Australia is a huge place, and the opportunities to go camping are almost limitless. But as you will find out - if you’re not well prepared, at least - there’s a lot of room for problems. There are countless things to keep in mind, from understanding the weather to ensuring you have the right supplies for the places you’re going.
I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled and camped in every corner of Australia over the last decade or so, and I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and experience.
To help you plan the perfect camping trip, I’ve translated this experience into a list of 12 must-read tips for camping in Australia, regardless of where or when you’re going. Enjoy, and happy camping!
1. Decide On The Best Place To Camp
You will need to decide where you want to go before you can start planning your trip. There are countless options, from remote free camping to staying in a caravan park. I personally enjoy the wilderness, but everyone's different. Always take your personal tastes and circumstances into account when deciding where you're going to camp.
Camping in the bush can be great fun, but you will need to make sure you're well prepared. With the right gear, you can take advantage of Australia's beautiful outback, southern forests, and virtually unexplored tropics.
There are numerous types of bush camping. The most basic is free camping, where no facilities are supplied. National parks often have designated campsites with basic toilets, barbecues, and sometimes showers. I've experienced some amazing station stays in the northern parts of the country, so these are definitely worth considering as well.
Beach camping is rewarding when you get it right, but getting it right isn't always easy. If it's too windy, you will get sandblasted. If it's too cold, the beach is often just unpleasant. Too rough? You won't be able to fish, swim, or do other water-based activities.
Make sure you're aware of the laws surrounding beach camping. In many places in Australia, you can only stay at a dedicated camping ground located a small distance back from the beach. But my favourite places are the more remote areas where you can drive onto the beach, find a nice place, and set up camp just meters back from the water.
Staying In A Caravan Park
Those with pets, mobility issues, or who simply don't have a lot of camping experience might prefer to stay in a caravan park. Caravan parks are also great for the yearly family camping trip. When you stay in them, you will benefit from the comforts of civilization - like hot showers, toilets, and, in most cases, easy access to some sort of shop.
Personally, I like to set up camp in a caravan park from time to time when I'm on extended trips. Just having that little bit of extra comfort is great sometimes.
2. Choose The Best Time To Go Camping
In my experience, the weather and time of year have the potential to transform an amazing camping trip into something you wish you had never tried to do.
I remember one of my first extended camping trips that involved hiking and wild camping in the Tasmanian wilderness. The problem was that I decided to go in the heart of winter. Now, if you know anything about Tasmania, you'll know that it's a cold, gloomy place at the best of times. In the middle of winter and camping in a tent, the cold weather made it nothing short of miserable.
To avoid making mistakes like this, consider things like:
- The time of the year. The summer months are the most pleasant in the southern half of the country while camping in the winter months (the dry season) will help you avoid the wet season and unbearable humidity in the north.
- The weather conditions.
- What sort of conditions you're prepared for.
Another small thing to note here is that it's best to avoid periods like the school holidays if you can. When these coincide with peak seasons or busy times such as Christmas or Easter, you may end up feeling a little crowded out if you're heading to a popular location.
3. Make Sure You Have The Right Gear
I've found that it's extra important to pay attention to the camping gear that you have. With the right gear, your trip will likely be easy and enjoyable. Without it, you could end up wet, cold, hungry, miserable, or any combination of these.
What Gear Do I Need?
The camping essentials that you need will depend on the activities you're doing. When I'm planning a new trip, I like to sit down and make a list of the things I'll need before I even start packing. It's often useful to categorize your equipment to ensure you don't miss anything.
Think about the weather conditions and activities you're planning. Ensure you have plenty of drinking water, along with basic comforts such as toilet paper, camping chairs, and plenty of snacks. I mean, snacks are a must for me, anyway.
One thing that I will note here is that it's important that you don't take too many things. If you're hiking, a heavy backpack will just slow you down and make life harder than it needs to be. When camping out of a car, too many things will just make a mess and make it hard for you to find what you need.
Where Can I Buy Decent Camping Equipment?
When I first started camping, I purchased a lot of my gear from my local fishing and outdoors shop. However, I've moved into more online purchasing in recent years because of the quality, affordability, and huge product range available on the web.
If you would like to go down this road, I'd suggest reading a few of my guides outlining how I choose specific types of camping gear and what to look out for when buying online.
4. Use A Camping App
Arguably the most important tool in my camping arsenal is WikiCamps, a popular camping app. It comes with a number of features, including the ability to filter campsites by their cost and the amenities that are available.
There are a few different options on the market, but I love WikiCamps because of its social aspect. Users can post reviews and photos of camping sites that they've visited. I'd recommend making a habit of checking these out to ensure your planned campsite is going to live up to expectations, especially when you’re taking extended road trips.
