Why Should You Hit the Road in Australia?
Living on the road full time in Australia, at least for a time, should be mandatory for all Australians and highly encouraged for all visitors.
The only way to truly experience Australia is to travel its long dusty roads. This largely untamed country is vast and sparsely populated and cannot be properly appreciated by jetting into the handful of capital cities sprinkled around the perimeter. Living on the road you’ll get to see and understand new places well off the tourist route. You’ll be able to appreciate parts of Australia you’ve never heard of.
Travelling Australia by car is also the cheapest way to explore this great southern land. Free camping abounds throughout the expansive outback and endless stretches of coastline. On top of that, with first-rate public facilities including national parks, libraries, and public parks, Australia is one of the easiest and friendliest countries to travel by road.
And of course, there are the countless intangibles gained from living on the road in Australia, the lessons you will learn, the people you’ll meet, and the challenges you’ll face.
Yes, everyone, but especially Australian’s, should be forced to make at least one pilgrimage overland through this wide and sunburnt country. And to make that mighty pilgrimage, far from civilization and the creature comforts of home, a vessel will be required, a van, motor home, caravan, camper trailer, or just a tent. However you choose to live on the road, it’s certain to be a great adventure, but before you set off into the unknown let us give you some practical tips. This is easy peasy advice we’ve picked up living on the road full time in Australia that can make life a little simpler and a lot more comfortable.
Tips for Living on the Road Full Time in Australia
Tip #1: Free Camping in Australia
Free camping is an art form, and if you’re planning on living on the road full time in Australia, it’s one you would be well served to master. Australia is an enormous country divided into seven states and territories with countless different environments and varying levels of development and governance. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to free camping. We could (and probably will) write a whole article on free camping in Australia. But let’s start with some of the basics.
Yes, it is possible to free camp all around Australia. How you free camp will vary greatly from area to area. The road from Brisbane to Cairns, for example, is littered with free camps complete with toilets, coin-operated showers, water, and dump points, many of them in beautiful spots. Conversely, in New South Wales, many of the roadside stops along the coast are most unwelcoming with 4-hour time limits signed.
Be aware that free camping is the scourge of a surprisingly powerful caravan park industry in Australia. You will come to understand the friction between free and cheap camping providers and “big cara” who in many cases do their utmost to run the former out of town. Many councils bow to this pressure, but some see the upside to attracting more travelers to their regions through strategic free camping initiatives.
In areas where no government support for free camping exists there will be other options. In small country towns, pubs may offer free overnight camping when you patron the bar, Lions Clubs or other community associations may also run free (or next to free) camps in smaller towns. Truck stops and fuel stations can serve as overnight camps to break up the drive.
Of course, throughout the 99% of Australia that is not a major highway, town, or city, you’ll find plenty of free bush camps*, by the banks of rivers, hidden behind sand dunes, or perched on stunning headlands. Special spots where you can pull in and make your camp after a hard day of travel, the way it has been in this country since time immemorial. (*This applies to public space only, don’t expect a friendly welcome in Australia if you’ve opened up a couple of fences to find a nice shady spot by the creek).
In overly touristic towns, places like Noosa and Byron where vans of foreign backpackers have earned the ire of the local council, where no camping signs and hefty fines are posted in every car park it may be better to just mosy on down the road for more reasons than one.
Tip #2: National Park Camping
Cheap camping throughout Australia’s most naturally beautiful spots is assured thanks to an incredible national parks network. Permits and fees vary from state to state but with camping generally ranging from $3 to $15 it is almost always cheaper than private campgrounds or caravan parks. Facilities can vary greatly between campsites from hike-in wilderness camps where there is nothing but a flattish patch to pith a tent to large facilities with hot showers, barbecues, kiosks, and onsite management.
Take advantage of these fantastic government-subsidized campsites which above all offer access to Australia’s greatest natural national treasures. Depending on where you are traveling you may need a national parks pass to access the national parks, often these can be made cheaper by purchasing a monthly or annual pass.
Tip #3: Libraries
Australia’s library system is first-rate. From major cities to tiny outback towns, libraries in Australia are well resourced and generally offer a comfortable place to sit and work, wifi to catch up on email, or just a spot to sit in the air conditioning and get some respite from the dusty heat.
If you work on the road, there is no better place to get things done than the library. Comfortable and quiet spaces to work with great resources, they offer a fabulous environment for productivity. They also provide a break from the sometimes challenging Australian environment and climate. Monsoonal rain in the wet season. Scorching hot days in the dry. Living on the road in Australia will certainly have days where you’d rather be inside. But it’s reassuring knowing you are never far from one of Australia’s brilliant libraries.
Tip #4: Beautiful Parks with BBQ’s
Almost anywhere you travel in Australia you’ll never be too far from a park or the ubiquitous barbie.
Australia is the land of barbecue. Not to be confused with the smoked meats of the United States. An Australian barbecue is all about grilling foods outdoors. Be it at the beach, the backyard, and especially down at the local park. As luck would have it Australia is also home to some of the best parks in the world. With so much space and so few people, tracts of land in every city and town are dedicated green spaces with manicured lawns, playgrounds, gym equipment, running and cycling tracks, water, and of course barbecues!
Take advantage of these beautiful spaces everywhere you go. We are forever scouting out the best parks in every new city or town we visit and love to spend sunny days grilling up a barbie at parks all around Australia.
Tip #5: Wikicamps
Like the hobos who moved through America leaving hieroglyphic markings on fence posts, letting those who came after they know where they might expect a warm welcome, a hot meal, or an angry dog, today there’s an app for that. In Australia, it’s Wikicamps. For a one-time $7 purchase you’ll get access to the wisdom (and idiocy) of all those who came before. With markers for campsites, points of interest, water points, and more plus a million ways to filter these waypoints, it is potentially the single most helpful resource to the intrepid explorer or full-time van dweller. Perfect whether you are living on the road full time or just on holiday.
Tip #6: Showers!
We have lived out of cars in countries all over the world and there is one thing Australia has over any other country. Showers, showers everywhere. Showers at truck stops, showers at free campsites, showers at caravan parks, showers at public parks, and showers at the beach. Living on the road full-time in Australia doesn’t need to be filthy. You can easily filter waypoints on Wikicamps by showers to find a cheap or free shower near you!
Tip #7: Phone Reception
Though things are improving at a rapid rate, finding phone reception and internet signals can be one of the most difficult challenges to solve living on the road full time in Australia. For many being unplugged and offline between the towns and cities of Australia will pose no problem and may even be part of the appeal of living on the road. For those of you who, like us, have taken your job on the road and need to be connected, some careful planning might be necessary.
There are several things you can do to take the headache out of planning to be online while on the road.
Telstra mobile service has the best coverage outside of major cities and towns and in regional and remote areas.
A signal repeater can boost a weak signal when you are camping in areas with poor service. Currently, signal repeaters are only available on the Telstra network.
Finally, by planning ahead to stay in areas with reliable service you can take the stress out of staying online. Telstra (and presumably other carriers) offer a map of their available coverage. A more conservative and in our experience accurate map of phone reception can be found at Nperf.
Hopefully, you found some of our tips for living on the road full-time in Australia helpful! If you have any questions (or you think we missed something) drop us a comment below!
Looking for more tips for living on the road full time in Australia or elsewhere?
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