Free camping in Australia is one of the best ways to save money when you’re travelling around the country on a budget. Not only is it great for counting pennies, but it’s also really fun and all part of the adventure that you wanted when you booked your plane ticket over! Read this guide crammed full of campsite recommendations and tips for finding your perfect spot!

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Buying (or hiring) a vehicle and finding campgrounds to stay at during your road trip is hands down the best way to explore Australia.

You can also use the bus system or if you’re sticking to bigger cities, use the train.

Your Free Camping in Australia Guide

There are no two ways about it – Australia is an expensive country. There are easy ways to stick to a budget though, without compromising too much on comfort or hunger pangs!

Living the van life is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so extending your trip for as long as possible by saving on camping fees is the best idea.

Don’t think that you can turn up with a tent and hitchhike thousands of kilometres. I mean, you could do that but there’s only one way those horror stories end and it’s with you in the boot.

People do it but I just can’t think of anything weirder than getting into a stranger’s car, in a foreign country, on a road where you might not see another human being for 100 miles.

You need to be a bit savvy when you buy a car so that you don’t whack down thousands of dollars on something that breaks 2 weeks into your trip (yes, this happened to us!) but usually, it’s an investment that really pays off. 

Hiring a car or campervan is a safe way to make sure that you get from A to B without running the risk of having to spend money on repairs.

If you’d rather take the Greyhound route and bus-hop from city to city, that’s also a fun way to travel (especially if you’re on your own) but you could be missing out on the adventure of a lifetime by sticking to hostels!

We highly recommend doing plenty of research (starting with this article!) and planning your route so that you can keep your accommodation costs low on your trip. Here is everything you need to know about camping in Australia for free!

Man and a woman lying in a converted campervan with the back door open doing the peace sign
this awesome rest area had plenty of space, toilets and even a river nearby!

What Is Free Camping?

Are you really asking that question!?

Okay, I suppose there are actually a few more specific rules to it than just pitching up a tent in the middle of the woods.

In Australia, there are laws preventing you from doing this. That means you wouldn’t be safe doing it – think of all the crazy killer animals in Oz! – and you would get in trouble with the local rangers if you were caught.

There is also absolutely no reason to break the rules here because there are some incredibly stunning, remote and spacious designated free campsites all across the country.

Free camping essentially means that you don’t have to pay to stay in a designated spot. These places are usually well-kept, but facilities are likely to be non-existent or very limited.

Empty sandy beach with deep blue sky
Australia is full of beautiful spots like this – get in quickly if you can!

However, if you are driving around in a campervan, the only things you’ll really need are access to toilets and maybe a shower. Lots of campgrounds have these but don’t expect anything fancy. It’s FREE guys!

We met lots of backpackers and ‘grey nomads’ at free campsites on our trip (we ended up travelling around 14,000km) and everyone had a different set up.

At first, we towed a caravan and drove a 4×4. Then, we hired a campervan from Travellers’ Autobarn.

We saw people living in old cars with a mattress in the back, huge 5-wheeler motor-homes, 4x4s with attached rooftops tents and 4WD trailers being pulled by a family car.

One guy even turned up to a site on his motorbike, unpacked his tent from inside the seat and slept snugly in the knowledge that he was definitely the most budget-savvy of us all.

As long as you have a vehicle of some description, you can make your way around Australia and spend next to nothing on accommodation.

Pro Tip

If you end up at a free campsite near a small town, then it’s a nice idea to support local businesses by  buying a few essentials, lunches or even just a beer before you leave!

So many places in Australia are extremely remote and the locals are often grateful for your dollars!

If your budget really can’t stretch (that’s why you’re free camping!) then give them a tag or a shout out on social media to boost tourism if you get the vibe that they rely on it!

Where Can You Go Free Camping in Australia?

There are different types of free camping, and different rules for every single site that you visit. Make sure that you read and follow them so that you don’t get in trouble and give other campers a bad name!

In our experience, the best state to find free camping was Queensland, but we found the best and most enjoyable ones in Western Australia!

Rest Areas

Along the main highways in Australia, you’ll find lots of rest stops and rest areas that you can pull into. A rest stop is usually just literally somewhere to stop, maybe have lunch and stretch your legs for a bit.

Sometimes they have toilets, sometimes they don’t. They’re handy if you need to check your engine, adjust your safety straps in your van or swap drivers.

