Spending a few days or longer in the great outdoors can be a wonderful adventure, or it can be a living nightmare. My aim with this post, Beginners Guide to Camping in Australia is to show you that camping in Australia is a great way to experience Australia. Whether you plan on having a romantic weekend away, backpacking with a friend or having a family getaway I will cover everything you need to know to make your camping trip a successful and happy one. I will provide some of my best tips I have discovered during my camping experiences. From the best time of year to go, how to choose a campsite, tips for free camping in Australia, what to bring on your adventure and even some quick camping meals. So let’s get your camping in Australia holiday started.
Reasons to go Camping in Australia
Where will I start? I’ll start with the obvious, camping in Australia ischeaperand often freecompared to other holiday options. Although your set up costs of equipment can cost a lot initially, in the long run your camping equipment can be used over and over again. This, of course, saves you some serious dollars on accommodation.
Camping in Australia also means you can get close to some incredible nature. You can set up in a bush setting, beside a river, next to a beach or even a piece of land in a city. Then just watch out for the local wildlife – koalas in trees, dingos on beaches, snakes on the ground, mozzies in the air and other humans.
Another positive is that you can meet other campers. These campers may become friends and can recommend another hidden gem campsite as you camping in Australia adventure continues.
Camping also provides you with freedom. Freedom to simply pick up your stuff and move on when you want to.
But there are some negatives. Inclement weather can ruin your plans as can forgetting to pack a useful piece of travel gear. But it is those unwanted visitors, both human and other local animals that sometimes have ruined my camping trips. Particularly those darn mozzies!
Best Time To Go Camping in Australia
Some might say, any time is a good time to go camping in Australia. I suggest the biggest factors influencing you when to go are the weather, the seasons and school and public holidays.
Pick Your Season
People, mostly those from overseas, don’t realise that Australia does actually get cold, particularly in the southern states. So if you reading this and are coming from overseas please remember that seasons are flipped compared to Europe and the USA. Spring is September to November, Summer is December to February, Autumn is March to May and winter is June to August.
Another thing to remember is that Australia is an enormous country, nearly the same size as all of Europe, and just like Europe, there is different weather in different parts of the country. If you look at a map you will note that the Tropic of Capricorn runs along the top of Australia. This means the northern parts of the country – the top of WA, NT and Queensland have two main seasons – wet and dry. So during the summer months these areas can have a hot and tropical climate with possible cyclones and lots of rain. While during the winter months these areas can have dry and warm climate ideal for camping.
In the southern parts of Australia there is no tropical wet season but summers are often dry and hot. While in the winter months the weather is cold with snow falling in the high country. You have to be a hardened camper to enjoy camping in the snow! No offence intended.
To recap, before you decide on going camping somewhere in Australia I would think about what season you are in and check the weather!
School and Public Holidays
Camping in Australia is not only popular with visiting tourists but is massively popular with us locals too. In fact, sometimes during peak seasons such as school and public holidays, Easter and Christmas, to stay at some campsites during these times will require you to enter a ballot. So if there is a particular place you are wanting to stay I suggest you check if there are any limitations that may affect your camping visit. And book ahead to avoid any disappointment as sometimes camping grounds may have special deals during these busy times which you could take advantage of.
Choosing your Campsite
Once you have decided you are going camping you need to decide where you want to go to pitch your tent or van. So how do you choose a campsite in Australia? Well, consider the following:
- Who are you camping with? Just yourself, a friend or your family? Do you want to be remote or with other campers?
- Does the campsite need to be dog-friendly?
- Do you require entertainment on site such as jumping castles, a pool and an entertainment zone for the kids?
- How are you cooking? Will you be needing access to a BBQ? And a firepit?
- Would you like a shop on site so you can purchase additional food options?
- What about toilets and showers? Are you happy to dig in the dirt and not shower for your entire stay?
- Do you need power?
- And the biggest decision is the location. Would you like your campsite to be near the coast or in walking distance to a pub or restaurant or would you prefer it to be in a remote destination.
How to find and book your campsite in Australia
You can feel overwhelmed when planning your camping trip. If you have been camping a long time you may have special spots you like to go to. If not, there are a number of ways to help you find a campsite in Australia. You will often see signposts along the road pointing you in the direction of a camping ground but you don’t always know what you will get on your arrival. But if you have been travelling all day and see one of the signs you often just follow it so you can set up and relax. If you don’t mind stumbling upon camping grounds in Australia this way, then by all means find them that way. I have found many this way myself. However, I now use camping apps, local recommendations, Facebook groups and books.
