Australia in a campervan
For more visa, work and travel info about Australia, check out:
- Applying for a Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417) To Australia – The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide with Screenshots
- Finding accommodation in Australia (especially the chapter Vandwelling, or living in your vehicle)
- Fruit Picking Jobs in Australia – What, Where, How (and Why!) (a great way to make money on the road!)
Where to stay and park your campervan
There are plenty of campsites and caravan parks in Australia, some free and some paid. You’ll find a comprehensive list of free options on Australian campsites. You can also splurge on the useful Camps, Australia Wide (around $60) or get the app ($9.99). The latest paper version is Camp 10, published in 2019, but you may be able to find used previous version of the guide (around $20-25)—use the map and the app to update it yourself.
Note that most of the time, you’ll need a permit to camp in the wild, e.g. in a park or a forest. For instance, in Queensland, you have to pay a $6.65 fee per person, per night. Check the Camping page of the Queensland Department of Environment and Science website for a comprehensive overview. Most states and territories have similar rules and fees.
A less scenic option would be stopping in rest areas or a roadhouse in remote regions (usually used by truck drivers, fewer tourists around!). Some rest areas offer basic facilities (shower, toilets) and let drivers stay overnight while other prohibit overnight stays.
Explore Australia lists hundreds of rest areas, organized by state and region. Each rest area is briefly described and different pictograms provide info about what to expect:
- Disabled access toilet
- Mobile phone service
Here is an example of several pictograms used:
This one charges a “camp fee,” which is fairly rare but it also offers extensive facilities. You can take a shower, use the fireplace or barbecue, tables, showers, toilets and get some drinking water. It’s dog-friendly and offers some shade. It’s suitable for large caravans and motorhomes.
Venturing into cities with a campervan and staying overnight is trickier. Check the by-laws or you could get a heavy fine.
Some cities welcome travellers with blue “RV friendly town” signs.
If you see this sign, it means the town is part of the “RV Friendly Town Program,” an initiative from Campervans and Motorhomes Club of Australia (CMCA) aimed at ensuring that RV holidaymakers have suitable rest stop facilities and good access to national parks. The essential criteria to get a stamp of approval and be part of the program are:
- Parking in the centre of town must be available for even the largest of motorhomes, with access to produce shops to stock up their RV fridges.
- Low cost, short-term parking needs to be provided for self-contained vehicles, and must be as close to the CBD as it can be.
- Motorhome users must have access to water, and a free dump point.
Campervans and Motorhomes Club of Australia lists cities where backpackers can park their campervan but much of the detailed info is for members only.
Where to get food and supplies
The biggest supermarket chains are Woolworths and Coles. IGA supermarkets are smaller and usually more expensive. Aldi stores are discounters, much like in Europe. Small towns always have a small grocery store but expect higher prices and a smaller range of products.
Fast-food chains are ubiquitous—McDonald’s, Hungry Jack’s (that’s “Burger King” in Australian…), Subway, Red Rooster and plenty of pizza restaurant chains.
As explained in Shopping, cooking and eating, you will have to adapt your diet and make smart (and possibly healthy) decisions on the road depending on your budget and food availability. For instance, your diet might be blander and more basic when it’s hot because perishable food goes bad quickly.
Stock up on instant noodles—and pick up imported brands from China, Korea or Japan, they taste better!—it’s a cheap and easy meal eaten all over the world in offices, college dorms and hostels. Tip—upgrade your noodles by adding an egg and some greens (bok choy, spinach, scallions, broccoli, etc.) for a more balanced meal.
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