is the Nintendo Switch of camp sites. It’s. Got. Everything. Beyond the standards like barbecues and showers, this spot’s got WiFi, a pool and power points so you can charge up your phone (read: extremely important considering how many photos you’ll be Instagramming). In short, this park is for campers who like it comfy. The real highlight, though, is the scenic Riverside walking track, which serves up some next-level riverside picnicking and adorable water activities like pedal boating, courtesy of The Lane Cove Boatshed (cue that romantic moment from The Notebook.)

    It’s a measly 25-minute stint from Sydney city, so you have literally zero excuses not to take your boy/girlfriend (or best pal) for a cute waterside weekend away.

    The details:

    • Powered sites for $43 per night for 2 occupants.
    • Unpowered sites for $41 per night for 2 occupants.
    • $10 for an additional adult, $6 for an additional child (5-15 years)
    • Site is suitable for tents, camper trailers, caravans and camping beside vehicle

    Book online or call (02) 9888 9133

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    The Basin – Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

    Tents at Basin Camp Ground

    Tim Clark

    This is one of Sydney’s most prized camping spots for a reason. Actually, several reasons: this Ku-ring-gai gem has a gorgeous beach, spectacular ocean views and an inland lagoon perfect for floating around on an inner tube (pro tip: mix up a delicious beverage in a plastic cup beforehand and an ultra-chill afternoon is your reward). While you’re there, make sure you hit The Basin track and Mackerel track – home to one of Sydney’s best Aboriginal art sites.

    The details:

    • $33 per night for 2 occupants.
    • This campsite is tent/remote backpack camping only as there is no vehicle access. No powered campsites available.

    Book online or by contacting National Parks Contact Centre on 1300 072 757.

    Did you know? Make sure you book in advance. This campground is extremely popular and you may be turned away if you arrive without a booking.

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    Mirang pool campground – Heathcote National Park

    Crowd-free bliss. This magical campground holds no more than 12 people.

    If a campground has the word ‘pool’ in it, it’s probably a safe bet you want to bliss out there on a warm weekend. Mirang pool campground holds no more than 12 people at a time, so serenity is part of the deal, and the booking will cost you less than your weekly poached eggs with smashed avo.

    Getting there? From Town Hall, jump on the T4 train line to Heathcote Station. Look out for the Mirang pool sign and you’ll be there in about 30 minutes, but remember it’s only accessible by foot, so come prepared with all the food and water you’ll need.

    The details:

    • $12 per night for two occupants
    • This campsite is tent/remote backpack camping only as there is no vehicle access. No powered campsites available.

    Book online or by contacting National Parks Contact Centre on 1300 072 757.

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    Cattai campground – Cattai National Park

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    Cattai campground is teeming with animals, greenery and historical significance.

    This is a great campsite with all the amenities and plenty of flat ground to pitch a tent, which is totally great. But what we should really talk about is how magical this place is.

    Walking around the Cattai National Park is about as close as you’re gonna get to stepping back in time. The park is overflowing with prehistoric vegetation – like red bark, stringy bark, paper gum and cabbage gums – that you can immerse yourself in as you walk down the Mitchell Park track. (Look out for signs: each part of the track is named for the tree springing up around it.) On top of that, there’s stacks of colonial history to explore, like Cattai Farm and the 1821-built Arndell homestead. It’ll only set you back $24 bucks.

    Did you know? The park protects several significant sites belonging to the Aboriginal People of traditional Darug Country, showing their ancient connection to the land. You can find axe grinding grooves on rocks as well as engravings and works of art.

    The details:

    • $24 per night for two occupants
    • Site accommodates tents, camper trailer sites and camping beside vehicle.
    • Book online or by contacting National Parks Contact Centre on 1300 072 757.
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    Frazer campground – Munmorah State Conservation Area

    Heaven is 40 minutes from Newcastle, and only costs $33 for two.

    Just 55 metres from Frazer Beach, this heavenly little campground boasts some of the best views you’ll ever get from a tent. You’ll be waking up to the tranquil sounds of the ocean beckoning you to take that morning swim (bring your surfboard, too), before you immerse yourself in rainforest as you trek the Palms circuit track beneath a lush canopy. Happy days.

    Did you know? Look out for the adorable grey-headed flying foxes while they feed on the cabbage tree palm forest.

    The details:

    • $33 per night for two occupants
    • Site is suitable for tents and camping beside vehicle

    Book online or by contacting National Parks Contact Centre on 1300 072 757.

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    Freemans campground - Munmorah State Conservation area

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    Freeman’s campground is just 40-minute drive from Newcastle and under two hours from Sydney.

    Get it right this weekend as you camp in unspoiled bushland near the beautiful Birdie Beach. For just $33 per couple, you’re sure to get your money’s worth. Freeman’s has a stack going for it, including some seriously good whale watching opportunities at the Tea Tree picnic area and lookout. Check out the surf here, then paddle out before you cook up a tasty BBQ lunch.

    The details:

    • $33 per night for two occupants.
    • Site accommodates tents, camper trailers, caravans and camping beside vehicle.

    Book online or by by contacting National Parks Contact Centre on 1300 072 757.

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    Tattersalls campground – Karuah National Park

    Just an hour from Newcastle (2 hours and 40 minutes from Sydney) lies your new favourite getaway.

    This riverside retreat is all about wholesome pastimes like fishing and birdwatching: basically it’s exactly what you need to counteract spending too many weekends out on the town. And the best part? It doesn’t cost a cent, so you can spend your pennies on extra marshmallows instead. The crowning jewels of the area are the glorious black cockatoos that you can watch from the comfort of your tent as they feed along the river’s edge, and there are plenty of furry friends like possums and bandicoots to encounter among masked owls in the bush.

    Tip: Come prepared. Water is not available at this campground, so you’ll need to bring your own supply.

    The details:

    • This is a remote campground, and is suitable for tent / remote camping only.
    • Bookings are not available for this campground.
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    Little Mountain Campground - Karuah National Park

    Just an hour from Newcastle (2 hours and 40 minutes from Sydney) lies your new favourite getaway.

    Tim Clark

    Nearby lies another, totally free, waterfront gem: Little Mountain Campground. At this remote riverside spot surrounded by dense forests, you’ll find opportunities to enjoy everything from kayaking and swimming to cycling and 4WDing. As dusk sets in, look out for swamp wallabies, brush-tailed and ring-tailed possums as you snuggle up in your sleeping bag. See, the best things in life really are free.

    The details:

    • Suitable for tents, camper trailers and camping beside vehicle
    • Bookings are not available for this campground
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    Bangalow campground – Watagans National Park

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    It’s called Bangalow, but Sherwood Forest is probably a more apt name for this epically chill camping ground. Parked deep within Watagans National Park (two hours north of Sydney), this earthly delight is shaded by tall blue gums and blackbutt trees.

    But it’s not all about lounging around (if you don’t want it to be): there are plenty of mountain biking tracks and challenging hikes like Turners Walking Track to get your blood pumping. In the cooler months, remember to bring some firewood along to keep you and your pals nice and toasty. (Friendly reminder, don’t pick up firewood in the park as little creatures often set up camp in them.) We can almost hear the crackle of the fire now. Last, but not least: scoping out Monkey Face Lookout is a must. The views over Martinsville Valley are like an impressionist painting IRL.  

    The details:

    • Suitable for tents and camping beside vehicle.
    • Bookings are not available for this campground.

    Did you know? Fire safety should always been taken seriously. Be reckless and that glorious weekend away could turn sour very quickly.