A rest area is usually bigger and is where people park up for the night to split up a long drive. These will have toilets – sometimes they’re just a seat with a drop, sometime they flush and sometimes they even have toilet paper and a sink! Don’t expect big things, but be grateful that they exist!

2 hands holding Strongbow cider bottle in a sandy rest area
nothing like a cold cider after a hard day’s driving!

You might even be lucky and stumble across an area with insane views, free firewood or a public bbq area.

Everyone knows Australia is huge, but what is difficult to get your head around until you’ve experienced it is the distance between some towns. We regularly drove for hours and hours on end without seeing a proper town, and the only feasible place to stop was a rest area.

Lots of people stay there so you feel pretty safe even though you’re in the middle of nowhere. The main thing that you have to watch out for is the wildlife, especially at night time!

We once stayed at a rest area called Attack Creek. Not only did this give us the heebie jeebies from the beginning, but on a 3am toilet trip we heard so much scuttling around I genuinely thought it would be our last resting place. It was probably just a wallaby – at worst a kangaroo – but the swallowing darkness intensified things tenfold!

Most rest areas are just set a little way back from the road, so you might hear the road trains thunder past during the night.

National Parks

Australia’s National Parks are absolutely stunning, and you can’t take a road trip without staying at one at least once! They’re not all free to stay in, so always do your research but you’ll definitely be able to find some gorgeous places to stay without paying a cent.

The rules are strictest here because Australians understandably want to protect their land, wildlife and beaches. It’s really important that you follow the rules and don’t take the piss – just because there isn’t a ranger there right now doesn’t mean that there won’t be at 6am telling you to get out immediately!

Many places allow you stay for a certain amount of time, and then you need to move on to give room for other people.

Small waterfall flowing into lake with rocks scattered around in QLD
You might even be lucky enough to find a free campsite with a nearby waterfall!.

A lot of the time, the campsites in National Parks aren’t manned 24/7. It means that you have to leave on time without being told – so don’t be that terrible person who hogs a space for a week!

New South Wales and Victoria are the only states with free camping spots in their National Parks. Usually, everywhere else, you have to buy a parking permit (still cheap) and pay a small camping fee. Even if you do find a park that you have to buy a permit for, they’re usually affordable – in the $5-6 range per person.


Watching the sunset with a cold beer in your hand on a beach is literally the epitome of backpacker life. It’s also really easy to do and every bit as enjoyable as you’re imagining.

There are beaches that, as long as your vehicle is capable of reaching them, you can stay on and relax for an evening or two.

View from inside of a campervan with yellow and pink sunset at the beach
This was our favourite free camping spot in the whole of Australia! It’s Cliff Head North in WA.

It’s important that your car or campervan can actually get there – sometimes you might have to drive a kilometre or two to reach the sand and the tracks can be bumpy and uneven on the way there.

More often than not you’ll find toilets and shower facilities nearby too.

Just be careful not to park too close to the water – you don’t want to wake up and find yourself floating away in the Pacific.

Pro Tip

If you have hired a campervan from a company like Apollo or Traveller’s Autobarn, then the chances are that your insurance will NOT cover you to travel on unsealed roads.

There will be maximum that you can drive on in order to get to a campsite (we could only go 500m).

You could risk it but a) there’s a reason for the limit and if you get stuck then you’ll be paying a lot of mula and b) even if nothing bad happens, the mechanics check the vehicle when you return it and if they think that you have been travelling down unsealed roads for half of you trip the they’ll charge you anyway.

Car Parks

I wouldn’t recommend this as a solid plan, but if you find yourself without somewhere to stay for the night then try to park up somewhere as inconspicuously as possible and leave as soon as you can the next day!

On our second day, we drove 600km to the Sunshine Coast, ready to stay for free in a campground. When we arrived, we realised that the campground in question didn’t exist anymore.

We couldn’t keep driving around as it was beginning to get dark and our caravan lights had already failed us. We bit the bullet and parked up in a swimming centre car park for the night.

At 5 am, we were woken to literally hundred of runners on their weekend park run – so we quickly strapped everything up and left before someone could tell us off!

It’s really not an ideal solution, but don’t put yourself in danger by driving in the dark (those pesky kangaroos are insanely dangerous from dusk until dawn).

Leave as early as you possibly can, leave no trace of ever being there and wait until another campground opens to be safe!

How To Find The Best Free Camping Spots in Australia

Finding a free camping spot is half of the fun – there are so many different places to choose from, with amazing scenery or facilities nearby. There are some really good resources both on and off-line to find the perfect place to camp.