5. Plan Your Meals In Advance
I'll admit it. I love food. And there's nothing worse than heading out camping, only to realise that you've forgotten some important ingredient or something else that you need to cook dinner.
To make sure that you have a quality time, I'd suggest planning your meals before you head off. There's no need to go into too much detail, but grab a pen and paper, and jot down what you're going to eat and what you need to pack to make this happen.
Remember, some foods are quite perishable. You might like to avoid these if you don't have a camping fridge or freezer, especially if it's hot.
6. Bring Plenty Of Lighting
There's nothing worse than stumbling around in the dark while you're trying to set up camp or get ready for bed. But you're in luck. There are countless rechargeable and battery-powered lighting options on the market these days.
One of my favourites is magnetic strip lighting. This can be stuck to the side of a vehicle, hung from trees, or placed around your camp to illuminate the whole place. Portable lights like headlamps are also important for those times you want to venture off to the toilet or for a midnight walk.
7. Invest In Cast Iron Cookware
Sure, a cheap frying pan or aluminium pot will do the trick when you're camping. However, there's nothing better than a nice slow-cooked meal in a cast iron camp oven.
When I'm setting up camp in one place for a few days, I like to get a nice cooking fire going quite early in the day - as long as the conditions and local laws let you, of course. Once you've got a nice bed of coals, you can get your camp oven going, and then sit back and relax while your dinner cooks itself.
8. Add Mosquito And Bug Repellants To Your Toolkit
If you've done a little camping in Australia before, you will know just how bad the bugs can be. From mozzies and march flies in the south to sandflies and the little black bush flies in the north, there's always something that wants to annoy or bite you.
And trust me, you don't want to be attacked by a swarm of mozzies or sandflies. You will come out covered in bites that can quickly become infected, itchy, and just uncomfortable in general. Sandfly bites can even leave scars in bad cases.
Luckily, there's a solution!
When I travel, I always pack some sort of mosquito repellant or bug spray. The cheap supermarket ones won't work if the bugs are bad, and I'd recommend heading to your local camping shop and asking for advice on the best options on the market.
It can also be a good idea to ask locals what sort of repellants they use if you're camping in an area that you're not familiar with.
9. Think About Your Activities Before You Leave
Planning some fun activities before you head off will help you pack the right things. This is particularly important if you're planning to go on camping adventures with kids.
There are loads of things that you can do when you're out in the wild. Some of my favourite activities include:
- Fishing, snorkelling, swimming, and other ocean activities when it's hot. You can also do these in many of Australia's freshwater lakes and rivers.
- Relaxing with my favourite book or a word puzzle.
- Hiking or taking nature walks while just enjoying the scenery and being outdoors.
- Playing board games or cards. This is an especially good activity for the evenings or for times when the weather isn't nice enough for outdoor activities.
Of course, there are loads of other things to do. These will largely depend on where you're going.
10. Don’t Forget The Firewood!
If you're allowed to, you will want to have a campfire. Trust me, there's nothing better than sitting around the fire at night, sharing stories over dinner and, if you're so inclined, a drink or two.
But, there's a problem.
In much of Australia, you aren't allowed to collect firewood around campgrounds. Doing so can attract large fines. To avoid this, it's always worth bringing a few bags of firewood of your own. Most camping shops and many remote service stations stock firewood bags for around $10 to $15 each, which is very affordable.
11. Be Careful Camping With Pets
While it can seem like a great idea to take your furry friends on a camping holiday with you, it often isn't. For one, animals require a lot of care, and this can be quite difficult when you're on the road.
On top of this, many of the best camping spots in Australia are located within national parks. And if you know anything about national parks, you will know that you're not allowed to enter them if you have a cat or dog with you.
1080 baits are also spread across huge parts of Australia in an effort to combat foxes, wild cats, and feral dogs. If your pet finds one of these and eats it, they will likely die.
But again, camping with pets can be amazing. Just make sure you plan your trip properly, and ensure you pay attention to all warning signs.
12. Invest In Comfortable Sleeping Gear!
If you're camping for an extended period of time, having a good night's sleep each day is a must. And for this, you will need decent bedding.
If I'm camping with a vehicle, I love my swag. It has a comfortable mattress and provides protection from both the weather and any nasty insects that might be in the area.
When I'm hiking, I like to use a small, lightweight tent coupled with a sleeping mat and the right sleeping bag for the conditions. I'd suggest testing your bedding at home before heading off on your trip to ensure it's as good as you think it is.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.