If you are a traveller on a budget, then we’re pretty sure that there’s nothing you like more than free stuff – especially when it comes to finding places to stay. Accommodation in Australia can often come at a price, and that goes for hotels, hostels, and even campgrounds. The good news for you is that Australia is also home to thousands of free camping spots all around the country.
A lot of travellers that hire a campervan or camp their way around Australia save big money on their accommodation budget – many of our customers even telling us they didn’t pay for a single campground! So, if you’re thinking of hiring a campervan and hitting the open road, read on for everything you need to know about camping for free in Australia.
What are the benefits of free camping (apart from the fact that it’s free)?
The main advantage of parking up at a free camping spot is obviously the fact that it won’t eat into your precious trip budget – which means that you have more cash left over for essentials like cold beers, sausages for the BBQ and bags of goon.
But apart from that, here are some other great advantages:
Complete freedom to choose where you pitch up. Who doesn’t love being in nature? Especially in Australia with the outdoors is so beautiful. You can camp nearby thousands of beaches and within national parks, and with Aussie wildlife just outside your door!
Escape the crowds by picking a secluded chilled out spot near the beach. During the busy summer months especially, a lot of campgrounds and holiday parks fill up and are packed with campers. The good news is, a lot of people don’t know how or where to find free campgrounds, so these are often vacant!
You won’t need to pre-book your spot – don’t worry about the campgrounds selling out of places to stay, just show up.
You can come and go as you please. If you decide you want to move on and head to another location for the night – do it. You aren’t booked in and have total freedom in where you go.
So, this all sounds great, but how can I find free places to camp in Australia?
Head to the National Parks
You’ll most likely find free camping in or nearby Australia’s great national parks. The best way to find out if you are close to a free campsite is to check the National Park website, keep your eyes out for signposts or to stop by the local tourist office. Here are some helpful websites to help you find national park campgrounds:
Pull in at Community campsites and roadside rest areas
On some of the bigger rest stops in Australia (mainly those along the highways), it’s legal to camp overnight for 24 hours. For many other places, you are allowed to stay overnight as long as you’re not setting up a camp. Just hop out and ask anyone else who is parked up if you aren’t sure, or contact a local community service centre.
Spot a bush camp
These free, and often remote, camps are often located just off the main highway in small towns. Keep your eyes open for them as you can easily drive past them in your campervan – so keep your eyes open, speak to the locals and stop by local tourism offices to get the heads up.
Can I get fined for sleeping in an area not designated for camping?
The short answer is yes, you can definitely get fined for this. We do not recommend staying the night on the side of a road, or in a car park by the beach, especially if you’re in a residential area. That being said, Australia is a huge country, so if you are somewhere very remote and stay a night without impacting the community, generally it’s not going to be a big issue. Keep noise to an absolute minimum, keep your area tidy, and most importantly, don’t leave a trace of litter or waste behind. Look out for signs that say ‘No camping or staying overnight’ – obviously staying in these areas (even if you come late and leave early) is a big no-no.
There sure are. Many apps tell you where to find free and paid campsites, as well as what amenities they have such as toilets, BBQs, dump stations and more. Some of these apps even work offline, so you can download the maps and then view all locations even without data. Try these apps for free campgrounds and free overnight camping.
What kind of facilities can I expect from a free campsite?
Well, it’ll probably come as no surprise that you might have to go without a hot shower or flushing toilet for a couple of nights.
In our experience facilities at free campsites can vary greatly – so try to be as prepared as you can. Roadside rest stops are the most basic and usually have no toilets or access to water. But, luckily for you, there are also lots of free campsites that do have toilets and some even have showers.
Keep in mind, if you want to power up your campervan’s second battery and charge electrical devices, you’ll need to plug in at a paid campsite. As a general guide, we usually recommend our customers pay for a campsite at least once every 3-4 nights – but of course, that’s totally up to your budget and travel preferences!
Free camping is a great way to travel in Australia, and the more knowledge you have, the better it can be. Have you had any experiences with free camping in Australia you think would be worth sharing? We’d love to hear about them!
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.