There are some places in Australia that have become so popular and busy that you absolutely need to book well in advance to secure a spot. Of course, when long weekends hit, or school holidays, or Easter and Christmas the demand for camp sites also goes through the roof, and if you don’t organise somewhere to stay you can really struggle to find a place to pull up that is allowed.
In this post, I want to share some of the ways in which we’ve dealt with busy periods and busy places. We’ve gotten pretty good at it, but still get caught out from time to time and its never a great feeling.
Find out problem areas
We don’t like to research too far in advance, but its worth knowing what parts of Australia get incredibly busy, and then you are able to make a plan to deal with it. In WA, this includes any of the National Park camp grounds in the Ningaloo area, around Broome, Coral Bay and a few other coastal towns.
Once you know where securing a site is going to be hard, you can either book early, or avoid the area, or accept that you might miss out if you wing it. On our visit to South Australia, we knew the new years period would be hard to find somewhere to camp, and we secured a spot at Deep Creek well in advance to ensure we had something locked in.
Remember the school holidays and long weekends
Things go crazy on every long weekend, and generally over the long weekends too. If you are travelling around Australia, its really easy to forget when the long weekends are, or school holidays start, and if you have just been poking along you can find yourself in a world of hurt.
You either pay a fortune to get a camp site, or you have to change direction for where your travelling to head away from the crowds. Neither is great, so remember when the long weekends and school holidays are in advance.
Book well in advance
We’re used to booking things well in advance, and whilst we haven’t done much of it on our Big Lap of Australia, we had no choice when doing trips up north in WA. The National Parks in WA have a 180 limit from the day of arrival, which ticks over at midnight. We literally got up (sometimes 4 of us if we were going in a big group), and would click on the available camp sites within a second or two of it ticking over midnight to secure a booking.
A lot of people do this, and despite the effort you can go to in order to secure a booking, people still miss out! If you are 5 seconds late, the site is gone and you miss out! If you know you’re going to a problem area, secure a booking well in advance!
Stay with family or friends
Our solution for our first Christmas on the road was to set up camp on a families property in Victor Harbour. We were super keen to catch up with them anyway, but being able to drag your camper or van onto someone’s property for a busy period, and enjoy a relaxing catch up is as good as it gets.
Of course, not everyone has this option, but if you do, make use of it!
A good tip that we’ve picked up on the road is that the inland areas are typically much less busy, and if its getting hard to secure a place, just head inland further. Aussies are drawn to the coast, and if you are an hour or two inland your ability to find somewhere to camp are increased dramatically.
Visit busy locations during the week
We prefer to camp when there are less people about, and as such have made a habit of visiting the best, and busiest locations during the week, and then bunkering down somewhere else during the weekends. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s a great way to explore magic parts of Australia without seventeen thousand other people also doing the same thing, in between their work schedules!
Move on Thursday, or Friday
If its possible, we’ve found moving on Thursday or Friday morning to get a spot for the weekend is best. Going on from the above, most people don’t get to camp sites until 3 – 8PM on a Friday night, and if you get there earlier your chances of a nice spot go up significantly. Stay there until Sunday if you want a guaranteed camp site!
There’s a couple of groups that are doing driveway stays, where you literally pull up on someone’s driveway for the night for a small fee. Some are offering power and water, and others are just offering a nice, secure place to camp.
Overnight Farm Stays
Some time ago we signed up for a new membership called Caravan Overnight Farm Stays. This is $20 for a years membership, and gives you access to the locations, and contact details of a heap of different properties around Australia.
They are all a minimum of $10 per night, with some more expensive, but in general they are brilliant value, and they give you access to something that the average Joe doesn’t even know about, which makes finding camp sites when its busy so much easier.
Travelling Australia is getting busier
There’s no doubting that more people are travelling Australia. That might be those on a Big Lap, the weekend crew or just people migrating north when the cold weather hits in the south. Either way, you will encounter more people on the road and when its busy, its hard to find somewhere to stay.
What else have you found works for camping in busy periods?