Camp for free along the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Townsville

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Clairview rest area

Clairview rest area, Paul Smedley

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!

Landsborough park area

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.

Six Mile Creek rest area

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.

Chatsworth rest area

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

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!

Petrie rest area

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.

Apple Tree Creek rest area

In town at Apple Tree Creek, this dog-friendly site is suitable for big caravans and motorhomes, has good facilities, and – bonus! – a playground.

 

Wallum rest area

Wallum rest area, Paul Smedley

Wallum rest area

Around 30km south of Bundaberg, this dog-friendly rest area is shady and has good facilities.

Gin Gin rest area

With good facilities and shade, this dog-friendly rest area is a good place to stop, 2km north of Gin Gin.

Granite Creek rest area

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.

Boyne River rest area

Situated on a riverbank, this rest area is just off the highway and has good facilities.

 

Calliope rest area

Calliope rest area, Paul Smedley

Calliope rest area

This rest area is as spacious as you’d ever need it to be, situated 30km south of Mount Larcom.

Yaamba rest area

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.

Waverley Creek rest area

A shady, spacious rest area with good facilities, just off the highway, 66km north of Marlborough.

Clairview rest area

This is an absolutely charming site on the foreshore, in the north of Clairview. We highly recommend it!

Bloomsbury park area

Bloomsbury park area, Paul Smedley

Bloomsbury park area

This basic site is a large open area next to the roadhouse in Bloomsbury.

Guthalungra rest area

In Guthalungra, opposite the roadhouse, this rest area has basically no facilities, but you can stay overnight for free, so no complaints from us!

Home Hill rest area

Just off the main street, this rest area has all the facilities you won’t find at Guthalungra, including showers and toilets.

Sandy Corner rest area

This dog-friendly site, 8km north of Ayr, has toilets, drinking water and is suitable for big caravans and motorhomes.

Saunders Beach camping area

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.

 

 

 

 

The best short walks near Melbourne.

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Cape Schanck walk on the Mornington Peninsula, Melanie Ball

Cape Schanck walk on the Mornington Peninsula, Melanie Ball

Going on a hike doesn’t always mean strapping on hiking boots, mega backpacks and ten litres of water – there are short walks near Melbourne that showcase some of the best scenery in Victoria without requiring the skills of an Everest mountaineer. Here are our picks for the top five walks near Melbourne, from Melanie Ball’s Top Walks in Victoria.

Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula

This 8km, 3-hour walk of moderate difficulty gives hikers an unbeatable package deal of beach and cliff walks, wildflowers and birds, interesting history and remarkable geology on a visit to one of Australia’s most spectacularly sited lighthouses. Beginning in Cape Schanck Lighthouse carpark, you’re on the cliffs for much of this scenic walk to Bushrangers Bay.

For more info on Cape Schanck, purchase the PDF of the walk here.

You Yangs, Western Plains

The You Yangs is the strange looking set of mountains that rise abruptly out of the plains between Melbourne and Geelong. It takes 2–3 hours to complete the moderately difficult 7.1km loop track to the pinnacle which will give spectacular panoramas of plains, Melbourne’s skyline, Port Phillip Bay and the peninsulas. It’s recommended for new bushwalkers, families and other hikers.

For more info on the You Yangs walk, purchase the PDF here.

Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

Pink granite cliffs, mutton-bird rookeries, wild-ride surf and safe swimming; the many wonders of Cape Woolamai, on Phillip Island, are revealed on this easy and stunning 9.2km coastal loop.

Hanging Rock, central Victoria

This fun short walk promises rugged, labyrinthine rock formations, sweeping views and more than a touch of mystery – this is the rock made famous by the Picnic at Hanging Rock, where schoolgirls disappeared at the rock and where never seen again. Hopefully that won’t happen to you; the walk should be only be around 2 hours long.

For more info on the Hanging Rock walk, purchase the PDF here.  

The Great Ocean Walk from Aire River to Johanna Beach

Arguably the best day walk in Victoria, this 14km, 6-hour walk means you’ll be able to really appreciate the incredible views of unpredictable ocean and tranquil river, surf beach and honeycombed cliffs, tall forest and flower embroidered heath, this wonderful walk shows off the Great Ocean Walk’s diversity of landscapes and flora.

