Travelling and camping in Australia is an experience of a lifetime. We have amazing places filled with natural beauty, beautiful beaches, and a fairly good climate. There is so much to see around the country and there is no better way to see it then by taking your time and camping in those amazing places.
If you are thinking about camping in Australia there are a few things you can do to be prepared in the best way. By planning where you are going, when is the best time to go, how you are going to camp, how much it is going to cost and what to take, you will be able to enjoy the great sights Australia has to offer.
Planning a camping trip can seem rather daunting, but if you think about the following things, you will be ready to tackle your next adventure.
Best time to go camping in Australia
When to go camping is almost as important a decision as were to go. You may want to think about things like weather and if you would like to go during a quieter period.
Australia is a very big country and so also has a varied climate. It is important to think about what sort of weather you would like to travel in to determine the best time of year to go.
Most people suggest going to the northern part of Australia during the middle of the year (May to October). This is due to the warmer weather you will get compared to the southern states at that time of year. November to April is the wet season for northern Australia and is generally considered off peak season however the rain does lead to some amazing rivers and waterfalls. However, you may find that due to the large amount of rain, some place you want to travel to are inaccessible.
People tend to travel the southern states in the opposite time of year (spring, summer, autumn) to catch the warmer weather. However, if you want to travel in winter there are certain places you can even see snow, as long as you are well prepared for the cold.
Pick what sort of activities you would like to do and plan accordingly. If you want to spend your weekend camping and swimming at the beach, then find the time of year that will allow you to do that comfortably. If you are looking at hiking, then the middle of summer when it’s 40 degrees may not be the best time.
School holidays are a popular time for travelling and so many popular tourist places in Australia become remarkably busy. There are the main summer holidays from mid-December until the end of January, and then 3 sets of school holidays throughout the year usually in April, July and October.
If you do not want to battle thousands of families holidaying, then it is probably best to try and go camping at other times. You may also find that you can holiday for a bit cheaper if you go outside of peak times, which include school holidays and long weekends.
Where to go
There is so much choice in Australia it is impossible to tell you where to go. We would be here forever if we tried. However, there are some great places in each state that you really should try and visit and make for some great camping trips.
New South Wales
Cooler in Summer and downright cold in winter, the Blue Mountains offer some great camping spots. There are also plenty of things to see such as the Three Sisters, Wentworth Falls and Scenic World. If you go slightly further out there is also Jenolan Caves, which we think is a must visit spot in NSW.
If you like beach towns there is plenty in NSW. Popular spots include Byron Bay, Port Macquarie, Jervis Bay, Kiama and Nelson Bay but there are many spots along the coast.
Head to Coffs Harbour and check out the Big Banana as well as their kid friendly attractions. 50km inland from Coffs Harbour you’ll also find the World Heritage Area of Dorrigo National Park.
The Hunter Valley is great if you love food or wine. Near there is also Barrington Tops National Park and Wollemi National Park.
The Port Stephens area north of Newcastle has some fantastic spots. Camp around Nelson Bay or Shoal Bay or head a bit further north to Myall Lakes National Park and find a spot around the Myall Lakes or head to Seal Rocks.
Put climbing Mount Kosciuszko on your must do list. The 2,228-meter-high mountain is Australia’s highest peak. Camp in the Kosciuszko National Park during the warmer months so you can take the chairlift up and then head to the summit. It has good paths and is also board walked for some of it so is a great activity for families to do.
Head to the outback. There are some amazing towns and things to visit in outback NSW. See the animals at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, visit the Living Desert Sculptures at Broken Hill, look at the dishes in Parkes. Outback towns may be quite different to their beachside counterparts however they have just as much to offer.
The Great Ocean Road is a great trip for sweeping coastal cliffs with plenty of campsites along the way.
If you want to go inland, check out the Grampians for some amazing mountain views, waterfalls and colourful wildflowers if you time it right.
Phillip Island is only 2 hours from Melbourne and is best know for it’s colony of little penguins with the penguin parade at sunset proving very popular.
If you like snow in winter or great bushwalking in summer, head to the Alpine National Park, home to Mt Buller and Mt Hotham.
Wilson’s Promontory National Park is Victoria’s largest coastal wilderness area and is home to many native flora and fauna.
