A guide to freedom camping on the east coast of Australia

 Explore other guides in Australia, Backpacking, Budget Travel, Road trips

You’re on an Australian road trip. You’ve got the sunshine beating down onto the dashboard and you’re heading for the ocean. Your surfboard is in the back and you’ve just a few bikinis and beers stashed into a weekend bag. But, you don’t need much, just the company of your friend in the passenger seat and the open road ahead. You’re heading for a freedom camping adventure and you’ve not a care in the world.

Sound like somewhere you’d like to be? If you’re interested in freedom camping, get yourself over to Australia. It’s a thing.

Road trips in Australia are every bit as dreamy as Instagram tells you they are. I’ve done a few now and daydreaming about the time I’ve spent on the road down under is not an uncommon occurrence. Particularly so as I sit here in the depths of the English winter, where both daylight and temperatures are at an absolute minimum.

Particularly if there’s more than one of you travelling to Australia, hiring a campervan can be a super cost-effective way to do it. Having a camper van means you can minimise your expenses (save on transport and hotel rooms) and maximise your adventure, hitting up all the off the beaten track spots.

To save even more money, you can opt for freedom camping over campsites in many locations across Australia… legally!

If you don’t know what to take with you on a road trip, check out my packing list for embracing a road trip here.

Wanting to drive yourself around Australia? Here’s a complete guide to planning your travel and transport in Australia!

If you read my last camper guide, ‘Hiring a camper in Australia and New Zealand’, where I answered your most commonly asked questions, you’ll know I’m the biggest advocate of life on the road. It’s all about indulging in the little things…

Video: A Great Ocean Road road trip from Melbourne

If you want to road trip on the Great Ocean Road, here’s my planning guide with everything you need to know.

A guide to freedom camping in Australia…

What is freedom camping?

First of all, as the name suggests freedom camping (also known as ‘free camping’ or ‘bush camping’) is often, but not always, free. You, therefore, don’t pay for your pitch for the night. It’s the most inexpensive way to travel Australia and it will take you to the most magical destinations. 

However, some National Parks require camping passes to stay overnight. The passes are mostly super affordable ($5 – $30 AUD) and the money generated goes back into helping the National Park conservation programmes. 

Secondly, you get that sense of being ‘free’ – just you, fellow travellers and the great outdoors. Camping off the beaten track means that you don’t need to worry about electronic devices, signal and the fast-paced environments we often become engulfed within. It’s so important to take those special moments to appreciate the now and freedom camping under the stars definitely gives you exactly that!  

Why freedom camp?

Whilst you are travelling you become very money savvy and look to save money wherever possible. By freedom camping you’ll save yourself money instead of paying out for accommodation in hostels.

Not only will you discover secret spots, you can also wake up to some amazing views and really connect with nature. This is without a doubt one of the true treasures of Australia; there are some beautiful spots to be discovered.

A guide to freedom camping on the east coast of Australia

For the ultimate East Coast Australia bucket list, check out this post.

Will freedom camping in Australia really save me money?

Hiring a camper van and living van life in Australia is one of the most sought after adventures down under.

Van life gives you the ultimate freedom to see the main touristy spots, but it also allows you to go completely off of the grid and dig deep into the little pockets of Australia that not all tourists have the time or the means to get their hands on. You get the chance to create some pretty special moments. However, if you’re travelling solo in Australia or you try booking a camper van last minute, it can also end up being a very expensive adventure to go on. The best way to save money is to team up with some friends. That way, you can split the cost between you!

Get a camper van hire quote and check out the most competitive rates here.

On a backpacker budget? Here’s my complete guide to budgeting for backpacking Australia.

Once you have hired a camper van in Australia, there are so many way to save money and keep your costs low on the road. Most vans will have a kitchen set up, meaning you just need to buy groceries. Then you can cook and eat wherever you pull up (saving money on eating out). By driving yourself, you remove the need to book buses, trains, planes and hotels or hostels too.

If, like me, you’re a bargain hunter through and through, then ‘freedom camping’ is also the one for you.

