Last updated on October 27th, 2020
Australia is huge and the best way to discover it all is definitely by road tripping. It gives you all the freedom you want, and you can see as much as possible. But where do you stay during a road trip? In our opinion, the best way is to go camping! But where can you camp, how do you find camping spots, and what do you need? What about all the dangerous animals that might visit you at night? Don’t let them scare you, as we will tell you all about the camping life in Australia in this blog!
Where Are You Camping In?
What is the best way to go camping in Australia? Well, there are a few options:
Go around by car and if you don’t mind the limited space you can even sleep in it. You probably want a station wagon or a big 4WD. If you don’t want to sleep in the car, you can bring a tent. They come in all different sizes and variations, but we really like the rooftop tents! This way you are off the ground and have less chance of spiders and snakes (or a kangaroo) knocking on your door. Another option is the swag. This is a very small tent and mattress in one. It’s more like a sleeping bag with a little bit of space above you.
Another way of camping is in a van or campervan. You’ll see so many people in their vans that they self-converted into a campervan. The big advantage of this way of traveling is that you always have your home with you! It’s easy to bring all your camping gear with you without much setup time when you arrive somewhere. Depending on how long you stay and what kind of luxury you want, you can choose to hire or buy a campervan.
Want to know more about buying a car or van in Australia?
↠ Also read: Buying a Car or Van in Australia: Complete Guide
How do you camp in Australia? Do you just park your car next to the road or will you stay at the official campsites? Of course, there are plenty of options in such a big country but the most important thing you need to know is: it is illegal in Australia to wild camp! But what is ‘wild camping’? It can have two meanings:
- Camp anywhere you like
- Camp in the wild (nature)
The first one is the one that is illegal in Australia. You can’t just wild camp anywhere unless it’s on a designated rest area. And that’s what we mean with the second option, which we prefer to call ‘freedom camping’. This option is still sort of ‘wild camping’ but then allowed. There are rest areas specially designated for this purpose and you’ll find them everywhere around the country. At most of these rest areas you are allowed to stay the night, however not on all of them, so please always make sure you check this! Sometimes you can find signs that it’s not permitted, and if you’re not sure then please don’t risk the fine!
Make sure that you stick to the rules since they are really strict in Australia when it comes to wild camping. There are so many backpackers who do it anyway and make a big mess and cause a bad name for other backpackers. Rangers are everywhere and there is a good chance that they will knock on your door at 6.30 in the morning to wake you up with a heavy fine. How do we know this? Because we have been there! You better stop a bit earlier after a long drive on a rest area where it is ok to stay.
Where to Camp
So what are all the options to camp? Do you always have to pay for an expensive campsite? No, not at all! There are 3 different spots to camp: the previous mentioned designated rest areas, the state campgrounds, and the normal campgrounds.
The rest area is the one we talked about previously and this is the free option. It isn’t much more than a simple parking place next to the road (often outside of the cities) with almost no facilities. That means no toilet or such, so you will have to visit the bushes, which are not always there in the outback though 😛 But hey, at least it’s free!
A state campground is often a bit more luxurious than the rest area, and you usually have to pay a small fee. These are often simple campgrounds in a national park and they have some facilities. Most of them have a toilet and sometimes a simple (cold water) shower. There probably won’t be any power so if you’re after that, you’ll need to go to a normal campground. Sometimes you have to book and pay online, other times you have to pay in cash at the campsites honesty box.
And finally, you have the normal campgrounds. Fine, luxurious campings with everything you need: power, warm water, showers, camp kitchen, laundry etc. We love to recharge ourselves on a normal campsite.
A variation on these campgrounds are the showgrounds. Almost every town in Australia has them, even the smallest. Showgrounds are often run by volunteers, sometimes there is a caretaker on site or they come by to collect fee once/twice a day. You will get power, toilets, showers and laundry.
Personally, we like to variate the different kind of campings spots while on a road trip. One night we’ll stay at a rest area to save money, next we will stay on a campground to charge everything and have a nice shower. And when we are in a national park we like to stay over there at a State Campground.
