Top 5 island camping areas in Australia

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lizard island queensland

Lizard Island, Tourism and Events Queensland

How would you like to enjoy an island getaway – without breaking the bank? Luckily Australia has plenty of islands with campsites where you can set up tent and while away a weekend on a budget. Sure, you might be making your own pina coladas, and the vibe might be more Robinson Crusoe than Richard Branson, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Watsons Bay camping area, Lizard Island National Park, Queensland

This is the most isolated camping area on this list – that is, if you can forget about the luxury resort that’s hidden on the other side of the island. Lizard Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, around 93 kilometres north of Cooktown in far-north Queensland, and is only accessible by boat or plane (yup, that luxury resort means there’s an airstrip on the island). But once you’ve waved goodbye to your transport, you’ll feel very Robinson Crusoe; there are only extremely basic amenities (even the water has to be boiled before drinking) and the island is still very wild (keep an eye out for crocs).

Flinders Chase

Fluted Cape, Tim Dub / Tourism Tasmania

Cloudy Corner camping area, South Bruny Island National Park, Bruny Island, Tasmania

If being in Tasmania isn’t island escape enough, then head to Cloudy Corner camping area in South Bruny National Park on Bruny Island. This 4WD-only camping area is on the opposite end of the island to Bruny’s main settlement, Adventure Bay, and can only be accessed at low tide. And, of course, it’s for totally self-sufficient campers. If that all sounds appealing, you’ll be rewarded with excellent fishing, glorious (yet chilly) swimming, and the sort of scenery that’ll have you returning every year.

Flinders Chase

Flinders Chase National Park, Colin Beard / South Australian Tourism Commission

West Bay camping area, Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

During the early days of Australia’s European history, Kangaroo Island was a wild outpost for escaped convicts and pirates. While the island is slightly more civilised these days, you can still see a glimpse of that wild isolation at West Bay camping area, which is in Kangaroo Island’s spectacular Flinders Chase National Park. The camping area is around 22 kilometres from the visitors’ centre, on a west-facing bay with breathtaking views.

victoria campsite

Camping in Victoria, Tourism Victoria

Fairhaven camping area, French Island National Park, French Island, Victoria

Grab your bike or your hiking boots and hop on a ferry to French Island. This island is a relaxed farming community, without the big attractions that draw people to neighbouring Phillip Island. But that means you might just be lucky enough to have the camping area to yourself! Fairhaven camping area is a back-to-basics spot, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient. Once on the island, lean into the slower pace of life and… relax. You might even spot a koala or two.


Camping, Rottnest Island, Western Australia

If you like a few more amenities with your island paradise (including hot showers, drinking water and toilets), then this spot might be for you. Of course, you’ll have to leave those fantasies of Robinson Crusoe behind, as this camping area – the only one on Rottnest Island – is extremely popular. Rotto, as the locals call it, is just a ferry ride away from Perth, and the camping area is right next to the main settlement. The camping fee is on the expensive side, but you’re paying for the facilities and island vibes (and beaches!). Word to the wise: avoid this camping area during November, as it’s flooded with school leavers.

Camp for free along the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Townsville

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.

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.