Free camp spots

There’s no shortage of free road side stop places when travelling around Australia. The purpose is to enable travellers to drive safe daily distances without suffering fatigue. Some have barely anything there except a place to park up, but others have some sort of toilet facilities, even if it’s just a long drop loo, and most have rubbish bins. In the eastern states there’s often water as well, but in the barren WA outback, free water isn’t readily available.

The local shires maintain the facilities in their areas, often requiring trips of many miles by their maintenance staff. Most are designated somewhere between 24 and 72 hours as the maximum stay. However, some that are particularly picturesque often entice people to outstay the designated time frame.

I’m not a fan of people outstaying the allocated time frame. There’s plenty of other places people can find to camp for free without having to outstay the time allocated in traveller’s rest areas. With more and more people setting up fully, and sometimes staying for weeks at a time, it’s making it that much harder for travellers like us. We only want a pleasant place to stop for a good leg stretch and a peaceful nights rest, so as we can continue our journey safely the next day.

Some rest areas have space for dozens of rigs. The more picturesque the area, the more likely the best spots will be taken early. And now with people often staying for weeks at a time, you’ll be lucky to get one of the best spots, no matter how early you arrive.

Two nights ago we left Broome to head south. We had a place in mind to park up for the night, but arrived there earlier than anticipated. The day was particularly hot (39 degrees), so we realised we’d better head a bit further south and give the mid day sun a chance to lose some of it’s heat.

De Grey River at sunset

De Grey River is one of the more popular overnight spots in WA’s north west. I’s particularly pretty, and sounded like it’d be the perfect spot. We arrived around 3pm.  All the best river spots had been taken with some people having been there for weeks. We did a walk around first, and managed to find a reasonable, shady spot which offered glimpses of the river from between the gumtrees. We went for a walk along the river bank first, and then sat in the shade of the gum trees until the sun set. Wild budgies and other birds flitting from tree to tree kept us entertained.

The next morning we awoke refreshed and continued our journey.

Remembering other free camp spots we’ve enjoyed.

Somewhere on the Great Australian Bight.

Our first free overnighter was as we were driving back from the Blue Mountains with our newly purchased rig in 2013. We stayed at paid places for the first few nights, but driving across the Nullabor there weren’t very many options. We decided we’d give one of the freebies a go. The space between rigs, and the peace and quiet was something you don’t get at caravan parks. We loved it. Since then, we prefer to find good freebie roadside stops to stay at in-between our main destinations.

Lyndon River – near Carnarvon WA, 2014

Somewhere near the Great Ocean Road (can’t remember if it was in South Australia, or Victoria. It was a beautiful place with enticing tracks to walk down, and plenty of koalas up in the gum trees. The Koala isn’t native to WA so we’d only ever seen them in captivity previously. Seeing them for the first time here was special, and particularly memorable.

First Koala that we ever saw in the wild

And then there’s Tasmania

Tasmania is full of free camp spots, and not just designated free overnighters. Most are set up with the idea of promoting tourism to certain areas or spots. The idea is that if free camp places are provided, tourists will stay a while and spend some money in the nearby areas. This provides support for businesses in some of the more isolated areas that travellers may otherwise just pass through.

These are some of the favourite places we stopped at for free in Tassie.

The pub in the paddock – Close to Binalong Bay on Tassies east coast is a pub, literally in the middle of a paddock, and literally in the middle of nowhere. They serve great meals, and entice people to buy them by offering free camping to self contained vehicles. There’s no obligation to dine there, but I imagine most people do. The meals are suburb, home style – with plenty of fresh veggies (I think my roast came with about 7 different veggies). The view we woke up to out of our back window the following morning remains the best view we’ve ever seen from our van to this day.

Backdrop to the ‘Pub in the Paddock’

Then there’s The Bay of Fires, towards the top of Tassies East Coast. You can stay here for up to four weeks, and dogs are allowed. It’s beautiful. The town of St Helens nearby benefits greatly from campers re-stocking their supplies when camped at the various camp spots here. We only stayed here for a few nights, but one day we’ll go back.

Bay of Fires
The beautiful old working windmill in Oatlands

Another memorable place we stayed when travelling down Tassie’s  Midland Highway was in Oatlands. This overflow campground has a maximum stay of 72 hours. We camped virtually underneath a working windmill, which was used to mill  flour. It was peaceful, and beautiful, particularly at night when the windmill came to life with night lights. We stayed here for the full three nights. I remember it was freezing, and we had to find some warmer clothes. We purchased gloves, hats and scarves, and Paul also bought a gorgeous marino undergarment. We treated ourselves to coffees, and replenished our groceries. So, it was a win/win for both us and the town. We benefited by having a free place to stay, and in turn, several businesses in the town benefitted from our patronage.

I love the free places. I only wish people would stay in them in accordance with each spots designated purpose. If the purpose is to provide a safe resting place for a night or two, then please, only stay there for a night or two. If the purpose is to be included in Australia’s growing list of recognised RV friendly towns with longer stays allowed, then support the town. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a bundle, just spend according your means. Perhaps refuel your car, or buy a coffee and a cake. If you need more coffee to replenish your own supplies, then perhaps consider buying it here rather up the road at a bigger town. If the bigger town doesn’t need your support enough for the town to offer you a free place to stay, then why should they get your business in preference to the little guy who is doing the right thing by you. Win/win is the driving force behind towns being given an RV friendly status.

What a pleasure it is to travel this wonderful country of ours. What an added pleasure it is to be seeing more and more of these free places popping up throughout the country. If too many people don’t do the right thing, then I fear the places will start to disappear. Let’s all do the right thing. Let’s all encourage more of these freebies to pop up. Then travelling around this great, big, beautiful country will remain affordable for future generations too.

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