We found that the best thing to do was choose a place and then cross-reference the reviews + information on a couple of different sites and apps to make sure everything was up to date.

A white Traveller's Autobarn hi-top campervan on a gravel road during our free camping in australia adventure
Our perfect campervan!

Here are our favourite ways to find free campsites across the different Australian states:


This is the best app that we used on our 3-month Australian road trip. It’s free to download, which pushes its rating higher immediately!

It’s also available to use in New Zealand so super handy if you’re moving on from Oz.

You can easily filter the different types of accommodation you’re looking for, and what facilities are deal-breakers for you. This part is also really handy because you might just need to find a public toilet or a launderette nearby and you can filter those too.

There’s also a section that highlights local deals so you might even be able to grab a budget night in a campsite that you’d usually have to pay a lot for.

Click here to download it on the App Store or Google Play

Free Camping Australia

This doesn’t have an app but the website is incredibly helpful.

It lists the free campsites by state and quickly tells you the necessary information such as accessibility, whether there are showers or not and if there is potable water.

Some of the campgrounds were added to this site a few years ago, so it’s best to double check on another site or Google Maps to see if it still open!

Check out the site here.

Free Range Camping

Another great website with the added bonus of an app, Free Range Camping helped us find some awesome campsites. The filters are good and the directory is huge!

You don’t have to pay to use the site but there is a premium membership feature which includes discounts + an offline version of the app which is handy in the outback of Australia!

We didn’t upgrade because we always used more than one website to cement our plans but I can see why it would be a good investment.

Click here to take a look at the website.

Facebook Groups

I didn’t think of searching Facebook for somewhere to stay until we were recommended a group by some seasoned campers.

In actual fact, there are loads of groups dedicated to sharing amazing places people have found, updates on accessibility (especially when it torrentially rains and you’re not sure if you can still drive up the mud track leading to the campsite) and information on things to do in the nearby area.

We used this Showground Recommendations group the most and found some really cool places to stay from it. Just type in what kind of campground you are looking for (and location) to find the best groups for you.


This is the app that everyone raves about, and although it can be helpful, we didn’t find it as good as Camper Mate.

You have to pay – only about $4/$5 though and sometimes they offer a free trial. They have recently  updated the app though and it does seem to have improved.

The review system is good but take some of the comments with a pinch of salt because there are a lot of grumpy travellers out there who expect the world for free!

Download the app on Google Play or the App Store.


This is a basic but helpful free site. You can browse by location or create a route plan from A to B and pick the best campsites along the way.

Click here for the website.

National Park Websites

The two states that offer some free camping in their National Parks are New South Wales and Victoria. Click on the links below for their official parks website and filter through their awesome campsites.



Country Pub Camping

One thing you’ll notice about Australia is that everyone loves a good pub! There are a lot of places across the country who let you park + stay for free in their grounds. You might be expected to buy a meal or a pint in return but it’s a great way to cut costs when travelling on a budget. Sometimes there is no expectation and you can just stay for free.

This website is specifically designed to find opportunities like that. Be sure to call ahead though because there usually isn’t a huge amount of space so it’s likely that there will be a first come first served system.

Here’s the website to browse.

Best Free Camping Sites in Australia

There are literally thousands of amazing places to stay in Australia without paying anything at all, so it can be a little overwhelming to try and find the very best ones!

We’ve picked fourteen campsites that we think you should make your way to. We didn’t stay in all of  them but we definitely would if we came back!

Free Camping NSW

  1. Tooloom Falls Campground
  2. Gum Bend Lake

Free Camping QLD

  1. Saunders Park
  2. Carmila Beach Rest Area

Free Camping NT

(*Good free camping is actually hard to find in the Northern Territory! There are plenty of rest stops but don’t expect anything fancy, and there are also some amazing low-cost campsites in National Parks that it’s probably worth paying for!)

  1. Curtin Springs Station
  2. Gunn Point Campground

Free Camping WA

  1. Ngumban Cliff Lookout
  2. Cliff Head North
Man standing on ock in the outback
On top (or bottom of!) the world!

Free Camping SA

  1. Narung Jetty Reserve
  2. Redbanks Conservation Park

Free Camping VIC

  1. Scott’s Beach Camping Area
  2. Paddy’s Ranges State Park

Free Camping TAS

  1. Cosy Corner Campground
  2. Northeast Park Free Camp

Being A Responsible Camper

When you’re enjoying your trip, it can be easy to forget that there are still rules that you have to follow to be a responsible and moral traveller.

