Few places in the world are blessed with Australia’s stunning nature, and with such a small population compared with the sheer size of the country, there are plenty of free camping opportunities. From the gorgeous coastline to the tropical rainforest and the desert interior, this nation has so much to give. But it’s also a fragile land, and its people serve as proud protectors, so it’s important to free camp responsibly and leave only your footprints behind.
Our comprehensive free camping in Australia guide has all the bases covered and plenty of top tips, so get planning your Aussie road trip now.
Here’s what you’ll find:
- What is free camping in Australia?
- What are the rules: Do’s and Don’ts?
- How to find free campgrounds?
- Best Apps for free campgrounds?
- Pick the pitch or campsite with the best view – Outback free campsite secrets
- How to find free campsites In National Parks
- The 3 best free campsites in every state – NSW, QLD, NT, WA, VIC & SA
What Is Free Camping in Australia?
Free camping often involved camping outside of campgrounds on public land or using campsites specially designed for free campers. Most of the free camping spots in Australia will be quiet and low-key, some remote, some just off main highways. There are plenty of options to choose from, so it’s time to get excited about free camping!
To free camp in most of Australia, you’ll need your own wheels — preferably a self-contained camper with its own toilet and water storage. The vast majority of sites aren’t served by public transport, and you’ll soon realise that many camping places are set up as simple spots where people can rest during long drives.
Make sure you look out for road signs to check the legality of your parking. Local councils can — and do — issue fines. In a residential area, or in a car park near a well-known tourist site, you might stick out a bit. That means that these are the places where you’ll need to be a bit more careful, especially if you’re camping on the Great Ocean Road or somewhere equally popular.
How to Find Free Campgrounds in Australia?
Chat to the experts — Chances are at each free campsite someone has been where you’re going or is going where you’ve been, so make sure to check with other travellers on recommendations for the best free camping spots. There’s a real community spirit in the RV world whether you’re chatting to fresh-off-the-boat backpackers or people who seem like they’ve been living in their campers since the 60s.
Search on Google Maps for Free camping spots — Searching on maps can lead you to many free camping spots in Australia, lots with reviews and images to support. It’s always worth checking out the most recent write-ups. For example, Johanna Beach in Vic, is listed as one of the best free campsites in Victoria on many websites, now charges a fee, according to a number of disgruntled reviews who turned up unaware of this.
Seek out specialist websites and forums — There’s a great RV and campervan community online as well as off, who share info on sites like Free Camping Australia. There are also lots of great Facebook groups and pages to help you find spots.
Relevant apps – There are many apps built to help you have the best possible campervan or road trip ever! So make use of these apps. Travellers Autobarn have a free app, which hosts an abundance of information on campgrounds, things to do, where to locate ATMs, find the closest petrol station, and much more.
What Are The Rules? Your Do’s and Don’ts
Free camping is not a right, it’s a privilege, so try to treat it as such — You might like your music loud but that doesn’t guarantee everyone else does. Keep your voice down, especially at night.
Don’t disturb the wildlife — That includes feeding and harassing animals or leaving rubbish that they might eat.
Follow the signs — Especially those that say ‘no camping’. It might not be obvious on arrival, but it could be a croc-infested area or sacred Aboriginal land. If someone has bothered to install a sign, it’s usually for a good reason!
Obey the total fire ban — It should go without saying that in a country as dry as Australia has, any fire should be treated with serious caution. Pick a van with cooking facilities, like our Budgie with its big kitchenette, if you’re worried about grilling up food on naked flames.
Keep the countryside clean — In an emergency case where you can’t find toilets and you’ve not got your own, then dig a hole at least 30cm deep, do your business and then make sure it’s fully covered.
Be careful during dawn and dusk — Outback roads can be extremely dangerous during these times as this is when the local animals are most active. Hitting a male kangaroo at a decent speed isn’t good for either party, so try to take extra caution.
Outback Free Campsite Secrets
If you fail to prepare then you prepare to fail. The bush is wild, exciting and doesn’t need to be dangerous if you do your homework. Australia is colossal, so if you park somewhere pretty remote and only stay for the night then you should be golden.
To find the hidden campsites, those that are offline, the hidden gems that no one knows about, you going to need to be creative. That’s what free camping is all about and the joy of being at the most tranquil places with the best view around is worth some searching. Sometimes you’ve got to drive around and look out for those quiet, hidden spots. Here’s how to find them:
- Look early: The light is your friend. You want to know where you’re driving and you want to be able to appreciate the view.
- Use maps: A spot may not be listed as a campground, but if you find a river on the map, drive along it until you find a quiet place to park up.
- Pick your site first: A place as impressive as Uluru can be seen for miles around. So why pitch up at the busiest campground in town? Drive around and explore the area by day and keep an eye out for a place with a view to call your home by night.