If you’re interested in Victoria’s history, especially the gold rush head to towns like Bendigo and Ballarat. Both towns have done a great job of preserving their historical architecture with many museums and places to visit.
If you want to go camping and take a trip to the Great Barrier Reef then Cairns is a good place to set up. It is one of the most popular towns in far north Queensland and in an excellent position to do day trips to places like Green Island, Fitzroy Island or the Atherton Tableland.
If you have a 4WD head over to Fraser Island and explore the largest sand island in the world.
The Sunshine Coast is the perfect getaway for beaches but there is also the Noosa National Park and nearby the Glass House Mountains National Park.
If you want to keep the kids happy camp somewhere on the Gold Coast and see the many sites including the very popular theme parks.
The trip up to Cape York is always on the wish list of getaways for 4 wheel drivers. You can make it to some nearby towns such as Cooktown in a regular car, but to make it all the way to the northmost tip of Australia you will need off-road capabilities. It also needs to be tackled in the dry season, as the wet season makes a lot of river crossings impassable.
You are spoilt for choice in WA. Head south for forests, north for red dirt and amazing formations, inland for desert and just about everywhere for unbelievable beaches.
Ningaloo Reef Marine Park is one of my favourite places in the world. A World Heritage Site, Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest fringing reef. You can stay in the town of Exmouth or at Coral Bay but there are plenty of other campsites along the 260km marine park.
Broome is a popular place for the northern end of the state. Watch a sunset over Cable Beach, see the natural phenomenon of Staircase to the Moon or learn about the history of pearling in the region at the Broome Historical Museum.
Karijini National Park is home to amazing gorges, waterfalls and rockpools. There are two camping locations where you can stay overnight that are in high demand from June to September.
Esperance Bay and Cape Le Grand National Park is great for nature lovers. Explore beached, lagoons and hiking trails.
The Pinnacles are thousands of limestone pillars coming out of the sand. They are a 2-hour drive from Perth and can be done as a day trip, but you can also camp in the nearby town of Cervantes.
Staying in Denmark in the south of the state offers beaches, forests, and natural beauty. The Valley of the Giants gives you a chance to walk through the treetops of ancient red and yellow Tingle trees from an impressive steal walkway. If heights are not your thing, you can also amble through the bottom of the forest.
Coorong National Park. Coorong is where the Murray River meets the ocean and is a popular getaway spot. If you visit in September to November, you may find up to 100,000 migrating wader birds coming to Coorong to feed.
Mount Gambier is known for its crystal-clear lakes and amazing caves. There are various places to camp to enjoy the surrounds.
If you are interested in history and a now uninhabited ghost town head to Farina. The town that was thriving in the 1800’s is now uninhabited due to the railway line being moved and the population moving. You can stay at the Farina Camping Grounds.
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s 3rd largest island. Enjoy coastline, scenery, and wildlife. Seal Bay is home to the world’s third largest sea lion colony.
If you love seafood head to the Eyre Peninsula. You can visit one of their many seafood festivals of even snorkel with sea lions and dolphins. The peninsula also has the Gawler Ranges, which has great rock formations such and the Organ Pipes.
A must do in SA is to head to the outback and explore the Flinders Ranges. The mountain range stretches for 430km. Explore amazing scenery of cliffs and craters.
The largest salt lake in the country is Lake Eyre. It covers 1 million square kilometres and is in 3 states, SA, NT and QLD. It is not often filled with water but is still a stunning spectacle even when dry.
Cradle Mountain has a caravan park near the front entrance. Use it as a base to explore the mountain and do the various bushwalks.
Freycinet National Park is so popular during Christmas and Easter that you need to enter a ballot for a campsite. Explore the beautiful bays of Honeymoon Bay, Sleepy Bay and Wineglass Bay.
The Bay of Fires stretches all the way from Binalong Bay in the south to Eddystone Point in the north. Walk along the white sandy beaches and enjoy the coastline.
Explore caves and waterfalls in Mt Field National Park. Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls are just two of the many places to visit.
Tasman National Park includes attractions such as Tasman Arch, The Blowhole, Waterfall Bay and Remarkable Cave. It is also close to the Port Arthur Historic Site.