To be honest: the free and state campgrounds are often just as nice as the luxurious ones! At the free campsites, for example, you might have the best views on the stars. They are often in the middle of nowhere, without light pollution and you can seriously see a trillion stars in the sky! I bet that there are not many other places in the world where you can see so many stars as in the Australian outback. And the state campgrounds are often very cosy and in a beautiful area. You often are in a forest (since it is a national nark) and sometimes you can make a camp fire. Yes, the simple camp style is pretty cool!
How to Find a Camping Spot
So how do you find these spots where you can camp? Along the highways are usually plenty of free rest areas to find, so big chance you will drive up to one. In most towns there are campsites and at almost every roadhouse you can camp as well. And of course, in the national parks, you’ll find the state campgrounds. You can find and sometimes book the state campsites on the following websites per state: NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania.
Another option is to buy the book ‘Camps 9’ with all the free and paid campgrounds of Australia that you can think of, but even a better tip is to download the app Wikicamps. It works the same as the book, but then on your phone (way easier!) and it is also way cheaper than the book. The app costs a couple of dollars, but it is totally worth the little investment! You can find all the camp-spots around Australia and you can see other’s reviews and possible fees. There is another advantage: it also works offline! That’s great because you don’t have internet (or phone reception) in the outback all the time.
Costs of Campsites
The costs for a normal campsite depends a bit on where you are, and how luxurious the campsite is. In the cities, it might be 40 dollars or more for 2 people, but in a small outback town, it might only cost you 20 dollars. Overall around 30 dollars per night is a common rate for a powered site. That doesn’t mean that the cheaper ones are not good because we have seen some beautiful cheap campgrounds with the same facilities as the big ones. The state campgrounds are often from 8 dollars per person.
Essentials for Camping in Australia
There are a few essentials you’ll need when you go camping in Australia. Firstly, you will need something to sleep in, as discussed above: a tent, car or (camper)van. Of course, you will also need bedding/a sleeping bed and a mattress and such. Bring cooking gear, like a gas stove (with gas), pots, pans, cutlery etc. A fridge or cooler (esky) will come in handy as well, to keep your food refrigerated. You can buy ice for the cooler in almost every place. If you want power in your tent/van you can simply buy an Australian power lead. You don’t need any special plugs on the campgrounds.
It can get really hot, and the sun is really powerful, so make sure you bring sunscreen to protect yourself. Especially in the outback, there are billions of flies, so an insect repellant is always a good idea.
Another thing you should bring is a first aid kit, and prepare yourself by reading about snakes and spider bites. It doesn’t happen often, but there are many snakes and spiders out there, so you need to know what to do just in case.
Food, Drinks, and Fire
You will travel long distances, and although there are general stores in almost every town, it’s a lot cheaper to buy your food in a proper supermarket. Stock up before you go. Bring enough water/drinks, it is important to stay hydrated in the dry heat. You can often drink the tap water, but we don’t like the chlorine taste, so we would advise buying big water cans in the supermarket. Bring some easy snacks and fruit as well so you won’t get hungry during a big trip!
When you’re at the campground, it’s nice to make a campfire, but make sure you know the rules! Because of the drought, it is often forbidden to light a fire. You will find signs next to the road that keep you up to date about fire warnings.
Prepare for Camping in the Outback
If you are going to the outback you should be extra prepared because of the low density of people! There is often no phone reception and you won’t see many other people so make sure you stock supplies and water to keep you going for at least 3 days in case you get stuck somewhere! It’s a good idea to bring a satellite phone so you will be able to call for help in an emergency.
If you visit remote places it is important to prepare for breakdowns. Bring some extra oil, and an extra can of petrol, because petrol stations are sometimes hard to find. Also bring some basic tools so you might be able to fix minor problems, and check your spare tire before you go!
Good Camping Spots in Australia
With so many options to camp, how do you recognize the good ones? The best way is to check the reviews on the Wikicamps app. It often tells you exactly what the price is and about the good and bad things of a campground.
There are a few big campsite networks that have campsites all over Australia:
At these ones, you will be guaranteed of luxury like good showers, power and laundry facilities. Sometimes they are a bit pricier though.
But there are also a lot of great campsites that are not part of the big networks, like simple campgrounds in the smaller towns or the state campgrounds. And even some of the rest areas are great! Mostly they are simple, boring places next to the road, but there are some gems between them that have something special. An awesome view, incredible night skies or just that one comfy long drop toilet: they are out there!
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