The best way to see Australia is on a road trip with your family in a campervan or car. The open roads, stunning scenery and amazing sights, Australia is waiting for you.
If you’re planning a trip and thinking about renting a van, wagon or car then read on. We’ve put together a full guide for your next family trip, discussing what to bring, the best family camping spots across Australia, if you should go in a tent or van, activities on the road, cooking with the family and much more.
A family camping holiday, whether it’s by the beach or in the bush, is an iconic Aussie tradition.
If you’ve never camped with kids before, or haven’t been camping with the family for a long time then planning time away may seem overwhelming. What do you need to bring? Where should you go? What do you do if it rains?
With some helpful tips and a good checklist it’s an easy, cheap and budget friendly holiday! We’ve put together this ultimate guide to help you get packed up and ready for your next family adventure.
Here’s what you’ll find in the guide
What to bring when camping with kids
Family camping spots: Where to go
Tent or campervan? Which is right for you?
Kids Camping Activities
Camp cooking with kids
Top tips for camping with the whole family
What to bring when camping with kids
There are lots of things to remember when you go camping, we’re not going to lie, it will take some careful planning and preparation. You’ll find that regular campers often have their camping gear put to one side in the garage, ready to go! If you’ve chosen to go camping in a campervan then the good news is that you can hire camping packs that contain many of the bulkier items you’ll need such as crockery, camping chairs, cooking pans and sleeping bags.
If this is your first time camping with the family then we’ve put together a list of essential list of things to bring for a family camping trip below:
Clothes, towels and all your essential toiletries
First aid kit, sunscreen and insect repellent
Lighting for the evening – torches, lanterns, glow sticks and solar powered lights
Keeping things clean – sponges, detergent, anti-bacterial wipes, rubbish bags and tea towels
Hats and sunglasses
Buckets, mallets and
Water and water containers
Food and drinks
Stove, fuel and matches
Tent, chairs, sun umbrellas
Night time, warm pjs, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets and a hat
Board games, boogie boards, bats and balls
Family camping spots: Where to go?
Choosing a campsite is hard, because there is so much choice out there! Australia is blessed with many beautiful beachside campsites and picturesque spots in the national parks.
When it comes to narrowing down where you’re going to pitch up then consider what facilities your family needs. Do you need a camp kitchen or are you hiring a fully fitted campervan? Do you need shower facilities? Do you need a power supply for your tent or campervan, do you have your own power supply?
If this is your first time then you’ll probably want to pick a campsite with ample facilities. Look for campgrounds with
Full bathroom and laundry facilities
BBQs or fire pits
A fully fitted camp kitchen with refrigerator
A kids play area
Local convenience store nearby (handy for picking up those forgotten bits!)
When you’ve identified your top picks we recommend that you book your campervan and campsite well in advance. There are lots of families who have favourite spots that they book out a year in advance, so make sure you get in there early to bag a spot at the campsites you want to visit.
Here are some of our top picks for New South Wales:
Most of the campgrounds on the Central coast are geared towards family groups. Take a look at
Toowoon Bay, Central Coast at Wyong (close to Pelican feeding, the Australian reptile park, kids play areas and great beaches).
Diamond Head, Crowdy Bay National Park, near Port Macquarie. A great site with an amenities block, BBQs, car park, showers, toilets
Stockton Beach, Newcastle region (They have good free kids activities during the school holidays including daily colouring in competition with prizes. Easy beach access and the break wall is popular for fishing.)
Here are some of our top picks for Victoria:
Cumberland River Holiday Park( wake up with the river right at your campervan. This campground has two amenity blocks with showers,, washing machine and dryer, a playground, BBQs, and sinks for washing up.)
Boreang Campground, Grampians National Park (This park is close to lots of nearby attractions, making it an excellent place to base yourself while you go exploring. Facilities include non-flush toilets, shared fireplaces and shared picnic areas, but there is no water or firewood, so bring your own.)
Nagambie Lakes Leisure Park (This park is just under two hours drive from Melbourne. Facilities are plentiful and campground activities perfect for families.
Here are some of our top picks for Queensland:
Dicky Beach Family Holiday Park (This campsite is right at the beach,they have a swimming pool and a really good ‘camp kitchen’. It’s the perfect introduction to camping.)
Neurum Creek Bush Retreat at Woodford. (This park is kid and dog friendly, and offers an equipment rental service in case you’ve forgotten anything or didn’t have the space in the car or campervan. Also has a wide range of kid-friendly activities).
Girraween National Park (The park has two campsites where amenities such as hot showers are provided and barbecue fires are permitted. For the more adventurous, walk-in bush camping is also allowed.)
Tent or campervan? Which is right for you and the family?
Everyone goes camping for different reasons, so it’s only right that you should explore whether a tent or campervan is the best option for your next family camping trip.
A tent is a great way to truly feel like you’re outdoors, while remaining sheltered from the wind or rain, (if you’re unlucky). Tents also come in all shapes and sizes which means there will definately be one that’s the perfect size for your family, large or small. Tent pitches are also often slightly cheaper than campervan pitches.
You may be worried about security if you’re camping in a tent, however if you have a car with you then you can still lock away your valuables in a secure place. You’ll also have to remember to pack more gear with you otherwise there will be nowhere to sit in the evenings, eat your meals or cook your food.