Top tip: Booking a campervan is like booking flights, the longer you leave it the more expensive it will become… Click here for top tips on booking your transport in Australia.

A guide to freedom camping on the east coast of Australia

If you’re backpacking Australia solo and feeling a little apprehensive, here’s my guide to solo travel in Australia!

A guide to freedom camping on the east coast of Australia

What are the rules of freedom camping?

Wherever you opt to freedom camp for the evening, the golden rule is to NEVER leave a trace.

Leave nothing but footprints and take only memories!

Leave no trace means: ‘dispose of waste properly, respect wildlife, don’t tip liquid waste into lakes or rivers, double-check your campsite and always respect cultural heritage sites.’

Next up, get used to where you can and can’t park up for the night. There are lots of designated rest areas where you can legally stop for the evening. There are also off the beaten track sites that will allow you to go a little further into the Aussie bush, which will take you closer to nature. 

Where can I go freedom camping in Australia?

Half the fun of freedom camping is discovering the spots for yourself as you drive. However, to give you a head start, I’ve enlisted the help of Sammy at RatPack Travel, who has driven the full circuit of Australia (literally). I’ve given him the challenge of plotting his favourite campgrounds on the East Coast which you can find in the super useful map below…

For the ultimate Sunshine Coast Australia bucket list, check out this post.

For an alternative East Coast Australia bucket list, check out this post.

What’s off limits?

In touristy areas and major cities sleeping roadside is often forbidden. Avoid, at all costs, sleeping where it states ‘no camping’. Councils are permitted to issue on the spot fines for ignoring the rules.

Also, respect local residences. Parking across someone’s driveway or at the bottom of a farmer’s field is definitely not the way to go!

See my top tips for staying safe when travelling solo here.

How do you shower on the road?

Australia has facilities like you wouldn’t believe, so make use of them. Every beach town has outdoor showers and toilet facilities. They are all free to use, so make use of them before heading off to your wild camp spot for the evening.

Some even have enclosed showers within small public buildings like you’d expect to see at the local leisure centre. 

Top tip: If you do make use of the outdoors showers, be sure to use 100% natural soaps (or no soap at all), as the water often goes straight into the closest river or ocean. Shop natural soaps here.

Top tip: Try to use a ‘reef safe’ sunscreen to protect your skin whilst you are snorkelling or surfing! Buy yours here.

And the dreaded question… What if you need a bathroom?

If you don’t have a camper with a self-contained bathroom, have no fear! Australia’s public toilets are great, so definitely make the most of those if you’re out and about! You should be able to find them frequently, but a local playground is a good shout if you’re not sure where to find one. If you have to use the “bush loo”, go in a hidden area and take all your toilet paper with you. Remember… leave no trace!

It’s also wise to carry a shovel to bury any bowel movements. Bury your toilet waste at least 15cm deep and 100m away from away water, to prevent contamination.

Top tip: Certain areas in New Zealand require freedom campers to have a self-contained vehicle, which means you have a bathroom and access to fresh water for three days. Check the rules before you park up!

What about power while you’re freedom camping?

It goes without saying that to charge up your van, you’ll need a paid campsite. Depending on how much power you need (for things such as charging technology, etc.), you may need to charge your van every 2-4 days.

The Great Ocean Road: A planning guide and 5-day itinerary

For everything you need to know about your trip to Sydney, including where to stay, things to do, and all my top tips, check out my complete guide to Sydney here!

For everything you need to know about your trip to Noosa, including where to stay, things to do, and all my top tips, check out my complete guide to Noosa here!

Ready to hit the road? Sammy at RatPack Travel (a discounted booking platform for Australia and New Zealand Travels) can help when it comes to finding the perfect campervan to travel Australia. Let them know your travel dates and they will find you the best deal. Don’t forget you can use my code MOLLIE10 for 10% off any booking you make.

Have you been freedom camping in Australia?

Where are your favourite freedom camping spots? I’d love to know!

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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A guide to freedom camping on the east coast of Australia
A guide to freedom camping on the east coast of Australia
A guide to freedom camping on the east coast of Australia

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