When you arrive in each new town, it’s best to head straight to the Visitor Information Centre, generally located in the centre of town. The staff will give you advice and brochures on anything that’s of interest.
Campgrounds or holiday parks in Australia are generally of a high standard. Booking isn’t usually necessary except in peak season (around Christmas/New Year, and also Easter). You can choose to stay every night at a campground, or certain nights to use the extra facilities. Most campgrounds will let you use the facilities without staying the night for a small charge.
There is a wide array of motorhome parks to choose from. Many of the newer holiday parks have almost become mini resorts complete with tennis courts, multiple swimming pools, mini golf courses, games rooms, cafes and restaurants and even kid’s clubs. Although the facilities in these parks may be top notch, the prices are generally high as well and they may not be in the budget of many long-term travellers. At the other end of the scale, the council-run caravan parks do not have all the extras but they are usually much cheaper and offer a basic place to stay with power and amenities.
If you think you may be staying in a lot of holiday parks, it may be worth joining one of the caravan park membership schemes. The schemes provide members with discounts for stays at their parks while the parks themselves must meet a certain set of standards in terms of facilities and cleanliness. BIG4 Holiday Parks, Top Tourist Parks and Family Parks of Australia are three of the biggest van park groups.
Most national parks have areas set aside for camping. There are often shower and toilets, barbeques and picnic areas, however they generally won’t have facilities for you to plug your vehicle into electricity. Australia’s national parks contain some of its most spectacular sights and, some feel, some of its best camping spots as well. Although the facilities at campgrounds in most national parks include little more than a drop toilet and occasionally a tap or a picnic table, the scenery and sense of being close to nature more than make up for it. The fees are usually pretty low, too.
The National Parks department of each state and Territory has its own system in terms of entry fees and camping fees. You can get more information about access, availability, facilities and attractions for the national parks in tourist information centres, on the web or by phoning the relevant national park office. The following are the links for checking out the National Park websites for each state (see last page).
For many, ‘going bush’ not only provides a welcome relief from accommodation fees, it also creates a real spirit of adventure. Some bush camping areas are well established and may have a drop toilet but many have no facilities at all. If you plan to go bush, ensure you have adequate supplies of food and water – and don’t forget your spade!
Local council laws don’t permit you to camp on the side of the road in the vicinity of towns, however outside the towns and in country areas it is generally allowed. As a general rule you’re OK to park up in most places such as off the road or by a beach or riverside unless there’s a sign prohibiting overnight camping. All that’s asked in return is respect for the environment and the locals. Be sensible and don’t park anywhere that restricts others, or anywhere that might interfere with nature. Also make sure you’re not on private property!
Some councils are now making certain regions “no free camping” zones though, so just be aware of this. It’s usually best to pull off the road and park behind some trees. It’s generally legal to do this, but if you aren’t sure, or haven’t seen the sign, you could have yourself rudely awakened! Discretion usually helps.
In a country characterised by long stretches of road across a big Outback sky with few towns breaking the horizon, rest areas have become a necessity for many drivers. They are meant to provide a place to break your journey, have a rest and then resume once again refreshed. Each state has a different policy when it comes to overnight stays at rest areas – but all agree that if fatigue is setting in you must stop, revive and survive. Most state road authorities produce free maps detailing where rest areas are and whether overnight stays are permitted.