- Ask around: Have a word with locals and ask them if they know somewhere that you park up undisturbed. Try other campers too for any off-the-beaten-path tips.
What to Bring:
- A torchlight: Australia is known for having a lot of creatures you don’t want to be surprised or startled by in the night!
- Water: H2O is a premium, so bring more than you think you’ll need and hydrate yourself often. Many free camps won’t have drinking water, especially the more remote you go. It’s good to have a camper with a lot of storage for water.
- Sun lotion: Slip, slap, slop! The sun is unrelenting, so look after your poor skin.
- Insect repellent: It’ll feel like you’re waging war on bugs in some parts of the country and repellent is your best weapon. Those darn mozzies get everywhere, especially at night when you least want them humming in your ears.
- Fridge: The outback consumes all that is living. Your food will go bad in no time, so make sure you use a fridge or an esky (or a tropical ice box, like the one in our Chubby vans) and bring non-perishables or dry foods. Keep goods packed away in your vehicle as they may attract unwanted visitors at night.
- Gas: Small towns equal big prices, so stock up on petrol or diesel at bigger towns before heading on a long trip.
How to Find Free Campsites in National Park Campgrounds within National Parks and State Forests are almost always immersive and beautiful as they’re far away from cities, so look up nearby National Parks on the road first and focus on building your trip around them. Then you can check which ones have free campsites by taking a look at their official websites (here’s a list of those). Some National Parks require camping passes to visit and stay overnight, so researching beforehand is key. Make sure you check out the rules before bedding down for the night so you don’t get woken up by an angry ranger at 2am!
The Top Apps for Finding Free Campgrounds
The $9.99 price tag is more than worth the investment for this comprehensive free camping in Australia app. As well as listing free sites, it also covers budget camping and caravan parks to give you a ton of choice. Info like whether the site’s near the road, has awesome views or is only accessible in good weather is also included. If you can’t get through a night without updating your Instagram, you’ll also be pleased to know it lists whether a spot has mobile coverage or not. Reviews from fellow campers and star ratings make it easy to see whether you’re going to love a site or not.
With free and paid campgrounds, maps and sites of interests in New South Wales’ over 225 national parks, this is the pick of the government’s state by state apps. Download what you want offline, so you’ll be in the know even when you’re in the depths of a national park far away from phone signal.
Our free road trip app is a one-stop-shop for all your campervan needs. We’ve got the lowdown on the best camping spots and the nearest places to fill up your water tank or LPG gas bottle. We’ve also covered the three great needs of the modern traveler, public toilets, ATMs and most importantly, Wi-Fi hotspots. If stuff gets hairy you can get check out the sections on how to report an accident and dealing with breakdowns.
Free Camping Across Australia: Our Top Campsite Picks
Here are some of the best free campsites in Australia by state:
3 Free Campsites in South Australia
For free camping in SA, this is a cool site on the gorgeous Spencer Gulf. It’s got views of the sparkling water and rocky coastline, which you might even be lucky enough to spot some dolphins from. People also love fishing here and it’s got the Holy Grail of free camp spot facilities: flushing toilets and showers (a word of warning: they’re cold). There’s a dumping point nearby and the site has a breakwater to protect your van from the waves. Unfortunately, there are plans to introduce a charge because of its popularity — so get there quick before the fee comes in!
A 10-minute drive from Paringa, which is known for its vineyards, Murtho Forest Landing is a shady free camping site in Australia just off the Murray River. It’s the place to be if you’re into fishing: people have caught carp and golden perch near here. There’s also a ton of other wildlife to keep an eye out for, from pelicans to roos. The lookout beside the entrance is also worth checking out for its view of the ochre earth meeting the water. It doesn’t have toilets, water facilities or mobile reception, making it ideal for off-grid campers.
Hikers will be happy with this comfortable free camping in Southern Australia, which is located near the World’s End Gorge. It’s set on the stunning Heysen Trail, so when you’re not hanging out beside the van you can head off on some walks nearby. The site has a pit toilet and is surrounded by bushland. It’s known for being busy but friendly, so it’s a good spot for meeting fellow campers.
3 Free Campsites in Queensland
At first, this looks quite an unremarkable parking area, but it boasts a secluded billabong brimming with birdlife, from cockatoos to brightly coloured budgies. So read up on Australia’s avian creatures and get your camera ready on hand.
Lakeside views, flushing toilets and unheated showers make this a fantastic base for exploring the water on a boat or kayak. There’s almost always plenty of space, so it feels a touch ‘freer’ than other camping spots. Check out the nearby Gleneden and Mt Britain old township and gold mine for a bit of the area’s history.
