The sun is starting to dip low in the sky, casting a golden light onto the endless sand dunes that stretch out before us. There is an evening breeze that rolls stray sand over the dunes like water.
I’m nearly giddy with excitement as we walk down towards Sid and Daisy, the two beautiful camels that will be guiding us through the sand dunes for the next hour while the sun sets.
No, I didn’t take an impromptu trip to the Sahara Desert. I’m actually still in Australia, just 3.5 hours up the coast from Sydney. Port Stephens, the location of our weekend getaway, is home to the largest continual moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s an incredible sight to see: one direction you’re looking into the vast dunes that make up Stockton Sand Dunes. Do a 180° and you’re on the beach facing straight into the Pacific Ocean.
I had heard cautionary tales of camels biting and spitting at people, so I was a bit apprehensive approaching Sid, my camel for the expedition, but our guide assured us they wouldn’t — and he was right, Sid was a perfect gentleman the whole time.
You have to climb into the saddle while they’re laying down because they’re so tall, some up to 7 ft at the shoulder alone. They tell you to lean back when the camel stands up. Do it. I nearly fell straight over Sid’s head when he was getting up.
Once up and settled, we headed off into the dunes.
You’d think camels in Australia is a novel idea, but in actuality, Australia has the world’s largest population of wild camels! Yep, even more than any country in the Middle East or Africa. They were imported in the 1840s to help with transportation through Australia’s outback, but as technology modernized, they weren’t needed as much. Since then, many were released or escaped into the desert where they’ve clearly flourished.
Our guide led Sid and Daisy along the edge of the dunes, pausing for the occasional photo opp. It’s a not-so-surprisingly bumpy ride. The camels followed the guide very well and seem quite content on our walk.
After cruising through the dunes, our guide turned the camels down towards the beach… and right into the ocean. My first thought: “Holy shit this is awesome!!” Followed by: “Wait, can camels swim?!”
The sun was just sinking below the horizon, revealing an absolutely beautiful sunset. The colors reflecting off the water were gorgeous.
Just after the sunset, our guide led the camels back to the starting point and helped us off. It was such a cool experience, and I was sad saying bye to Sid but gave him a nice scratch behind the ear as a thank you for such a lovely ride.
Oakfield Ranch offers two different options for camel rides: A basic 20-minute ride along the dunes ($30 AUD) and an hour-long sunset trek ($80 AUD). I would absolutely recommend the hour-long option. It’s amazing, and come on, when else are you going to ride a camel through sand dunes and the beach at sunset?! It’s totally worth it.
Stay tuned for more from my weekend trip up to Port Stephens!