Responsible Free Camping in Australia

Responsible Free Camping in Australia

Camping for free is possible, but be a clever Koala.

Booking a campervan hire in Australia for your next Down Under road trip will set you up for all kinds of amazing adventures - experiences that you’d just never have if you were staying in some resort or hotel. Travelling in a motorhome means that you have more flexibility, more opportunities to go with the flow and see where the road takes you. Going hand in hand with the flexibility of motorhome road tripping is a style of travel that’s gained a lot of traction with frugal visitors to Australia: free camping. This is a legitimately awesome way to see all that this vast nation has to offer without breaking the bank, but if you’re planning to free camp in Australia, there a few things you really need to know. Make sure you avoid fines, stay safe, and leave the country better than you found it with the information below.


There are plenty of free camping opportunities when you book an Australia campervan hire, but it’s worth making sure you follow a few common sense rules.

 

What is free camping?

 

It’s pretty straightforward, really: free camping involves parking up your motorhome overnight in a place that’s not officially designated as a camping spot, or in a free campsite. Australia has different laws regarding free camping depending on which state you’re travelling in but regardless of the specific regulations which might apply, the guidelines below should stand you in good stead.

 

How to free camp responsibly

 

First off, make sure that the site you’ve picked to stay the night actually allows free camping. In the next section we’ll explore in-depth how to find legitimate free camping spots but to start with, know that it’s not safe to assume you can stay overnight just anywhere in your Australia campervan rental. But there’s a lot more to responsible free camping than just picking the right spot. Read on for a few guidelines that will help you have a great free camping experience, allow others to do the same, and keep you on the right side of the law.

 

  • Unless you have a self-contained motorhome with its own toilet facilities, do your best to free camp near a public toilet block. If you’re in a remote part of the country and this is just not possible, dig a hole at least 30cm deep and bury your waste, including any toilet paper. Never leave human waste or toilet paper uncovered.
  • When cleaning the dishes or washing yourself, make sure you’re a decent distance away from any nearby waterways. If soap or detergent gets into the water, it can be very harmful to all kinds of water life. Get rid any resulting ‘grey water’ by pouring it on the ground, where it can be filtered through the soil. Note that this applies to water only - any food remnants should be gathered up and taken with you for later disposal.
  • Many free camping sites don’t have waste disposal bins - this doesn’t mean that you can leave behind your refuse, even if it is “biodegradable”. Leave the space just as clean as you found it, and take away all rubbish with you when you depart.
  • Bringing a lot of water with you is crucial for your safety when travelling in the Outback, but regardless of where your road trip is taking you, it’s good practice to bring your own water when free camping, as there may not be any available at your camping sites. Any water provided in remote areas should be carefully conserved, as it’s very scarce and may run dry otherwise.
  • It’s generally not safe to just pull up on the side of the road and park for the night. Instead, keep your eye out for rest stops, truck stops and bush camps. These will usually be slightly off the road and are less prone to crime than roadside camping.
  • Be considerate of other campers when it comes to noise levels, especially if you arrive at your free camping site after dark.
  • To be on the safe side, keep your motorhome doors locked at night.
  • Take extreme care when lighting fires. If you can avoid using an open fire, it’s best to do so. Many self-contained motorhomes will have their own cooking facilities - even if you’re travelling in a small sleeper-van, you can use a portable gas cooker instead.
  • Some free campsites have time restrictions. These will generally be around 24 hours, which is more than enough time to catch 40 winks, have a meal and be on your way. Other sites allow you to sleep but not set up camp (camp chairs, awnings, tables, etc). If you’re unsure of the rules, ask other campers.
  • Many free camping sites have a voluntary honesty box where you can leave a donation which goes towards the maintenance of the site. Obviously you don’t have to donate, but it’s a nice way to show appreciation and ensure that free camping sites remain open for years to come.
  • Australia has all kinds of weird and wonderful wildlife which you might come across when free camping. It’s important to remember that these animals are wild and shouldn’t be approached, for your own safety and theirs.


 Make sure when you stop for the night to free camp in your Australia motorhome rental that it’s an area where free camping is permitted.
Image CC: James Harris

 

Where (and where not) to freedom camp

 

There are many, many places in Australia where it’s fine to free camp, but there are also areas which will net you a large fine if you’re discovered camping overnight. It pays to do your research to make sure that your free camping experience doesn’t become an expensive camping experience. 

 

One of the simplest ways to find free camping sites is to download the Motorhome Republic Travel app. This mobile app can be found on Google Play for Android and the App Store for iPhones, and contains not only information about places that free campers can use, but all kinds of other information that could very handy for those holidaying in an Australia campervan rental, including:

 

  • Private campsites
  • Information centres
  • Dump stations
  • Fuel stations
  • Supermarkets
  • Public toilets
  • WiFi

 

In general, public land in remote areas is fine for freedom camping, but avoid sleeping overnight in public spaces when you’re in an urban or suburban environment, as many local councils have bylaws restricting freedom camping.

 

It’s important to note that while you can camp in most national parks, the majority will require you to purchase a camping permit. If you’re intending to spend some time in Australia’s gorgeous national parks (which we’d highly recommend) it’s best to visit the park’s website to find out about the rules around camping, as well as top places to visit and things to see.

 

If you’re still stumped about where you might be able to free camp with your motorhome rental in Australia, it’s worth asking at the local tourism office before you head out into the wild. 

 

Above all, remember that with the freedom granted by holidaying in a motorhome comes the responsibility to be a conscientious traveller and leave Australia just as beautiful as you found it.
 


Written By: Kristof Haines

It’s funny how motorhome memories stick with you. I can still recall a motorhome vacation my family took when I was five years old and how awesome I thought I was, tucked away in a loft bed above the cab. From revealing unique destinations to providing tips and tricks, it’s my mission to help others build great motorhome memories too.