The main two things to remember are to not camp in illegal places, and to leave no trace.

I mentioned earlier that we stayed in a car park after searching for a non-existent campsite.

It’s obviously not ideal so I think that the only exception to this rule is when you would put yourself or others in danger if you had to try and find somewhere else. As soon as you’re able to, leave the site and plan better next time!

Girl with back facing the camera in a natural pool,2 arms up doing the peace sign
Just a little chill time on our road trip!

A couple of extra ways to be respectful are:

  • Only having fires in designated spots – Australia is notorious for its bush fires, and the bans are there for a reason. If a sign tells you not to have a fire, it’s for your own safety, as well as the protection of the local environment so don’t be a dick and have one anyway! Some rest areas we visited had free firewood and fire pits for use, and some national parks had fire places but you had to bring your own wood. Either way, check the signs around the site to see what is allowed and what isn’t. You should also check for fire and weather warnings. If the land is too dry, there is a high risk that a spark could cause extreme damage so make sure that you are well-informed about the local area if you decide to build your own fire. Update 2021: Over the past few years, Australia has suffered from some of the worst bush fire seasons it has ever seen. Tens of people have died, millions of hectares of land has been lost and over a billion animals have perished. It is NOT the time to be freely playing around with your own fires – imagine contributing to the horrific loss of land and life during this time.
  • Stay in places with nearby toilets – No one – NO ONE – wants to step over your business whilst they’re setting up their camper for the night. Unless you have a fancy self-contained van, filter your apps to only show you the ones that have toilets and use them!
  • Keep the noise down – People might not have paid for their camping spot so you might be inclined to think that you can make as much noise as you like – who is going to tell you off? Well, actually there are plenty of rangers around in certain free camping spots who might ask you to leave if you’re being inconsiderate. Secondly, if you’re up late into the night guzzling goon and loudly playing Cards Against Humanity until 4am, you can bet that the early risers won’t be too careful with the slamming of their doors as they leave!
  • Donating to the honesty boxes – Obviously we all love a freebie, but these campgrounds and national parks do appreciate a little contribution now and again! Pay it forward when you can.

What To Pack

If you’re free camping a lot then you need to be prepared with your packing! Here are the things you definitely should buy before your adventures!

JBL Flip 6 - Portable Speaker

The Flip series from JBL has been a huge success for years and rightfully so. Its compact size combined with its huge battery life (12 hours) and sound quality make it perfect for travellers and backpackers alike. JBL also do smaller versions if the size is a little big but I just love the sound quality the Flip 6 has to offer!

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GearLight LED Flashlights

Extremely bright, affordable, nearly indestructible, and you get two of them. These LED lights from GearLight will illuminate an entire room by itself, making it the perfect compact flashlight for all your travel needs.

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Ranger Ready Picaridin Insect Repellent Spray

Do not let a brilliant experience be ruined by pesky insects biting you all over your body. Insect repellant is not expensive but not having it can affect much more expensive activities. Pick up a bottle of this Picaridin bug spray and enjoy your travel.

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Microfibre Poncho Towel

Need to change on a crowded beach? No more cowering behind a normal towel whilst someone holds it up! Need a compact towel that fits in your day bag? It's got that covered too. These have genuinely been a lifesaver over the years and there are literally no downsides!

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Sirona Reusable Menstrual Cup

We all know that tampons and pads are bad for the environment (not to mention uncomfortable and expensive!) so get yourself familiar with a reliable menstrual cup. These can be reused for up to 15 years – think of the money and plastic waste you’ll save! Made from medical-grade silicone, Sirona’s cup is designed for comfort, sustainability, and protection.

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ThermoFlask Stainless Steel Bottle

If you are going for a long backpacking adventure, or you go through plastic water bottles way too quickly, then you need to check out this stainless steel water bottle by ThermoFlask. It will take the beating of months/years on the road and keep your drinks ice cold or toasty warm, wherever you may be.

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Car Emergency Roadside & First Aid Kit

Every vehicle taking a road trip should be stocked with one of these. Complete with jump leads, an air compressor, a tyre repair kit and so much more, you'll be thankful for it if you ever break down alone or in a remote area. There's also a first aid kit inside for those small accidents that are bound to happen on the road!

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Shower Sandals

These lightweight and comfortable sandals are perfect for when you're visiting public showers. They're non-slip and have plenty of drainage holes so they'll dry quickly too. Choose from standard or wide sizing, and between 6 different colours.