Best free campsites in Tasmania.

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Cockle Creek camping area, Kerryn Burgess

Cockle Creek camping area, Kerryn Burgess

Tasmania, Australia’s smallest state, punches above its weight when it comes to good camping and especially free camping. You can camp everywhere from national parks to beaches to forests – and all for free free free!

Apsley Waterhole camping area, Douglas–Apsley National Park

As you swim in the Apsley River swimming hole near your free campsite in Douglas–Apsley National Park, you’ll ask yourself: does life get any better than this?

Boltons Green camping area, Southwest National Park

Boltons Green is the end of the road in Southwest National Park – from here it’s all walking tracks and endless ocean vistas. You need to get a permit for this camping area.

Dago Point camping area, Lake Sorrell

Set on the shaded banks of Lake Sorrell, camping doesn’t get much better than this. And since fishing is banned, it doesn’t get as crowded as you’d expect.

Green Point camping area, Marrawah

Water, water everywhere at Green Point camping area. This unprotected camping area (bring a strong tent!) overlooks the wild and beautiful Southern Ocean.

Hastings Forest Picnic Area camping area, Southern Forests

You might expect a free camping area to be ugly, with bad facilities and nothing to do. Well, may we introduce you to Hastings Forest Picnic Area camping area, which is nestled beside Esperance River on soft, mossy ground with toilets and all the activities you could want nearby?

Lake Barrington West camping area, Lake Barrington

Come here for the angling (permits required) and stay for the views and peace and quiet.

 

 

 

The best free campsites in New South Wales.

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Ingar Waterhole camping area, Kerryn Burgess

Ingar Waterhole camping area, Kerryn Burgess

If you want to camp for free, don’t look past New South Wales. New South Wales now has more free campsites than any other state … and more than that, these campsites are good.

Bendeela Recreation Area, Kangaroo Valley

This campsite in the Kangaroo Valley is a hidden and picturesque gem! The sites are on a large, shady area next to the river.

Big River camping area, Goulburn River National Par

This campsite rocks. Set among rocks above the Goulburn River, you’re only a hop, skip and a leap away from some great swimming holes.

Blackbird Flat Reserve camping area, Macleay River Public Recreation Reserve

Free, dog-friendly, spacious camping next to a river in summer? Count us in.

Bodalla Forest Park, Bodalla State Forest

The perfect stop off the Princes Highway, this picnic spot also doubles as a shady and spacious camping area.

Coachwood camping area, Chichester State Forest

We like Coachwood camping area so much we almost don’t want to tell you about it. This pretty-as-a-picture campsite is next to a river in Chichester State Forest, which neighbours the magical Barrington Tops National Park.

Daisy Plains Huts, Carrai National Park

These remote huts are left unlocked for campers to use. It might not be ‘proper’ camping with a roof over your head, but as you wake up to the black cockatoos squawking in the eucalypts, you won’t care so much about those pesky details.

Frying Pan Creek camping area, Chichester State Forest

On the other side of the Telegherry River to Coachwood camping area, this picturesque campsite is justifiably popular.

Glen Davis camping area, Glen Davis

It’s a campsite with a view – and then some! This free camping area overlooks the beautiful Capertee Valley in the Blue Mountains.

Ingar Campground, Blue Mountains National Park

What makes Ingar camping area so good? It’s near Wentworth Falls AND a swimming hole, has toilets and easily accessible walking tracks. There are only eight sites though, so if you snooze on the morning you’re meant to leave, you may lose out on a spot.

Jacob’s River camping area, Kosciuszko National Park

Only a short drive from Jindabyne, Jacob’s River camping area gives you more than enough reasons to visit the alpine area in summer. It’s an attractive camping area set next to Jacob’s River. While away the time swimming and fishing.

Manning River camping area, Barrington Tops State Forest

Cool down by camping on the banks of the Manning River under the temperate rainforest. The fishing’s not bad, either.

Newtons Crossing camping area, Yambulla State Forest

There are only five sites, but chances are people will overlook this lovely inland spot in favour of a place on the beach. Their loss – situated next to the river in the midst of the forest, Newtons Crossing camping area is a winner.

Paddys River Flats camping area, Tumbarumba

You’ll fall in love with this simple camping area near Paddys Falls, where you can swim, fish or go bushwalking.