Hiring a campervan for your family camping trip is a great way to cut down on some of the hassle. You campervan provides you with a comfortable bed, table to eat dinner at, kitchen and even a refrigerator.
The battery does mean that you can have a well lit area at night, great for getting the kids ready for bed.
Hiring a campervan is a slightly less budget friendly option, and it will normally cost a little more at a campsite to pitch up for the night. Another consideration could be that if you want to head off an explore for the day, (and you don’t have an extra car), then you’ll need to either pack things up or unpack and leave them exposed at the campsite.
Kids Camping Activities
One of the best things about camping trips with the family are the memories you make. Here are some ideas for games the whole family can get involved in – whatever your age!
If there is a large group of your host your own version of outdoor olympic games. The beauty of hosting your own games is that you can tailor the races to what you have around you. Consider tug of war with some rope.
Don’t forget to bring prizes for the gold medal winners.
This night time take on the classic game of tag is a great way to work off your dinner and burn off any leftover energy before you settle down for the night. Don’t forget to pack enough batteries for the torches.
When you’ve settled down by the campfire for the night why not host a game of charades. Look online for a printable version before you leave home.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
Kids love the great outdoors, and this is a good way to encourage them to explore their surroundings. This classic camping game for families is easy to set up by hiding various pieces of your camping gear for the kids to find. Or alternatively take a walk around the campground and make a list of things they need to spot of collect for example a green leaf, a small stone, a seashell.
Make dream catchers to hang on the tent
Making your own dream catchers is easy. Simply bring some old yarn, beads and an embroidery hoop (or something similar) along with you from home.
What better way to get the campfire built quickly as the night gets colder by turning it into a game. Divide the family up into two and race to gather supplies as quickly as possible (rocks, firewood and paper). The first team to get the campfire built wins!
If you’re by the beach then host a family sandcastle competition. The one with the most impressive turret wins! If you aren’t by a beach then consider other things you could use to build a structure such as small twigs held together with some string.
Rainy day activities
If you’re unlucky and it starts to rain while you’re away then don’t fear. Here are some ideas on how to keep the kids entertained until the sun comes out again.
Always bring some board games with you and a pack of cards, like Uno.
Don’t forget to pack the comic and colouring books
Build a craft box before you leave, fill it with odds and ends such as wool, lolly sticks, stickers, paper plates, bottle caps, colouring pens, paper and glue.
Most campgrounds in Australia have a covered area so why not host a talent show. You could get kids from other families involved and turn it into quite the event. It’s also great entertainment for adults to watch as well
Have a tent picnic. While it’s great to eat out in the open there’s nothing more than having a secret picnic inside the tent if it’s pouring down outside.
Camp cooking with kids
Cooking and sitting around the campfire is one of the best things about camping. As you’re likely to have a car or campervan with you then you don’t need to hold back on the food you bring along. Pack your favourite snacks, drinks and enjoy! This is a holiday after all.
A good tip to remember is to not over complicate things by planning meals that require a lot of ingredients. Stick to simple recipes that only require five to six ingredients. How about some of these for inspiration….
Campfire nachos – corn chips, cheese, salsa and a can of refried of beans or chilli is all you need to dish up this tasty family favourite.
Baked potatoes with a variety of toppings – wrap up some spuds in tinfoil and throw them on the campfire. When they are done serve with cheese and beans, tinned chilli or tuna mayo and coleslaw.
One pan fried rice – bring some pre-cooked rice with you and add in some sweetcorn, tinned mushrooms, chicken, soy sauce, onion and garlic. Add in a whisked egg to finish.
Camping mac and cheese – Cook the pasta and stir in a packet cheese sauce. Grate fresh cheese over the top for the ultimate cheesy gooeyness.
Baked eggs with beans – This is a classic breakfast dish, served up in many cafes but it also serves as a great camping meal for the family. Heat your beans up with a pinch of chilli, before breaking in some eggs. Serve with fresh bread and butter.
Banana Boats – This one is super simple but tastes so good. Unpeel a banana and slice it lengthwise in half. Stuff it full of chocolate or a slice of Mars bar and wrap in tinfoil. Stick it on the campfire for 5 – 10 minutes – that’s it.
Top tips for camping with the whole family
Plan to arrive earlier rather than later
Campgrounds and camping sites get super busy in summer, especially if it’s holiday season. You also need to consider that if you’re planning a trip close to Easter it starts to darker much earlier in the evenings, leaving you less time to set up camp.
Our tip is to arrive early and avoid the traffic and queues to register at reception. Getting there early means you have the luxury of unpacking the car at leisure, you might even get your pick of the best pitch!
As with most things when kids are involved always plan for things to take longer than you expect them to, if you think it’s going to take you an hour to set up camp, unpack and get the bbq going then plan for at least two!
Being cold is no fun for anyone…
Being cold, or even worse cold and wet is guaranteed to make even the most easy going person a little grumpy and uncomfortable. You’ll never be able to control the weather while you’re away camping, but you can control how prepared you are to deal with any sudden downpours or chilly spells.
It will always get colder than you think at night so be prepared with warm bedding and lots of layers to wear. You might even want to pack your winter hat to keep your head warm. Always pack a waterproof jacket and an extra change of dry clothes – if you’re camping in Spring or Autumn then don’t forget some extra pairs of socks.
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.