The sun isn’t the only good reason to head north for winter – there’s also excellent free camping along the Bruce Highway. Sure, these rest areas might not exactly be Hayman Island, but if you’re driving north and want to save a buck or two, you won’t find a better guide than Paul Smedley’s (author of Budget Rest Areas around Australia (2nd edition) list of free overnight stops!
Around 500m off the highway, about 95km south of Gympie, Landsborough park area ticks all the boxes. It’s free, dog friendly, doesn’t require an advanced booking, has toilets and drinking water, and is in an attractive setting. The only downside is that it’s not suitable for big caravans or motorhomes.
Browns Creek camping area
If you have a motorhome, keep driving to this rest area 3km north of Yandina, via the Old Bruce Highway. This campsite is nestled in the forest and has a good range of facilities.
This shady rest area just off the highway, 6km south of Gympie, is suitable for motorhomes and has a good range of facilities, including a dump point.
On the other side of Gympie is Chatsworth rest area, which isn’t suitable for big caravans and motorhomes, but it does have accessible facilities and is dog friendly.
Gunalda rest area is only a hop, skip and a jump from Chatsworth rest area, 29km north of Gympie, with good facilities, shade and a picnic table. Oh, and it’s dog friendly!
This secluded rest area is on the banks of the Mary River, 1km from the highway. It’s dog friendly, has barbecues and toilets. It’s also a really pleasant place to fish. And sometimes, you don’t need anything else.
In town at Apple Tree Creek, this dog-friendly site is suitable for big caravans and motorhomes, has good facilities, and – bonus! – a playground.
Around 30km south of Bundaberg, this dog-friendly rest area is shady and has good facilities.
With good facilities and shade, this dog-friendly rest area is a good place to stop, 2km north of Gin Gin.
Around 60km north of Gin Gin, pull up under the impressively large trees, light a campfire and enjoy the good facilities of this dog-friendly site.
Situated on a riverbank, this rest area is just off the highway and has good facilities.
This rest area is as spacious as you’d ever need it to be, situated 30km south of Mount Larcom.
Located in the town of Yaamba, next to the roadhouse, this rest area is a good option for an overnight stay and has good facilities, and, of course, easy access to the town.
A shady, spacious rest area with good facilities, just off the highway, 66km north of Marlborough.
This is an absolutely charming site on the foreshore, in the north of Clairview. We highly recommend it!
Bloomsbury park area
This basic site is a large open area next to the roadhouse in Bloomsbury.
In Guthalungra, opposite the roadhouse, this rest area has basically no facilities, but you can stay overnight for free, so no complaints from us!
Just off the main street, this rest area has all the facilities you won’t find at Guthalungra, including showers and toilets.
This dog-friendly site, 8km north of Ayr, has toilets, drinking water and is suitable for big caravans and motorhomes.
This small camping area on the foreshore is around 7km west of the highway, but is well worth the extra drive for its good facilities, including a playground, and great location.
Find more free rest areas in Budget Rest Areas around Australia (2nd edition) by Paul Smedley.