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Ultimate Guide To Free Camping In Australia


Itching for your own great Australian adventure? Australia is filled with natural wonders waiting to be explored, and free camping is one way to make the most of the great outdoors while managing your budget and escaping the crowds.

Free camping can be a great way to get off the grid and get in touch with nature. It's the perfect way to spend a couple days in-between stays at caravan parks, campgrounds or holiday parks in popular destinations.

To get to most free camping spots, you'll need to drive either a car or a camper, as public transport doesn't connect these spots. We would always recommend a self-contained camper to maximise your time relaxing instead of worrying about tents, unpacking, re-packing, and more. Just find a spot, park up, and get ready to chill out!

If you're considering free camping or just want to understand the options your camper gives you, we've collected heaps of information to help you decide and have the best time free camping in Australia. Want to learn more? Let's get started!

In this guide you’ll find:

What is free camping?

Can you free camp anywhere in Australia?

How to find free camping spots

What should you pack before you go free camping

Top tips for free camping in Australia

First, what is free camping?

Free camping, sometimes called freedom camping, bush camping or just 'parking up', means staying the night in a place that isn't an official campground or holiday park. Depending on where you are in Australia, you might be able to free camp on public land for free, but often there will be a small overnight charge, usually managed with an honesty box on-site.

Regardless of the fee, free camping gives you the chance to enjoy some peace and quiet while checking out some of the less touched parts of the country. Imagine what you'll see sleeping under the stars or what sunrise will look like with no one else around.

Unlike campgrounds or holiday parks, you usually won't find many amenities nearby when you free camp. That means no power and often no running water or toilet blocks. It's just you and nature!

Can you free camp anywhere in Australia?

Sadly no. Free camping doesn't mean you just park up wherever you like and set up camp. There are designated sites all over Australia that have been set aside for free camping. The locations differ from beaches to the outback and even some national parks meaning you have heaps of variation in the spots you can choose from.

The rules around free camping in Australia differ from state to state, so it's a good idea to look into the local councils' guidelines for the area before your trip. Some of the more popular tourist destinations such as the Whitsundays or Daintree restrict free camping in the area, while other more areas may only restrict certain locations such as beach car parks. Councils usually have bylaws that retract free camping and may stick you with a hefty fine, so it pays to err on the side of caution and pick a free camping site you can feel confident staying at.

In many cases, freedom camping becomes much easier when you stay in a self-contained vehicle with its own toilet, cooking facilities and waste storage, like a campervan. You might even find there are some spots that are only appropriate for a self-contained campervan. Most of the Mighty vans and motorhomes are self-contained, but if free camping is on your bucket list make sure you book the right vehicle.

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How to find free camping spots

Finding a free camping spot is easy when you have the right intel! Chat to other travellers at campgrounds and holiday parks if you're already on the road. You might be surprised to hear some of their recommendations and advice.

If you're still planning your trip, then searching networking sites like Facebook for free camping community groups or heading directly to the websites of National Parks on your route is a great place to start.

Plus, you can always download the thl Roadtrip App, which includes all sorts of helpful information for your Australian adventure. It helps you find free designated camping sites as well as other things like powered sites for charging up, laundry facilities, toilets, water and gas refill stations.

Many excellent free camping spots are found in Australia’s national parks, so be sure to check out the national parks site as you plan your itinerary or are on the road.

One of the great things about free camping is you often don't need to worry about booking. Simply arrive and park up for the night. This does mean you sometimes need to arrive early at popular or busy spots.

Rules for free camping in Australia

A few rules should be followed to ensure everyone has a good time and stays safe while free camping.

Be respectful

  • You're in the wilderness - that means you might come across some wild animals. Give them their space, and make sure you don't feed them. It might seem cute, but it can be harmful!
  • You might be escaping the crowds, but there may still be a few other people sharing a free camping spot with you.
  • Make sure you're parked up in a way that no one else's view is obstructed, and keep the noise down, especially at night time to let everyone enjoy the atmosphere.
  • If you happen to find a free camping spot with some shared amenities, keep them clean and tidy, even if that means leaving them better than when you found them.
  • Not everyone is a fan of free campers. Make sure you find designated sites rather than parking up anywhere.

Leave the land as you found it

  • Plan ahead and ensure you have everything you need for your stay, and remember to pack some rubbish bags to dispose of your waste. In some cases, this might mean taking it with you to your next destination.
  • Make it your goal to leave no trace but footprints, take nothing but photos and leave the land as you found it.

