For as long as I can remember, hiring a campervan and driving it round Australia has been on my travel wishlist. I’m not alone: last year, thousands of STA Travellers used a campervan to explore Oz. There’s a definite novelty factor about driving your entire house around, making beautiful National Parks your home for the night and living a basic kind of life for a while. On top of that, campervans are also a really practical and often budget friendly way to get around, especially if there’s a group of you to share costs.
Luckily for me, when I met my now husband a few years back, it turned out that an Australia road trip was pretty high on his bucket list too. So when set about planning our wedding, we decided enough was enough. We blagged a couple of months off work and set about booking a somewhat unconventional honeymoon that would see us driving up the east coast of Australia in a campervan on an epic drive from Sydney to Cairns. In 3 weeks.
Let me stress that Sydney to Cairns is really quite a long way. Over 2,400 kilometers if you go in a straight line (we clocked up over 4,000km in ours). But of course, when it comes to road trips, it’s all about the journey as much as it is the destination. We stayed at some simply incredibly spots on our trip, and as we spoke to other travellers we met along the way, were pretty gutted we couldn’t stay longer and drive that campervan all over Australia.
A combination of places we stayed, places that other travellers raved about, and places that I’m definitely staying if I get the chance to hire a campervan Down Under again, here’s my pick of some of the best places to camp out in Australia.
1. Great for city access
Picking a campervan up in Sydney but want to stay and see the sights? Park that van at the Lane Cove River Tourist Park. A beautiful National Park just north of the city, it’s a ten minute walk to the local station, where you can catch a train and be soaking up the sights of Sydney in 25 minutes. A great option for experiencing the best of both worlds. The campsite even has a pool! Holla.
2. Great for wildlife spotting
Love Aussie wildlife? It doesn’t get much better than in Queensland. Head to Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park and roll your van onto the Noah Beach campground. Daintree is home to tree-kangaroos, cassowary birds, possums, and even the odd crocodile – so keep your wits about you when you’re near water’s edge.
Spot loads of wildlife at Cape Tribulation | Image by spalti, on Flickr
3. Great for glamping
Going back to basics and sleeping in rainforests is amazing and all, but sometimes, you just want a hot shower and a good night’s sleep. Australia has no shortage of glampsites, but Queensland’s BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort right next to Airlie Beach really stood out for us. I kid you not: it’s like a freakin’ Balinese resort, complete with huge saltwater pool, gently swaying palm trees, soothing music in the bathrooms and poolside massages for when your shoulders are aching from that 5 hour drive. Probably best to stay away from it during the school holidays, when it would be overrun with children. But we stayed there at the end of January and it was heaven.
4. Great for taking your breath away
Tasmania was one of my favourite places in the whole of Australia, and the stunning natural beauty of Freycinet National Park literally (well OK, not literally, but y’know) blew my mind. It’s such a beautiful, popular place to camp that they have a ballot system in place, so put your name in the hat and you could be lucky enough to set up camp a stone’s throw away from the Tasman Sea and basically wake up to views like this:
Park your van at Freycinet National Park's beautiful Honeymoon Bay
5. Great for sun and sand
A campervan trip doesn’t always have to be about adventure. Sometimes, you just want to take a few days to kick back and relax. And there’s no better place to do that than in Western Austalia’s Cape Le Grand National Park, 45 minutes from Esperance. The miles of white sandy beaches here have been voted the best in Australia, and if you set up camp at Lucky Bay, you’ll be overlooking a sheltered bay great for swimming and snorkelling. You might even be joined by some kangaroos while you’re relaxing on the sand.
6. Great for the wilderness
If you want to get away from it all, then head to Grampians National Park in Victoria, around 3 hours north of Melbourne. There’s towering summits, magnificent waterfalls and forests to get lose yourself in. Walk through the North Grampians and you’ll be treated to some Aborginal rock art. Park your van at the picturesque Halls Gap campsite, where you can hire a fire drum to sit around if you’re into that sort of thing. For the really intrepid, set off on an overnight hike and stay at one of the remote campsites scattered throughout the park.
Make this your morning view when you park your camper in Victoria's Grampians NP
7. Great for a freebie
Exciting fact time: camping is free in all state parks in New South Wales. How good is that? Head to Jervis Bay, where you can camp (for free – did I mention it’s free?) next to some of the most dazzling white sand beaches in the world, and if you’re there in June or July, you might spot some humpback and southern right whales migrating to Queensland’s warmer waters.
8. Great for stargazing
Ah, the Northern Territory. It’s Australia’s least populated region (only 233,000 residents), which means very little light pollution, and the clearest views of the night skies in the country. Make the trip to West MacDonnell National Park and drag that sleeping bag out of the campervan – trust me, you won’t want a roof over your head here – and count shooting stars to send you off to sleep.
9. Great for island camping
A short ferry ride from Cape Jervis, South Australia’s Kangaroo Island is one of Australia’s best wildlife havens – and not, confusingly, just for kangaroos, though the roos you’ll see jumping around here are unique to the island. You could spot Little Penguins (capital letters necessary), seals, the short-beaked echidna, wallabies, possums and even sea dragons (which sound a little bit scary, I’m not going to lie). Excitingly, you can take your campervan across on the ferry and make the wildlife your neighbour for a few days. What better way to get away from it all?
You could be sharing the beach with an adorable seal on Kangaroo Island
10. Great for watching the sunrise
Watching the sun come up over Uluru is an iconic Australian experience, and is one of the main reasons travellers make the trip into the Northern Territory’s Red Centre. The red monolith Uluru turns some magnificent colours and sunrise (and sunset, for that matter) and the surrounding vast landscape is breathtaking. Park your camper at Ayers Rock Campground and you’ll be perfectly located to make the 35 minute drive over to Uluru in the morning.