You have come to Australia and bought a Campervan, but where do you park it for the night? You’re on a budget and all your money goes on fuel, food and alcohol (not necessarily in that order. Lol). Caravan Parks can be expensive, Backpacker Hostels noisy and overpriced. Where to find free camp sites?
How to find free camping in Australia.
Most Highways have rest areas where you can pull up and stay for the night while travelling. Although these will be listed on any half decent road map you may want to know more information. Questions like; are there toilets? And is there phone reception? Is the rest area right next to a busy, noisy highway or set back from the road? Another important thing to know is how long can you stay there. Wikicamps is an App that can tell you all this and more. It is well worth spending the $7.99 to get Wikicamps as this App will pay for itself over and over again.
Wikicamps features a clickable map and has built-in GPS functionality. Other users can and do leave comments so you can always get up-to-date information, and even look at user-posted pictures. It lists free and paid camp sites, as well as Caravan Parks and Backpacker Hostels, and even where to find free showers. It has easy to use filters to narrow down to what you are looking for. No Road trip would be complete without it.
Although it does not list any free camps, Youcamp.com is an online resource for budget camps on rural properties and farms. Prices start at a low $5 dollars per night. I definitely recommend you check this out if you are looking for a unique kind of experience.
Camps Australia lists free and budget camps. It has been around for twenty years, and it is constantly updated. The latest version is CampsAustralia 9 It includes comprehensive road maps of Australia. Buying a copy of the book entitles you access to online resources, and there is now also an App available for $9.99.
At $59.95 the CampsAustralia book is not cheap, but well worth it for the price of two nights in a Caravan Park. If you are on a tight budget you can often find an older version at Op-shops.
Tips and tricks that you won’t find in any official guides.
Often in major towns or cities it is impossible to find a camp site. Any day time parks are bound to be policed at night, and you might end up with a fine. This is where having a Van really pays off. I have camped in the Middle of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney with nobody blinking an eyelid. You can too…
The trick is to take advantage of the relative anonymity of today’s individualistic society. What do I mean by this? Well, most people who live in high rise apartment buildings don’t know their neighbors from Adam. This presents the perfect opportunity for the stealth camper.
To avoid attracting unwanted attention spend the day wherever you wish, then when you are ready for the night drive to a suburb and park on the street outside any apartment building. Try to keep lights and noise to a minimum. In the morning drive to the nearest park or beach and cook your breakfast at your leisure. It is handy to have a small bucket with a lid if you don’t have a portable toilet, especially if you have a Wizzbanger.
Campervans with sliding doors are often referred to as ‘Wizzbangers’, because of the sound the sliding door makes when it is slammed shut. This sometimes makes them not so popular with the neighbors, especially if you open and close the door a few times in the middle of the night .
Another option is any large shopping centre car park. The trick is not to draw attention to yourself. Arrive late and leave early. Some towns provide RV parking areas, but you may get moved on from these if you are not totally self-sufficient.
Camping in National Parks.
National Parks in Queensland often have camp sites for around $6 dollars per person per night. This small fee is well worth it to stay in some of the most beautiful natural places you’ll find anywhere. Go to Queensland Parks and Wildlife to book your permit. Make sure you set up an account for easy booking next time.
New South Wales has a different system and tends to be a bit more expensive, starting at $22 dollars per vehicle per night and often requires a vehicle entry fee as well. However, these fees only apply to the most popular parks, many National Parks in NSW have free camping. Plan your camping trip here at NSW National Parks Camping. You can also buy a yearly camping pass for around $190 per year.
Victoria is similar to NSW in that the most popular parks require bookings and fees, but camping in the majority of Victorian National Parks is free. See Victoria National Parks for more information and bookings. Fees differ for each National Park and may seem expensive, but keep in mind that these fees are per campsite not per person as in Queensland.
South Australia has its fair share of magnificent National Parks, most fees range from $12 to $15 per campsite per night. See South Australia National Parks Camping for bookings and maps.
In Western Australia you will find world-class National Parks like the Kimberly’s and the Bungle Bungle Range. Fees for most National Parks start from $8 dollars per person per night for camping sites with no, or basic, amenities. For some parks there is also an entry fee. See Western Australia National Park Campsite Bookings for details on each National Park.
What are ‘basic amenities’? As there is often a shortage of water, basic amenities are mainly ‘long drop’ self-composting toilets in most National Parks in Australia. When they are working well there is no smell. To ensure they keep working properly, please do not put anything in these toilets that has not gone in through your mouth and out the other end. This ensures a pleasant experience for those who may need to use the facilities after you.
Northern Territory is the cheapest in camping fees, but the fuel cost to travel the long distances soon mitigate this small saving. Basic fees are $3.30 per person per night , again some National Parks require an entry fee, and some Aboriginal lands require a permit to traverse. The official Northern Territory National Parks website is where you can find out about camping fees, and Park closures. It is quite basic and a bit boring. NorthernTerritory.com offers a much better overview with many stunning pictures.
Get to know locals.
Some of the most beautiful free campsites you will not find in any directory or online forum. These hidden gems are precious secrets know only to locals. You may be lucky enough to stumble upon one as you explore yet another beach or bush track, however, you just can not beat ‘local knowledge’.
Often on farms there will be a mixture of local and backpacker workers. Be friendly and polite and the friendships you make with some of the local workers might result in them sharing their favorite camping spots.
Finding a good campsite is an art form and becomes easier with practice. Of course, the ideal campsite depends on your preferences, but if you follow these tips and recommendations you will have no trouble finding a place to lay your weary head. If you haven’t bought your Campervan yet, check out my post Buying a used car, what every Backpacker should know.
Although there are other resources available, I would recommend Wikicamps and CampsAustralia. For paid options YouCamp offers an interesting and cheaper alternative to Caravan Parks. Of course, you can’t beat the huge variety of majestic and beautiful National Parks in Australia. Go on, get out there!
Before you go, be sure to leave a comment and share your experiences and recommendations as they might help others.