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Folding Toiletry Bag

When we first realised these were a thing they changed our toiletry game forever! This one has 4 separate compartments and folds into a very compact size and shape which is super convenient for all travellers alike. It also has a soft feel water-resistant fabric and a hook for ease of use in the shower.

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USB C Car Charger Adapter

Most cars have USB ports nowadays but many campervans are older models so it is important to take a car charger adapter like this one to charge your devices up front. The campervan we had in Australia is a good example for this as it did not have usb ports in the cab.

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Retractable Clothesline

If you've ever tried to dry laundry on a road trip, you'll know how helpful a clothesline would be! This durable and retractable line will stretch to over 3 metres long, and you can clip it around trees or your vehicle to hang up your clothes on. It also comes with pegs!

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Coleman Camping Chair

Whether you're watching the campfire, a beautiful sunset or just taking in your campsite surroundings, you're going to need a decent chair! This one is perfect for travelling with as it is collapsible, comes with a carry bag and has a cushioned back for after those long hiking days! There are plenty of pockets for your phone etc and a cup holder for a chilled beer!

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Tips For Cheap Camping in Australia

If you can’t find the perfect free camping spot, then the next best thing is a cheap camping spot.

There are lots more of these than completely free areas, and it means that more often than not, you’re paying for facilities like showers or electricity.

In some states, you can’t camp for free in National Parks because you need a permit and then you also need to pay a camping fee per person.

The costs can add up for some of the fancier campsites but there are lots that are really cheap and it’s worth spending a few dollars to for incredible view or a few hours of power.

4 vegetarian burgers and buns on an electric grill outside during free camping in australia
Free bbqs = top lunches!
Pro Tip

Obviously one of thee best ways to cut costs on your trip is to cook for yourself, but sometimes when you’re on a hike or you’re just exploring the local area, that can be tricky.

Luckily Australia is a bbq haven and you’ll find plenty of free electric barbecues dotted around national parks and along the main tourist trails. Pack up a lunch fit for a grilling king or queen and laugh at everyone else’s measly sandwiches.

We were vegetarian whilst we road tripped which made things a)  cheaper and b) easier to store food. The Mexican bean burgers in the picture above are THE BOMB – get the recipe here.

Showgrounds are also really great places to stay if you’re on a budget. When there isn’t a show on, the ground are often opened up to campers and we spent some fun nights in a couple of these.

Look on Facebook for these types of sites as they’re usually run by locals who aren’t using the big apps for their advertising.

Consider going off-grid for a day or two.

The rental vehicle companies recommend that you plug in every 2 – 3 days usually, so we would find free or budget campground for 2 nights and then splurge on a proper caravan park the next day to charge everything up and enjoy hot water!

If you are planning on paying for caravan parks or campsites each night, check the apps for the best places to stay but also visit the websites of where you’re thinking of going.

A lot of the time, if you book ahead you can get a discount if you stay a certain amount of days. Even if they don’t usually offer it, it’s always worth asking, especially if you’re planning on staying for at least 5 days.

I recommend buying good vehicle insurance – not only will it help you out if your van breaks, but some of the big companies offer accommodation deals too. For example, we were NRMA members so we got a discount of 10% off a stay in any of their parks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is free camping in Australia safe?

As long as you’re a responsible camper, you should be pretty safe even if you’re free camping. Only stay at designated areas for overnight stays, and keep essentials in your car like a first aid kit, head torch and plenty of drinking water.

It’s just important to keep your wits about you (especially for solo travellers) so keep your doors locked at all times and don’t get so drunk on goon that you can’t remember which way the toilets are!

At night-time, lots of animals come out to hunt and play, so be aware of that if you’re in a rural area.

Is free camping legal in Australia?

Yes, it’s completely legal! The only thing you need to make sure of is that you’re staying in an actual assigned free camping spot, otherwise you would be breaking the law.

What is the best app for free camping in Australia?

I personally think that the best app to use is Camper Mate because it’s free and there are lots of lesser-known camping spots on there which means more chance of a space!

Do you have to have a vehicle to free camp in Australia?

You’ll need a car or campervan of some sorts to get from A to B. Also, some places don’t like you to camp in a tent so you have to have a vehicle to actually sleep in.

Are you planning on an awesome free camping adventure soon?  Let us know where you want to go or if you found even more cool spots!

Click on the image below to repin this post!

Girl sat with her back to camera in blue top overlooking natural pool