Grey nomad guide: Australia’s caravan and camping options

Oct 29, 2019
Grey nomads have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to where to stay on their holidays, such as holiday parks and free camping sites. Source: Getty

Travelling across the country with a caravan in tow is a dream held by many over-60s as they enter retirement, as they picture what it might be like to pack up their bags and hit the road for months at a time. But deciding exactly where to stop off for the night can prove difficult with so many options to choose from.

Some choose to splurge a little and stay at beachside holiday parks with ample bathroom and kitchen facilities, while others like getting in touch with nature and opting for free camping away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger towns and cities.

Free camping

If you’re wanting to get closer to nature and away from busy holiday parks filled with families then free camping might just be the right choice for you. While you’re not allowed to set up camp just anywhere in Australia for free, there are designated sites across the country that allow travellers to stay for the night (or a few) without having to pay a cent.

The majority of free camping sites are quite low-key with no extra facilities, just an area to park your caravan or set up a tent. Unless you feel like roughing it a bit, then a caravan with its own toilet and water storage will be beneficial.

Finding these areas though can prove a little difficult for a newbie as some are settled in quite remote areas of the country and away from the hustle and bustle of towns and cities. There are a number of websites you can search in advance if you know which areas you would like to visit, such as

However, before you pack up the bags and hit the road, there are a few rules you should take note of when using free camping facilities:

  • Be mindful of others – Be wary of blasting music through the night or raising your voices. Sleep is important when travelling on the road and the last thing you want is unrested people sharing the highway.
  • Respect the wildlife – Don’t leave rubbish hanging around or try to feed the animals food that may give them an upset stomach.
  • Follow the signs – Keep an eye out for ‘no camping’ signs – it could be an area of Aboriginal heritage or a site that crocodiles and other dangerous animals frequent.
  • Obey fire ban rules – Devastating bushfires have ravaged all parts of the country of late and with the summer months approaching the treat only increases.

Holiday parks

Holiday parks are a great option for those wanting a bit more luxury or families travelling together. There are usually a range of accomodation options available, such as powered and unpowered sites and cabins. Plus there are generally some fun activities for the kids including bouncy castles, playgrounds and swimming pools.

You’ll also find communal kitchens for everyone in the park to use, making cooking duties a lot easier with fridges, sinks for washing up dishes, microwaves, kettles, ovens and dining areas. If you don’t have a shower in your caravan then you can make use of the communal bathrooms.

For those travelling for weeks or months at a time then you can use the laundry facilities as well which are generally equipped with coin-operated washing machines and dryers. At times there will even be WiFi, so you can upload those snaps from your trip on social media.


If you don’t want to rough it completely with free camping, but would still like a bit more peace and quiet away from the big holiday parks then paid campsites are a great alternative. Facilities are generally more basic than those you would find in a holiday park though, so no full kitchen or laundry.

In most cases there will be a toilet of some sort – perhaps a long drop – water supply from a tap, stream or lake and maybe a cold shower to freshen up. If you pay a bit more money then campsites could also include a food preparation bench, some picnic tables and chairs to eat your meals at and a barbecue to help with cooking.

Naturist parks

They certainly aren’t for everyone, but if you want a bit of extra freedom and don’t mind stripping off then a naturist park might be ideal. Walking around stark nude may seem a little confronting but there are many people who absolutely love it and several places across Australia cater to this lifestyle.

Clothing is always optional, but there are generally no strict rules that you have to be completely nude – so you can ease yourself into it, if you’re feeling a little nervous about baring all.

If you head online, Google will provide you with plenty of options to include on your holiday. Some main nudist parks include the Pelican Point Nudist Resort in Barmera, South Australia, the Valley View Naturist Bush Retreat in Far North Queensland and the River Island Nature Retreat in Mittagong, New South Wales.

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What is your favourite place to set up camp when out caravanning? Do you prefer holiday parks or is free camping more appealing?

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