I feel I need to write this campsite review quickly before my brain instinctively wipes out parts of the camp trip that need to be forgotten.... to preserve the memory of a fantastic few days with some great friends.
I have just posted pictures of Maroon Dam on Facebook and they are stunning (even if I do say so myself!!). We had a fabulous few days camping. However, I do not want my stunning photos and cheery Facebook status updates to reflect the actual situation at Camp Lake Fire.
It is abysmal. Horrendously overpriced and shamelessly run down. What could be a spectacular location for a thriving business is a disgusting rip off.
There is no doubt about it. Maroon Dam is beautiful. You can catch fresh water bass fish there, Kayak, boat, canoe - whatever water sport you desire!! The kids LOVED getting out on the water and playing. But the facilities at the camp grounds are pretty much the 2nd worst I've seen in all my travels around Australia (the only place worse I've stayed is behind the dirty pub in Winton - you may recall the horror from my blog post in Big Trip Blogs). They are so dirty and smelly I couldn't bare to even walk near them - let alone go in them!!
The outdoor "fully equipped kitchen and dining hall/conference area is also available
for cabin users. A sheltered area with a wood-fired pizza oven,
fridge/freezer, BBQ’s and hot & cold water washing up sinks" that is promised on the website is nothing more than a couple of dirty broken tables, 2 fridges that do not work and I didn't even stay there long enough to investigate whether or not there was actually a wood fired pizza oven. I was so scared that I was going to catch salmonella or camplyobacter just from breathing in the air surrounding the outdoor kitchen that I made a mad dash back to the safety of my car.
The tracks around the campsite are so badly run down you need to engage 4wd just to navigate around what could be quite an easily fixed up track.
I know I'm being very harsh on this camp but there is a reason. You may remember that the spot behind the pub at Winton, which was the scene of one of the most horrific sights of my life, was free. Camp Lake Fire, like to charge $15 PER PERSON PER NIGHT!!!!! Yes!! For my family of 6 that equates to $90 a night!!!!! Luckily we stayed when it was very quiet because during the busy periods, Camp Lake Fire like to squeeze 650 people into the area!!! The damage to the environment must be horrendous!! The place is basically a dust bowl and the few port-a-loo's, which are grotesque beyond words, scare campers into pee-ing in the water. Thank god we have a camp toilet and were not driven to such measures!!!
There is great fishing in the lake but unfortunately you have to pay $17 for 20 live bait. Is that expensive? I don't buy bait very often but to me, $17 for 20 tiny shrimp seems to be a massive rip off. I could buy 20 Fresh Australian prawns cooked for less than $17!! Ben and his trusty fishing partner spent $85 on bait for the 2 days they were there. They did manage to catch 4 reasonably sized bass. I'm sure it would have been more had it not been for the 650 guests the previous weekend wreaking havoc on the lake draining it of it's Bass population.
Had this camp charged a little less my review would be much kinder. At the very least it would be nice if they charged $7.50 a night for children, instead of $15. For the $250 Ben and I spent on our two nights there I expected a LOT more. The caretakers seemed very lovely and very helpful, even though the wait period for receiving bait you have paid for often exceeded 2 hours.
I truly felt like Camp Lake Fire liked to squeeze every last dollar out of their guests, without investing any of that money back into maintaining and improving the park and surrounding environment.
Mt Barney Lodge is not too far away and for less than half the price they manage to maintain an immaculate environment and have strict rules to prevent overcrowding. They are not intent on squeezing all the $$ out of you and go above and beyond to make sure you have a pleasant and comfortable stay in their stunning natural environment.
There is another camp grounds near Camp Lake Fire. I went to investigate them during my stay and found the owner rude beyond belief. I turned up merely wanting to make an inquiry about the place but was met with instant hostility once he found out where I was staying. He even refused to serve me citing that 'he only serves his guests'.
Overall I had a brilliant 2 nights. But this was because of the amazing company we were with and the beautiful lake. It really was sooo stunning. It is such a shame that the owner of the place has let it get to that state.
Would we go back??? Such a tough one!! I loved it!! I really did. But I don't love being ripped off and I feel for the money that they charge, there should be higher standards. The very fact that 650 people happily camped in a dust bowl with a few mangy port-a-loo's over the Easter weekend is a testament to the beauty of the place. If they changed their pricing so that kids weren't the same as adults I would be back there in a heart beat. Or, if they spent some of the $250 Ben and I spent on improving the tracks, laying grass, upgrading the loo's, etc - I would also be back. But at this stage no.