Pindari Dam camping area, Pindari Dam

You don’t have to pay to camp here, but you’ll probably enjoy this small, casual camping area with its view over the dam so much you’ll be happy dropping a few coins into the donation box.

The Pines camping area, Olney State Forest

Give us a campsite among the pine trees at Olney State Forest, with good facilities and lots of shade.

Rocky River Fossicking Area camping area, Uralla

You’ll strike gold at this free campsite – maybe even literally! You can hire fossicking equipment at the visitors centre. Otherwise you can just relax at the shaded campsite and cool down in the swimming holes in the river.

 

 

Best rest areas around Australia

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Highway, Tourism Australia

Highway, Tourism Australia

Have you ever planned to stop at a rest area, taken one look at the facilities, and just decided to drive on?

A good rest area can make a long drive that much smoother (and a bad one can add a few more rocks to the road). That’s why we asked Paul Smedley, author of Budget Rest Areas around Australia – which lists all of the rest areas along major highways in Australia – to nominate his favourite places to stop along Australia’s highways.

So whether you want to stop and stretch your legs or save a few dollars by staying the night (if permitted) these rest areas are always worth a stop.

Sea Lake park area, Calder Highway, Victoria

Near new, well designed and very well maintained, this rest area is at the entrance to the caravan park – but you won’t have to pay a cent. While you can’t stay here overnight, there are toilets, showers, barbecues, water, picnic tables, as well as being dog friendly.

Highly recommended in Victoria: Greenhill Lake camp area, Plantation camp area, Genoa rest area and Minyip rest area

Mundoonan rest area, Hume Highway, New South Wales

This rest area on the southbound side of the highway is matched by a twin area on the northbound side. Both are excellent, with toilets, drinking water, barbecues and shade. You can stay overnight for free. We’re not sure what it is about the rest area on the southbound side – but it’s slightly better than its twin, luckily for the people travelling towards Melbourne.

Highly recommended in New South Wales: Gol Gol park area, Ardlethan park area, Kempsey park area, Diamond Head camping area, Mulligans Hut camping area and Wallabadah rest area

Waikerie park area, Sturt Highway, South Australia

A picture-perfect rest area on the banks of the Murray River, this rest area is overflowing with facilities. But don’t worry, the facilities themselves aren’t overflowing, with clean toilets, showers, picnic areas, a playground and caravan access.

Highly recommended for South Australia: Port Neil park areas, Wilpena Pound camping area and Mambray Creek camping area.

Ellendale Pool camping area, Brand Highway, Western Australia

Ellendale Pool camping area is 27 kilometres from the highway, so it’s only worth the drive if you’re planning to stay overnight. It’s a scenic spot next to a pool, with showers, toilets, shade, picnic tables, barbecues and disabled access. There’s a small fee to stay here.

Highly recommended: Big Brook Dam park area, Walpole park area and Shannon camping area.

Berry Springs park area, Northern Territory

This is Paul Smedley’s favourite spot for a short break that usually lasts for hours. Around 10 kilometres west of the highway, the park area is in Berry Springs Nature Park, so you can take a dip as well as use the facilities (the creek can be shut to swimmers in the wet season).

Highly recommended in Northern Territory: Lake Mary Ann park area, Wangi Falls camping area in Litchfield National Park (another Smedley favourite), Edith Falls camp area (near Katherine).

Scottsdale rest area, Tasman Highway, Tasmania

Scottsdale has the most facilities of all of the rest areas on this list, as this site is a dump point, along with the regular facilities of toilets, showers, picnic tables and water. The setting is also pleasant.

Highly recommended in Tasmania: Swansea park area, Hellyer Gorge and Sisters Beach rest areas, Fortescue Bay camp area in Tasman National Park.

Seaford camping area, Bruce Highway, Queensland

Queensland takes the prize for most rest/park/camp areas with great facilities. But Seaforth camping area is among the best of the best. This is an official campground, so you have to pay to stay here. But we think you’ll agree that the facilities are worth it, with toilets, picnic areas, shade, showers, caravan access and drinking water.

Highly recommended in Queensland: Theodore camping area, Bramston Beach camping area, Bluewater rest area and Rollingstone rest area.