If you wish to visit Tasmania’s highest waterfall, Montezuma Falls, then stay at nearby Rosebery on the west coast.
Uluru is one of Australia’s most famous attractions and is located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The park is also home to the dome shaped rocks of Kata Tjuta, located 40km from Uluru. Both sites are amazing to visit with Uluru being particularly stunning at sunset.
Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest National Park with so much to explore. Depending on where you are you can see river estuaries, mangrove swamps, flood plains, plateaus tropical forests and waterfalls. Some parts of the part are closed in the wet season due to flooding so you do need to plan your trip.
Nitmiluk National Park is home to Katherine Gorge. Boat trips down the Katherine River through the gorges are a popular way of experiencing the sandstone cliffs.
Litchfield National Park is approximately 90 minutes from Darwin and so it a good way to experience the Northern Territory without going too remote.
Alice Springs is a good base for sightseeing to places like Uluru, the MacDonnell Ranges or Kinds Canyon. It also has it’s own attractions and is not longer a dusty outback town but full of things to do and places to stay.
Australian Capital Territory
The main thing about the ACT is Canberra (that was why it was created) but don’t let that stop you from putting this only your camping trip list. There are some fantastic things to do in Canberra such as seeing Parliament House (old and new), the Australian National Botanic Gardens, walk around Lake Burley Griffin, Questacon, the National Zoo and Aquarium and Mount Ainsley Lookout.
It is also the home of the Australian War Memorial, which I believe is something every Australian should go to in their lifetime. Set aside a few hours to go through the museum and thought-provoking memorial. There is even a child-friendly Discovery Zone with interactive displays.
Tent, camper trailer or caravan?
If you have decided to go camping the next question is what level? Are you going to rough it in a tent, go in luxury in a fully equipped caravan or do something in between with a camper trailer?
They each have their pros and cons and what you choose to do generally depends on your needs and budget.
Tents are the cheapest option. You also won’t need a car capable of towing something. However you do need the room to fit all your gear into the car, or a roof-rack on top to store things you need. Tents also provide the ability to choose campsites that may not fit a camper trailer or caravan, so you can sometimes get the best spots.
The downside to tents is they do take some time to set up and pack away all of the things you need, especially if you don’t have a quick set up one, and they are less organised with limited storage options.
Camper trailers give you a bit more comfort than a tent. They have a mattress and can come with kitchen facilities built in. There is more storage available in a camper, but you will need a car that can tow the camper. The bigger and heavier the camper trailer, the more tow capacity your car will need.
Caravans are ideal if you want to be able to pull up somewhere and have everything ready to go. Most caravans have little set up time and can come with full kitchens and bathrooms. Caravans are heavy, and you will likely need a large car to be able to tow it, but if you want a bit of luxury when camping then a caravan may be for you.
If you are thinking about going down the camper trailer or caravan route we’ve gone through all the different types of caravans and camper trailers you can get.
How much will camping cost?
There are 3 main types of campsites in Australia. Caravan parks, National and State park camping sites and other campgrounds. How much a campsite will cost will depend on where you are planning to camp for the night.
You can’t just go camping anywhere but there are a multitude of free campsites around Australia. You can save a lot of money by finding campgrounds that are free but they do sometimes have regulations such as a 1 or 2 night maximum stay. Most free sites don’t require bookings but some, such as those in National or State parks may require you to book.
You will generally need to be very prepared and self-sufficient when free camping as sites can vary in facilities from having nothing, to BBQ’s or even showers and toilets. Many free camping sites also allow pets so you can take your dog with you. It pays to do your research and find out what is available and what you are allowed to do when there.
Camping in National Parks can be a cost-effective way to camp, and you get to stay in some beautiful places as well. National Parks are managed by the state that they are in, so the fees and permits do vary from state to state and with each park. A lot of campsites in these areas have a cheap nightly rate but it does vary depending on what facilities are available at the site. Parks may also have an entry fee, even if the camping is free.
If you want to camp in a National Park in Australia you can find out more information at the various state websites Parks Victoria, National Parks South Australia, Parks and Wildlife Service Western Australia, Northern Territory Government, Queensland Department of Environment and Science, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.