Superbly located right next to this tranquil river, this is a great place to kick back and relax while camping in Queensland. It’s become popular to float down the river from here, so don’t forget to pack your inner tube.
It’s also a good spot to stop off on trips to Adels Grove and Lawn Hill National Park.
3 Free Camping Spots in Western Australia
This area offers three free camping in WA sites for the price of none. The sections — Cliff Head North, Cliff Head South and Cliff Head Central — are right on the iconic Indian Ocean Road between Leeman and Dongara. The towering limestone cliffs and azure water is home to rays and dolphins, and campers can enjoy the local area for three nights max pro bono. Recently re-vamped, Cliff Head Central, the biggest of the three, now has eco-toilets, benches, tables, an undercover area with sink and a communal firepit.Cliff Head South offers eco-toilets but nothing much in terms of facilities.
If you’re seeking free beach camping in WA, this hidden gem around 50km north of Broome has no facilities, just epic sunsets and whale spotting at one of the world’s largest humpback whale nurseries. It’s better to walk down to the flaming red-cliffed beach rather than drive your campervan along the unpaved track. The Dampier Peninsula has a number of free camping options along its pristine beaches and shallow reefs offshore — which might make it tough to leave.
The vibrant red soils and wildflowers that bloom in the spring are far from a disappointment here. The campsite is also superbly positioned on the Hyden-Norseman road, recently named ‘The Granite & Woodlands Discovery Trail’. The route has well-signed places of interest to stop at along the way during your trip free camping in North or Southwest WA.
3 Free Campsites in New South Wales
Bendeela is a well-maintained campsite where you’re sure to see the bare-nosed wombats that live close by. When you’re not making friends with the local wildlife, you can swim and canoe in the Kangaroo River. Nearby Tallowa Dam and Fitzroy Falls Reservoir are also worth a look. Thanks to being run by WaterNSW, it’s got H2O, a WC and a toilet dumping station.
If you’re seeking free camping in NSW, this site’s popular because it’s situated right next to a refreshing creek in the Blue Mountains. It’s pretty small and booking isn’t available, so it’s best to get there early. If you’re up for a walk ahead of a dip in the pool, it’s just off the Wentworth Falls to Woodford trail. There’s no drinking water here, so make sure to fill up beforehand.
It’s difficult to pick just one free campsite with an awe-inspiring view, but we love Newnes in Wollemi National Park. It’s surrounded by soul-stirring natural scenery including sandstone cliffs and eucalyptus trees, making it an ideal spot for free camping in the Blue Mountains. It’s also got barbies to fire up a feast on and toilets.
3 Free Campsites in Victoria
The perfect place to park up after a long drive and cool down in style. Cliff jump off (check the depth first) and/or take a rope swing into this (croc-free) deep swimming hole beautifully situated in a gorge on Freestone Creek. Its leisure facilities top its other basic amenities, making it popular in the summer, so get there as early as possible to guarantee your place.
Free camping on the Great Ocean Road is becoming an endangered species, but this site is one of the few left and is only a short walk to the nearby whopping 85m waterfalls. There are fire pits, drop toilets and around 50 unpowered campsites for whoever turns up first. As it’s just over half an hour drive from Apollo Bay, the word is out and it can get busy at peak times but don’t let that put you off.
Park up at this inland beach and enjoy the cooling waters of the Murray River. About three hours north of Melbourne, this shady bush camp has long drop toilets but otherwise limited facilities Outside the school holidays you should only be hearing the sound of the bird’s that call the river their home. The kookaburras are pretty cocky, so watch your food.
3 Free Campsites in Northern Territory
Free camp next to the second biggest meteorite crater in the world for a memorable night in the Kandimalal-Wolfe Creek Crater park. You can take a stroll to the rim to see where the meteor is thought to have slammed into Earth almost 300,000 years ago. It’s just a few hundred meters from the campsite, but don’t climb down as the steep rock makes it dangerous. There are toilets but no water, so make sure to prep beforehand.
Two Mile Hole is a great free fishing spot and camping base from which to explore the unforgettable Kakadu National Park. Avoid the billabongs and the sea unless you want to hone your inner Crocodile Dundee. This is a real free bush camping area and there are no toilet facilities or drinking water so bring what you need and tough it out. It closes during the wet season.
This Northern Territory free camping spot is ideally situated next to a picturesque river, just 10 km from Cape Crawford. There are no facilities and none of the fanfare or crowds of other spots, just you and the great Aussie outdoors. If you want a remote experience then this is your spot.
You’ll need the right vehicle to get you to these great free camping spots, so start your Aussie road trip adventure with Travellers Autobarn. With unlimited kilometers, 24/7 roadside assistance, great rates and a whole host of extras, check out our top campervan and car rental and sales quotes today.
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