It is not only backpackers that are drawn out into the wilderness, Australian’s absolutely love their own “backyard” too. Whether it is sleeping in a tent, in a rooftop, or in the car itself, camping is certainly one of the most popular ways to discover the beauty of the incredibly vast continent. If you go on a camping trip yourself, you will soon understand the popularity. The unbelievable expanses and the rough nature of Australia are made for pitching a tent, sitting around the campfire with friends while counting shooting stars, drinking beers and toasting marshmallows. Booking into caravan parks and holidays resorts are slowly becoming a thing of the past and FREE camping is taking over. In this article we share everything you need to know about free camping in Australia.
Why you should camp?
In addition to paid campsites and caravan parks, there are free camps almost everywhere around Australia. Some not so better than others with picturesque public barbecues and even hot free showers from time to time. Then sometimes it is a gravel pit on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere.
Either way, free camping is perfect for those who want to keep their budgets low. Not only does free camping offer the advantage of spending almost no money on accommodation, there is no other form of travel that offers so much freedom: you don’t have to book, you can camp where you want, stay where you like it, and drive on if you don’t like it. With a bit of luck, you might even find free camps right on the beach! What could be better than opening your car door in the morning, peeling yourself out of bed and standing right on the beach?
How to find free campsites: Wikicamps, Campermate and Co.
Many newcomers to camping will often purchase the free camping books but, a simpler way with more options is to download the very popular free camping apps; Wikicamps or Campermate. These apps will not only help you find the nearest free campsite but will also show the nearest public toilet, library, potable water stations, dump points etc. Another great feature of the apps, that the books do not contain, is a comments page. Here other travellers reveal which campsites are recommended and which ones you should stay away from due to mosquitoes or other inconveniences. With a bit of luck, you can find real gems; free camps right on the beach, on mountain tops or tucked away by a secluded beautiful water hole.
The great outdoors become your new living room
You definitely cannot count on luxury if you choose to free camp. 80% of the time when free camping you will not have access to hot showers or toilets, let alone flushing ones (unless you have one on board your camping setup). You might get lucky and come across a free camp that is run by the local council, designated rest areas, originations or national parks that offer these luxuries. Even still, the sanitary facilities are usually very simple, if available. Because of this, free camping in Australia requires some preparation. You should have your own water for drinking, cooking and rinsing. A dish is helpful for washing dishes, extra toilet paper for all places without sanitary facilities, a shovel to dig a hole when there are no facilities available and plenty garbage bags.
Fortunately, Australia has an infrastructure that’s perfect for every camper. In almost every park there are clean public toilets. On the beach you can take a shower, there are many taps to fill drinking water canisters. There are also many public barbecues that make cooking easier. So, if you want, you can enjoy the sunset right on the beach and use one of the free barbecues there.
Leave no trace
When planning a camping trip, you should always stick to a few set of “rules”. First of all, wild camps are generally banned in Australia, which is why you should stick with the free camps. Camping in in residential areas is prohibited and if caught you will be fined. Often it is not necessary to camp within these areas as there are enough free camping opportunities around. In some cases, to avoid a fine, you will have to camp just outside of the city or beach at the designated free camping area.
Furthermore, it is extremely important to follow the rule “leave no trace”. This means that you have to properly dispose of your garbage, or should there be no trash can, take along and dispose of in the next town. Of course, this does not only apply to free camps, but also to all public facilities that you use. Remove ALL toilet paper if there are no facilities and use a shovel to dig a hole. Lastly, if you use a barbecue make sure to leave it clean for the next camper!
In the Australian drought, before making a campfire find out in advance if there are any fire restrictions in the area. Most of Australia prohibits open fires in the dry months to avoid bushfires. If campfires are allowed, take care to keep them under control and properly clear them at the end of the night. If you do not, you risk devastating bush fires. Remember, free camping in Australia, as well as other public facilities are a great privilege. They are provided by the states free of charge to make the regions attractive. However, if these facilities are littered or wilfully contaminated or damaged, they will probably be closed or become a paid site. This will give the next traveller the opportunity to stand in the same incredible place as you could.
How to rent a cheap camper or caravan in Australia?
There are a few things you can do to get a better deal. Firstly, book your camper well in advance. Secondly, rent your camper from a rental agency in a big city (more information below). Thirdly, choose an older model, these are always cheaper, but are just as good and lastly, rent the camper for a longer period rather than just a few days. The longer the rental period, the lower the daily rates.
If you could not be bothered searching the entire internet to compare rental agency prices, use one of the many price comparison portals. We recommended using Motorhome republic. The comparison search is free, and you can even book online.