How We Decide Between Free Camps & Caravan Parks

by Misty Johns

Once making the decision to trip around Australia we changed up our ‘idea’ of what caravanning really was. Before the madness of the world unleashed upon us, we would go to a little local caravan park and a gorgeous one in Pambula. I mean we have travelled to quite a few places around Oz over the years but these were our go to places that we visited every year. Doing the whole, ‘family vacay’ trip to the same place every summer. Which has been amazing, kids love seeing their holiday friends, etc. as do we.

So, the massive bushfires of 2019 threw a spanner in the works and we had to change our plans. We discovered some gorgeous places, albeit in caravan parks as that was what we were used to. To be honest, we hadn’t even looked at anything else, I actually don’t think I had used Wikicamps at all. The punches kept coming with upcoming trips and then we just went, ‘that’s it, we need to get out and see this country’.

Friends of ours sold up and bit the bullet to take on Oz indefinitely and we have been following their journey. This is how we were introduced to Wikicamps properly and where we started to actually see how awesome free camps were.

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Caravan Parks – The Pros & Cons

Caravan parks are great, especially the bigger ones. They are essentially a resort that you take your own accommodation to. The kids have fun, we get to hang with friends, all good. But, we really missed the world going by while tucked up and away in our safe caravan park bubble.

We still book caravan parks, as when travelling to an area for a little longer, it’s nice to have a base and somewhere a smidge more secure to leave our van and take off on day trips. We don’t want to base our visits on only using caravan parks but they definitely have a place in our whole plan.

When planning out bigger trips, having a few bases at caravan parks along the way just gives us the ability to book experiences as we know that we will have somewhere close to stay and not have to worry about anything like that. But, we have also now discovered that there are a lot of pros when you stay at free and low-cost camps.

Free Camps – The Pros & Cons

We have found some truly amazing places that this country has to offer just by staying where we can. Obviously, with how busy things are, some places fill up quite quickly but the amazing thing about free and low-cost camps is that there are usually a few nearby so we can always just go to the next one and it will still be amazing.

Some of the free camps are an experience in themselves. I honestly had no idea how many amazing free and low-cost camps there were around Australia. The more you look the more you find! While we might like to stay at caravan parks for the security, we now make sure we add a few free camps to our list of places to stay.


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How To Find Free Camps

We use Wikicamps mostly for finding dump points, water and campsites, but also Hipcamp, as some of the farm stay camps ask that you book through Hipcamp, so it’s a good one to have so you have all the options. Big Lap Bible is our record keeper for all the places we want to stay at and places that we actually book – if you were to see my Wikicamps, you would understand why I need to have things written down!


Plan, But Don’t Overplan

We don’t so much plan for only free camps or only caravan parks as a whole now – it’s more so about what’s in the area and what works for us as a family. Our van is self-contained so we have the option to stay in most places, however, having five in a van also means that we need the dump point to be close by as it can fill up pretty quickly when there are no other facilities around. Water is another facility that we like to have as close as possible as we have only 2 tanks on the van and a portable bladder that we can fill up and bring back. Thankfully, chasing the sun and staying mostly coastal means there is usually plenty of water around so the kids don’t get too muddy. 

Check The Reviews!

Not all free camps and low cost camps are the same, so we definitely read reviews from other campers and ask in forums about people’s experiences. I don’t solely go by the star rating on Wikicamps as sometimes it’s high but then after reading, we discover the campsite wouldn’t suit us, and visa versa. We can be flexible and just go with the flow but also know where we are wanting to go and a selection of camps to choose from. Me, being the one that loves to organise everything, at least need a plan of sorts so I can be ready for whatever happens.

Do What Works For You

Now, touch wood, I haven’t yet had to leave a campsite but I am sure that it will happen. We still plan to keep our Big Park memberships just so we have the options open if needed. We’re staying at a Big 4 this June for a little while so we shall see how cramped we are feeling after that… my mind might change! That’s one of the downsides, being squashed in like sardines! But hey, it’s all part of the experience and nothing wrong with choosing to camp that way.

See you on the road……

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