While many people like to have a park with facilities, sometimes you are between towns or just taking some time off the beaten track, so knowing about the free sites provided by the council are also important and a help for your caravan adventures.
Most free sites have a time limit of between 1-2 days, enough time to stop, refresh, and move on. They are not intended as a place for a lengthy stay, to stay longer book in at a caravan park so you have access to laundry, playgrounds for the kids, community kitchens and the rest of the facilities on offer.
When looking for facilities, the free camping sites are very limited and you may need to have extra food, water, and even power, being prepared is a large part of travelling off the beaten track.
Here’s a quick summary of items to consider for both Free and Paid Caravan Sites.
|Free Sites||Paid Caravan Parks|
|Limited Facilities: Some don’t have drinkable water, many don’t have laundry or cooking facilities||Facilities can include: Laundry, Cooking, Entertainment, Swimming, Kayaking, Bicycles, Kids Club and more|
|Power Options: Rarely have available power so need to bring your own||Power Options: Bringing your own can be wise as some parks charge for power|
|Fuel and Water: Bring plenty with you so you don’t get caught out||Fuel and Water: not as high a priority as both are usually available on site or nearby|
|Actual Cost: Free or low cost to stay, but money needs to be spent to be prepared.||Actual Cost: Nightly rates are low and include most things for a great caravan holiday.|
Be sure you have done your research on power options as many national parks are banning or severely restricting use of generators, and transport authorities are becoming stricter on overweight loads.
Solar panels can be a viable option even when in a caravan park as some now charge extra for their electricity.
Staying in a paid caravan park for a night or two during a trip can help to recharge the batteries of a campervan as well as any technology or devices you have, saving on using power while on the road.
Access to a laundry, showers and cooking facilities are some of the basics you will need every day on your holiday. You may find a free parking site with some of these items in town nearby and this can work well for you, but for other items like swimming pools, saunas, gym equipment, playgrounds and entertainment generally will be limited.
If you are travelling with children, staying in a caravan park will provide more for them to do as many of them also have children’s holiday clubs with activities to keep them active and busy.
These days, many of the free sites near the ocean and beach fronts are more limited while inland rural areas still have sites setup. Often having a caravan or two pull up for the night, have a meal in the local pub and buy some groceries in town is a boost for the local community, so they may have some extra facilities to entice people to stay.
Fuel and Water
When self-driving, these two should be top of the list of items to check. If you are unsure of how much fuel you need to reach a destination, seek advice from a reliable source. There are plenty of caravanners forums and groups that can offer advice and suggestions, or may have done the same trip and can give exact comparisons.
Extra Water Containers are invaluable, and having larger containers with the capacity for more than what you think you will need means you lessen the chance of getting caught out when away from fresh water.
If you are staying in a caravan park, this is not of as much importance, but may need to have further consideration if the destination is a long way from home.
While the free sites are free, there is a cost in your preparedness. Many don’t have reception for mobile or TV, or any power available, so you may find your entertainment choices more limited.
It’s rare for the sites to have any laundry facilities, though many will have showers, and some don’t have drinkable water. So you will incur extra cost in containers for water or buying bottled water somewhere nearby.
Even though you have to pay for sites in a caravan park, the price can start from as little as $30-$40 a night, and for this you have access to the park facilities.
Weighing up all the initial cost of all the extras you need to free camp versus the ongoing cost of paying for facilities available in a park is an important step in deciding which option will be better for you, especially if you only plan on occasional short term trips and vacations.
When deciding between free sites and paid caravan parks, we hope this gives you an idea of what to expect and items to consider for both safety and convenience. Free camping is a viable and enjoyable alternative for many Australians on caravan holidays.
If you have never tried it, do some preparation and see how you go, you may find it works well for you and gives you the opportunity to experience our great Australian outback more often.