I am finding Campermate and Wiki Camps are great camping apps to use in Australia. Both are similar to use and include the information I need to find a campsite. Like they show me what campsites are nearby as well as a review of the site, what facilities it has and the cost. I can filter the campsites based on price so I can choose a campsite that suits my budget and my plans. And what I really like is that when using a camping app I know the information is the latest available as the apps are regularly updated compared to say a printed book.
Usually locals know the best places to go camping in their area. I have found locals more than happy to offer hidden gems and secret spots. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a local such as in the local supermarket because you just might discover a great camping spot.
I have discovered on Facebook a number of very valuable camping groups. By belonging to a group I have received many camping tips and recommendations for great camping spots. If you are on Facebook do a search of camping groups and join the ones that suit you.
Books are also a great source of information on camping and campsites. However, sometimes they are not as up-to-date as an app or the information you can get from a Facebook group. They can also be a little bulky to carry around. Some books may have an ebook version available which you could access from your device.
The Cost to Camp in Australia
Although there are many places for free camping in Australia you will still need to pay for many campsites. From the Apps I mentioned you can filter them by cost to find one that suits your budget. Generally I found the cost of a campsite can vary and is dependent on where the campsite is, the facilities it offers and whether it is privately owned. The cost can range anywhere from $25 to about $50 per night. Pretty good deal.
Some ways to make your stay cheaper is to see if campsites have deals like stay 5 nights and pay for 4. I would also book directly with the campsite rather than a third party so you aren’t charged any extra fees. You could also join loyalty programs with some of the chain campsites and receive discounts when you stay at their campgrounds. And if you really want to save avoid booking your campsite for peak times.
Free Camping in Australia – The Pros and Cons
Free camping in Australia is an option that many campers choose mainly because it is such a financial bonus. However, I discovered that the free camping sites are mostly in out of the way areas in national parks and you need to be self-contained. By that I mean you need to take everything with you like water, food and a toilet as it is rare to find a free camp site with toilets and a hot shower. If you don’t mind not showering for your stay and digging a hole to go to the toilet then by all means use free camping. I also found because they are located in out of the way places there is often less people but more wildlife.
TIP: If you plan on using free campsites you may be required to provide a self-contained certificate to prove to authorities that you have the appropriate things to be self-contained. If you don’t and a ranger shows up, you can be fined.
Australian National Parks Campsites
The National Parks in Australia offer some great camping sites. Despite them being free you are required to book first. This is because you may encounter gates with a coded lock and you only get access when you book your stay. As well a free camping the National Parks in Australia also offer some very cheap camping, usually around $8. You can mostly pay on-line but some work on an honesty system where you put money into an honesty box. This money goes to keeping free camping in National Parks free and available. So, please be honest and leave some money in the honesty box so future travellers can enjoy free camping.
Each Australian State has its own booking system to book a National Park campsite stay. Here are the links:
- New South Wales
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- Northern Territory
- Capital Territory
What to take Camping in Australia – Essential and not-so essential Equipment
Packing for a camping is different to packing for a two week trip in a hotel resort. When else do you take your own bed and the kitchen sink! Over my years of camping I have worked out some essentials to take with me. Now these are just my suggestions, as you begin your camping adventures you will discover your own essential and not-so essential equipment to take. Before I get into my Camping Packing Checklist some places where to purchase camping equipment in Australia include BCF (Boating, Camping, Fishing), Camping World, Kathmandu,big department stores likeBig Wand K-Martand on-line from Gumtree,ebay and Amazon.
My Camping Packing Checklist
Tent Essentials: Tent (with pegs and mallet), Beds (Air Pump), sleeping bag, bedding.
Useful Items: Torch, Light (Solar) Camping Chairs, Picnic Rug, Dustpan and Brush, Folding Table, Clothes line and pegs.
Camp Kitchen Utensils: Gas Cooker with Gas Bottle, Matches/Lighter, Saucepan, Frypan, Kettle, Sharp Knife, Scissors, Chopping Board, Tongs, Spatula, Baking Tray.
Food Cupboard: Tea, Coffee (I love my coffee so have a small coffee maker), Milk, Oil for Cooking, Butter/Spread, Salt & Pepper, Sauces.
Utensils & Helpful Kitchen items: Crockery, Cutlery (I find sporks excellent while camping), Cups, Thermo Mug, Baking Tray, Reuable Water Bottle, Bottle Opener, Can Opener, Water Container, Esky and Ice Packs, Foil, Paper Towel, Tupperware and Ziplock Bags.