Follow the signs

  • Look out for signposts that offer instruction. If a sign says no camping, it might be that you are on sacred aboriginal land or in an unsafe area. Move on to a safer spot and avoid the risk of getting fined. It's just not worth it!
  • Don't assume you'll always find drinkable water. If you can't find confirmation that the water is safe to drink, choose to drink the water you have brought in with you.

Look into the specific campground rules

  • Each free camping spot will have different rules specific to that site. Familiarise yourself with these rules and ensure you stick to them.

Obey the total fire ban

  • Wildfires are a huge risk in a place as dry as Australia. Respect the fire ban and use the cooking facilities onboard your camper instead.
  • If you need to cook over a naked flame (during permitted seasons, in designated areas), take plenty of precautions and ensure it is properly extinguished.

Don't overstay your welcome

  • Free campsites often have a maximum stay limit, plus you'll likely need to power up your camper and restock your fridge sometime!
  • Share the knowledge about good sites when you chat with other travellers as you carry on your trip.

What should you pack before you go free camping

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That old adage about failing to plan is planning to fail is never truer than when you go free camping. Remember, free camping spots are often nowhere near a supermarket, gas station or burger joint. Plus, the free camping spot may not have drinking water, toilets or showers.

Water

At a minimum, each person should have access to two litres of water per day, but this goes up to five litres during warmer months. Plus, a bit more for good measure. It can get hot out there, and dehydration is one way to ruin your camping trip!

Also, consider other activities that may require water. Do you need a proper shower, or can you get away with a scrub using some baby wipes?

Do you need to eat pasta, potatoes or other food that needs to be cooked in boiling water, or can you substitute with other yummy treats?

Food

Speaking of pasta and potatoes, make sure you've filled up the cupboards and esky with plenty of snacks and meals to keep everyone satisfied and hunger at bay.

Consider meals you can pre cook and store before reheating at the camping spot, or how many meals you want to consist of two-minute noodles and sausages! Remember that fruit and veg are best when fresh. If possible, stock up right before you plan to go free camping.

Bring along some Tupperware or ziplock bags to keep food fresh, store any leftovers and help keep insects out.

Insect repellent

Even if you're not usually the type to get too many bites, you'll be thankful for being protected from mosquitos, especially when they're buzzing in your ears at bedtime

A torch

Avoid getting a fright at night or having to turn on all the lights when you're looking for that one thing. A torch or headlamp is a small and easy tool to have on hand, just don't forget your batteries.

A rubbish bin

Your camper comes with a rubbish bin, but it never hurts to travel with extra bin bags just in case. These can come in handy for storing rubbish that you'll pack out, keeping dirty shoes contained as a safe place for wet clothes and more.

Need more inspiration? We've got a handy list of other gear you don't want to forget when it comes to packing.

Top tips for free camping in Australia

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Plan your trip

It's essential to have a plan when it comes to free camping. Take some time to find a spot that suits you, decide how much water and food you'll need, where you'll get them from and check how long you can go without power. You may not know the exact date you want to park up in a spot, but knowing what you'll need closer to the time will make for an easier and more enjoyable experience.

Check what kind of facilities are available

While you're planning, take some time to find out what will be available to you when you arrive. If the campsite has water, you may need to bring less with you. If there are toilets, you don't need to worry about using your camper toilet or digging a hole. But if there are no facilities, then you'll need to come prepared.

Pack appropriately

Australia is known for its hot temperatures, but it can get cold at night, so make sure you bring along some warm layers. Plus, that hot weather during the day can cause damage to your skin, so bringing along plenty of sun protection, including a hat and sunglasses, is a must! Consider what else you might need to pack for an enjoyable trip. Maybe some battery-operated speakers for music or an excellent book for lazy afternoons.

Bring more water than you think you need

Better to have too much than not enough. Bring along as much drinking water as you can to ensure everyone stays hydrated and happy. If you can find a spot where you can swim, make the most of taking cooling and refreshing dips during the day.

Know how to dispose of campervan waste properly

So, you've used the toilet or shower in your camper - now what? Get familiar with the set-up of your camper, so you know how to get in and get out quickly when it comes to dumping your waste. The thl app has handy how-to videos in case you need a refresher.

Are you ready to go bush and start free camping?

We hope so! Free camping can help keep your adventure costs low and your trip even more affordable. Travel for longer or get those bucket list experiences ticked off, Australia is your oyster! Book your Mighty Camper today, and start planning your next Australian adventure.

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