Free camps are awesome. Asides from the monetary side of things (which is hugely important when you are doing a big lap of Australia), we love them for their room, amazing views and being out of town. Of course, they aren’t always great, but after speaking to a family who recommended Sawpit Free Campground north of Portland, we decided to check it out.
Where is Sawpit Free Campground?
Sawpit Picnic Area and Free Campground is just 5 minutes from Narrawong by car, or 14 minutes from Portland. It’s tucked away in Mount Clay, and is easily accessed.
Do you need a 4WD?
The road into Sawpit Free Campground is almost entirely bitumen, with the last part gravel. The entire campground is gravel too, and asides from corrugations on the main road (which is for a very short distance) its easy to get to. You’d get any kind of vehicle in here, with only really large vehicles (bus’s and huge motorhomes) posing any sort of issue.
What is the campsite like?
We were really impressed by the Sawpit Free Campground. It’s located under a heap of beautiful trees, with two main areas that are set aside for camping (inside the bollards). There’s a heap of room, lots of walk trails around the place and plenty of fire pits.
There are a couple of spots tucked away from the main areas which you can camp in (and we snuck into one of them), but there’s enough room to have a decent amount of space to yourself regardless.
What does it cost to stay at Sawpit Free Campground?
This campsite is completely free, and that’s amazing. As usual, if you are going to make use of great places like this try and support the local community. We did a big food shop in town and picked up a couple of bits and pieces that we needed too.
Mountain Bike, Motorbike, 4WD and hiking trails
We had no idea upon arrival, but soon found that there’s a heap of different trails in the area, which are popular. The most common ones are Mountain Bike tracks, which some are shared with walking tracks. We did the Big Loop trail and out to Whalers Lookout a couple of times as it started near camp, and it was a pretty enjoyable walk through the forest, with no real effort required.
A lot of the tracks have no horses and motorbike signs up, but there are places nearby where you can do it, and we did see a few out and about.
I also stumbled across a seasonal 4WD track that is closed (presumably in winter), and had a bit of a poke around. There were some decent sized ruts, and a fairly substantial hill descent and climb which had us scrabbling for traction in the dry. I saw a few 4WD’s head off down here, and noted a huge number of tracks going all over the place, so its obviously got plenty to do!
Your solar will struggle, badly
We’d been warned that getting much sunlight was almost impossible at Sawpit, and found this to be very true. There are a couple of tiny spots where you’d get chunks of sunlight, but for the most part the trees do a very good job of delivering tiny, scattered bits of sun for the entire day.
We resorted to using our DIY lithium battery in the Dmax until that was lower, and then swapped over to gas for the two nights that we stayed there as the batteries simply wouldn’t keep up, even with 800W of solar in use!
If you are planning to stay here for some time, you will need a way of charging your batteries, or to reduce your consumption considerably. The shade is actually quite nice though, so its not all bad!
Is Sawpit Free Campground any good?
So far, Victoria has set the bar high when it comes to free camping. We arrived at Sawpit on the Australia Day long weekend, and knew it was going to be busy, but it was still not entirely full. I was seriously surprised at the lack of noise during the day, and even mostly at night time given the number of people around (except for our kids, as usual!).
We really rate this place, and would happily go back. We did look at the 48 hour rest stop in Portland, but it says you need a grey water tank and toilet on board, whereas ours is portable. Apparently it was also packed, so perhaps avoiding it was a good thing anyway.
If you are looking for a great, free place to camp we’d certainly not steer you away from Sawpit Free Campground.