Kitchen Clean Up: Washing Up Bowl, Washing Up Liquid, Sponges, Tea Towels, Rubbish Bags.
Toiletries: Personal Toiletries, Bug Spray, Sunscreen, First Aid Kit, Toilet Paper.
Miscellaneous Items: Pack of Cards and other games, Football, Bike, Swiss Army Knife, Solar Powerbank.
What to wear on your Australian Camping Trip
What you will wear during your camping trip in Australia will be dependent on the weather at the time and the location you will be camping in. If you are camping by a beach during summer months you will be wearing lighter clothes than if you decide to go camping in the middle of winter.
Layering is a really great way to deal with temperature changes. I suggest thermals or a t-shirt, an overshirt, a jumper or fleece, then a waterproof jacket. Top this off with a hat or a beanie. And don’t forget your feet. A good pair of walking shoes or appropriate shoes for your trip. So if you are going to be camping by a beach, then a pair of thongs will come in handy.
What to Eat and How to Cook while Camping in Australia
What you will be eating and how you cook your food will be dependent on your food tastes and what cooking equipment you will have available to you while camping. If your camp site will have BBQ facilities you may utilise this to have plenty of BBQ meals. If you will be relying on your little camp stove, then your meals may be one pot wonders.
So start with packing a box of basic staples and condiments like cooking oil, salt, pepper, tea, coffee, sugar, sauce and whatever you like to have on hand. Then you need to think about meals. How long are you camping for? Take enough food, bread, milk, butter, meat, salads and other ingredients required to make your chosen meals. You could freeze a number of these foods which will keep them fresher longer and also help to keep other foods cool in your esky.
Don’t forget that you’ll need a container for your water. It needs to be big enough to hold all your water but small enough to pour from. Many campsites have drinking water available, so check before you go.
Camping Tips and Hacks
- Store your food correctly to avoid animals invading your camp and stealing and eating your food. I suggestion packing your dry food in a sturdy box with a closed lid. While keeping all perishables in a sturdy ice chest.
- Don’t feed the local wildlife as they can become dependent on humans feeding them. If they do, they can become aggressive if new campers arrive and won’t feed them.
- Ensure you think about your safety. Bush fires are all too common in Australia so avoid the bush when advised to do so. A fire rating system is in place for safety.
- Always have enough drinking water. Use a re-fillable water bottle and always fill your water bottle with drinkable water.
- Endeavour to leave your campsite as clean or cleaner than you found it. The next campers will appreciate this. It is also your responsibility to leave as small a footprint as possible so future travellers and generations can enjoy what you are enjoying.
- Place a floor covering (rug, mat) at the door on the outside and another on the inside so if your feet happen to be wet, sandy or muddy you can wipe them on the outside floor covering and anything left will be caught on the inside floor covering. This reduces the amount of grass, sand, mud, pine needs and other things being brought into your tent.
- Hang a light from the top of your tent, if possible, so you can see at night. It also makes getting ready for bed much easier.
- Know what camping cooking equipment is available to you and adjust your meals to what you can cook.
- I work out how many days I might be camping for and plan my meals. I often prepare some of it in advance. For instance, I might make a pasta sauce and pasta, freeze it and bring it in my ice chest or Esky. Then I can simply put it in a pot and heat it and serve. I also make a couple of easy salads to bring such as coleslaw, pesto pasta or a green leaf salad. I keep them in Tupperware to keep them fresh.
- Prep salad, carrots, cucumber, capsicum (peppers), etc and put them into food storage containers. Then get them out when needed.
- Take a baking tray. It can be used to pile high with sausages, steak, kebabs, etc.in the middle of your table.
- Have hearty food that will fill you up and keep your backpack light. Like trail mix rather than lollies and porridge rather than corn flakes.
- Take Toilet Paper.
Related: For some easy and yummy camping recipes please visit my website Travellers-Fare – Fast and Fabulous Meals for Travellers.
There you have it. My Beginners Guide to Camping in Australia. As I originally said, spending a few days or longer in the great outdoors can be a wonderful adventure, or it can be a living nightmare. Often a good or bad camping experience comes down to not having any knowledge of what to expect. I hope my post has alleviated a lot of the negatives about camping in Australia and no matter whether you are a first-timer or experienced camper your camping in Australia experiences are truly positive ones.
Sharyn McCullum has travelled all of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. She is the creator of Live Work and Play in Australia. She loves coffee, chocolate and parmas and currently calls Melbourne home. Read More.