Our home may be small, but we had a huge backyard!
We didn’t need the kids jumping pillows at caravan parks (although they were a bit of fun), or the games rooms, or the camp kitchens (that were mostly taken up with caravanners as a meeting place with all their friends they had made on the road); and unpowered sites were usually that far away from the camp kitchen it was a hike to get there… so we mostly opted to free camp where ever we could!
Our initial motivation for free camping was cost; we didn’t want to pay for caravan parks unless we had to. It was hard to find an unpowered site in a caravan park for under $30 a night and many were between $40 – $60 a night.
We wanted solitude where we had plenty of room to spread out and free camping gave us the freedom to choose where we wanted to set up camp… whether it was a camp by the beach with the salty ocean breeze blowing through our windows, or next to a gorgeous river where we could enjoy the sound of flowing water, sleeping under the stars, sitting around a campfire, fishing, exploring the area and appreciating the wildlife… this was what made camping such a great experience; and there are thousand of peaceful spots all around Australia, just waiting to be enjoyed!
National parks are wonderful places too and while they are not free, they are often only a few dollars per person per night… and they do offer discount for seniors, so don’t forget to ask!
However, it does pay to purchase a parks pass, especially if you a going to stay in a few parks in any particular state as there is a cost for your car if you don’t have a parks pass. Motor vehicle entry fees are charged at 45 of over 870 NSW national parks… and the majority of these sites are the coastal national parks!
Some of these campgrounds have facilities to rival many caravan parks while others are more basic and remote, requiring you to be self-sufficient!
In most places camping fees reflected the facilities and in some states we needed to pre book online, especially when we travelled to Cape York or visited Ningaloo in Cape Range National Park, WA!
For us, bushwalking and cycling were really important because once we set up camp it was our only mode of transport… aside from the fact it is the best way to keep fit on the road! We were so lucky as there were so many fantastic walking tracks and cycling paths, especially in national parks, and all just begging to be explored… we loved it!
These camps can nearly all be found in the road tripper’s bible, Camps Australia. The Camps Australia publication lists 3700 free camp or cheap sites. We also used the Wiki Camps app but mostly we used the CamperMate app. We also downloaded the Hema Maps app which was great as it tracked our journey, recorded all our photos with a flag and provided us with all the info we needed… roadside stops, free camps, caravan parks, toilets, petrol… and the list goes on!
We met so many friendly faces along the track… for some it was just a g’day, some we shared a cuppa or had a friendly beer or wine at the end of a long day, some we will remain friends with forever! We found a special type of camaraderie amongst these people who shared some great stories and offered valuable information about places to stay.
We had a ball and learned so much about off-road driving and at the end we tallied 32,000 kilometres, lost count of the river crossings, wore out four pair of thongs each, melted our trangia and visited six states and one territory!
There is something amazing about free camping, it is an adventure in itself and as they say – a change is as good as a holiday…
… and we can’t wait to do it again!