Caravan parks are the choice for people who want access to services such as power, running water, and bathroom or kitchen facilities. It is more expensive to camp at a caravan park, with prices ranging from $20 to $70 per night depending on things like the facilities available at the park, whether your site is powered or not and if you are travelling in peak time.
To save a bit of money check with the caravan park you want to stay at for specials such as discounts for staying a certain amount of nights, booking directly with them rather than through booking sites or even a loyalty scheme.
How to find campsites
With so many places to go in Australia, finding a place to camp can seem overwhelming. Luckily there are a few methods that can help you to find the perfect place to go.
The rise of technology has brought some great convenience in the form of apps. WikiCamps and CamperMate, Aircamps and Camps Australia Wide GPS Guide are a few of the options available. Some of these apps are free, with others paid.
WikiCamps is one of the paid apps and it is especially useful as you can download the content and use the app offline, so if doesn’t matter if you don’t have phone service. You can use the app to find campgrounds (both free and paid), caravan parks, days trips and points of interest, dump points, information centres and much more. It also has reviews from people that have stayed at a campsite or visited a point of interest.
There are still plenty of books available that outline trips you can take around Australia. A few good ones are Camps Australia Wide and the range available from Hema Maps. Even if you think you can get all the information out of apps and Google these days it is handy to have a good camping book available in the back of the car for those ties when you have no service or run out of battery. And sometimes its just great to look at a proper map to plan your next adventure.
If you want to find a great place to stay, ask people that have been there before. Speak to some locals for the best spots and great things to see and do. By chatting to people you may find some amazing places you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
What to take
There is nothing worse than getting to your campsite and realising you’ve forgotten something, especially if you are camping remotely and don’t have quick access to a shop. The easiest way to know what you need to take is to plan it and have a checklist. Think about the things you will need for your campsite, your clothes and necessities, cooking and dining and don’t forget about some things to keep you entertained.
As a starter guide you can check out our what to take camping with kids checklist.
Collecting everything you need for a great camping trip can get expensive. Don’t think you have to get everything new. Check out Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree for items you need, and you can save a lot of money.
Other things to be aware of
Camping in Australia should be a fun experience, but there are a few things to be aware of, especially when free camping somewhere.
Wildlife is probably the main thing you need to be aware of when camping in Australia. Make sure you secure all your food at night and when you are away from the campsite to ensure various creatures can’t get to it. The most common types that will search your campsite for food are possums and goannas.
Ensure that the zips on your tent or camper trailer is done up the top to prevent snakes and other creatures finding their way inside. Also ensure that you have an adequate first aid kit packed with you and know the basic techniques to deal with bites. If you’re unsure what you’ll need you can read what to put in your first aid kit for camping.
Unfortunately, these are quite common in Australia. If you are going to be camping, make sure that you only light campfires where and when allowed and keep an eye on them to ensure that they do not become out of control. If you are camping in bushfire season, make sure you have a way of being able to be alerted if there is a fire near you.
Always make sure you are taking enough drinking water with you. Not all campsites offer drinking water, especially free camps. Check to see if there are signs at any water taps alerting you if the water is safe to drink.
Some people can’t bear the thought of leaving their pets behind when on holidays but if you want to take them along you may need to do some planning. You are unable to take pets into National Parks, so if you are travelling with your furry companion, you will need to factor this in. There are some caravan parks that are pet friendly, but you generally need to book ahead and let them know you are bringing your pet.
When camping in the various campgrounds around Australia the number one rule is “leave no trace”. It is important to make sure that the campground is left clean, as if you’d never been there at all. Pick up all your rubbish and take it with you.
Access to campsites
If you are going off the main road, you will need to think about the access available for the campsite you want to visit. You might find some road aren’t suited for caravans or larger camper trailers due to the narrowness of the track or the terrain. You may even find some sites you can only get to with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Make sure you check the accessibility of the campsite you are after by Googling the campsite or looking at reviews of it on apps such as Wikicamps.
Whether you are camping in a tent, camper trailer or caravan, it is an amazing way to experience Australia. If you’re unsure, hire the gear you need and start off with a weekend away somewhere. Buy your own gear when you know you are going to use it. Write down a wish list of where you would like to go and what to see and get out and explore.