Australia is world-renowned for its stunning landscapes, sheer size, and relatively small population. This translates to plenty of wide-open spaces to get away from it all (and from other people). From our spectacular coastlines to lush tropical rainforests, to the rugged outback or our red desert interior, there is no better way to explore our unique and ancient land than in your caravan. For many caravanners, free camping is the way to go.
What is Free Camping?
Free camping is simply camping outside of paid campgrounds. It is done either at specified free camping sites or on public land. For example, some local councils have overnight parking areas in or just outside towns; these are usually signposted as such. Some towns, however, do not allow overnight camping. The more remote the area, the more free camping sites are available. Many outback rest areas allow free camping.
The majority of free camping spots in Australia are quiet and there are many, many options from which to choose, from spots just off main highways to remote low-key sites. These spots are basic places to stop and rest comfortably overnight during long driving trips.
While free camping is legal in many areas in Australia, and a great way to save money, there are some rules to follow. Fines may be issued by local councils if you set up in a residential area or a car park close to a popular tourist attraction. (As an example, you’d need to be very careful free camping along the Great Ocean Road.)
Free camping sites can be located by chatting to experts (like the team at Caravan World!), by searching specialist forums or websites, using purpose-built apps, using a book relating specifically to the topic, or with a simple Google Maps search.
Rules for Free Camping
- Plan ahead.
- Obey signs – if it says “No Camping”, do not camp there.
- Use a map.
- Be respectful and considerate – keep quiet and don’t disturb others, especially at night.
- Take all rubbish with you and leave no trace.
- Don’t harass or disturb the local wildlife.
- Obey fire bans.
- Drive extra carefully at dusk and dawn, when wildlife is most active.
- If you need to go to the toilet outside, dig a hole at least 30cm deep and fully cover it when you are done.
- Choose your campsite early – you don’t want to be setting up in the dark.
- Check if you are required to book site (refer to the National Parks camping website for your state for more information)
Free Camping versus Off-Road Camping
Ideally, to free camp, you will need a self-contained caravan with toilet and water storage capacity. Some areas will have a basic toilet facility, but these can be few and far between and are often not pleasant. Many free campsites have no facilities at all.
- Many roadside rest areas allow free camping and potential access to basic toilet facilities, BBQ, picnic tables, shelter, fireplaces, and a tap. You may also elect to pull off the road.
- Be aware that it is not safe nor legal to pull into “Truck Only” rest stops with your vehicle and caravan.
- Most rest stops will allow camping for up to 24 hours.
- Free camping is available in many National Parks. Some sites will have basic facilities. Note that dogs and other pets are not allowed in National Parks.
- Off-road or bush camping is best found in State Forests and Reserves, and many are open for camping as well as hiking, 4WDing, motorbiking, and most allow dogs. There will likely be no toilet or tap facilities and you need to be self-sufficient.
What You Need to Free Camp
- Electrical Capacity – solar enables you to have off-grid electricity. This requires solar panels, solar inverter, and solar battery.
- Tanks – you will need a plentiful supply of fresh drinking water, as well as to wash up in (and bathe in if you have an onboard shower). You’ll also need a grey water tank to collect your grey (non-sewage) wastewater.
- Fuel – Jerry can holders will enable you to stock up on fuel or water in bigger towns so that you have a supply in remote locations.
- Generator – decent size to handle most requirements including fridge, battery charging, air conditioning etc.
- Electrical – solar and batteries.
- Tanks – for both drinking water and greywater.
- Connectivity – wifi or satellite for convenience and safety in an emergency.
- Stone Guard – to protect your van from dents and scratches and also your tow vehicle’s rear window from breakage.
- Suspension Upgrade to handle off-road conditions and manage the extra weight when carrying supplies of fuel and water.
- Van Height – upgrade to clear water crossings safely in your van.
- Dust Extractors – for going outback on hundreds of kilometres of dirt or unsealed roads
- Heater – for when you can’t run your air conditioner.
- Lastly, Drive to the conditions!
You will also need essentials like plenty of non-perishable food, a fridge, a GPS, torches, sun protection, insect repellent, toilet paper, and a first aid kit. If you don’t have a portable toilet, you’ll need a spade.
It’s also worth carrying some firewood as it is not always available to collect at campsites.
Caravan World – Come See Us Today!
Australia is perfect for free camping. We have more than 4,000 free and low-cost camping areas, and more than 80,000 people travel in a caravan, camper, or motorhome daily. The majority are aged between 55-75 and free camping is quite safe if you obey the rules and use basic common sense. Unless you are way off the beaten track, there will often be added “safety in numbers” and you’ll meet lots of likeminded travellers along the way.
Caravan World has what you need for your van to be all set for free camping. Come and say hi! Visit our yard at 7071 Bruce Highway, Chevallum Qld today to view our current caravan stock or to have a chat about what you need. We are one of the state’s oldest established Caravan Dealerships – and as such, we know our business! Our extensive handover process is renowned and we offer a diverse product range, delivered with unparalleled service, advice, and great prices.
We are open for business as usual, and rest assured that we are adhering to and promoting all of the required health measures relating to COVID-19 to keep you and your family safe.