After speaking to a friendly neighbour at Rapid Bay, who said they struggled to find anywhere under $40 – $50 a night camping down the east coast of Australia, Sarah and I were chatting about our travels. The idea of paying that sort of money to be jammed in like sardines in a caravan park is not our kind of fun, and I remembered a service I had read about a long time ago; Caravan Overnight Farmstay.
This is a private venture that links travellers to farmers, and allows for overnight stays at a budget price. Some require booking, and some don’t, but I figured it could be worth a shot.
It’s a weird name
Now, first off the bat, I want to point out that the name Caravan Overnight Farmstay is a bit weird. Firstly, you don’t need to have a caravan, and then its not always limited to a single night’s stay. Regardless of the name, the basic principle is that it connects land owners, and in particular farmers to those looking for somewhere safe to pull up and get a night (or more than one nights) sleep.
You are supposed to contain all black water (toilet waste), but most farmers are fine with grey water going onto the property (but check this when you book!).
It is similar to Hipcamp, but you don’t get charged a service fee, the prices are so much more reasonable, and the camp grounds are not always incredible, but we dive into that more below.
It costs to sign up
To sign up as a member (which you need to use the camp sites) its $20 per year, or $35 for two. When I first looked at it I thought I’m not paying that, especially without knowing how many, or the quality of properties listed.
However, given we are likely to be spending around 10 grand a year in camping fees, it seemed worth the gamble, so I made the purchase for $20 for a year to give it a whirl. In the grand scheme of things, you only need to do a couple of stays (or one for a few days) and the membership has paid for itself, so its pretty sensible.
How many sites are there?
I was really excited to sign in once the membership went through, to see how many camp grounds were around, and what they were like. You can view it by state in a grid form, or you can open a big map and look there.
There’s probably around 100 places, which is not terrible, and more are joining each day. It’s certainly enough around Australia to make it worth doing, for two reasons:
The campground prices are great
All camp sites are a minimum donation of $10 per night, unless its specified as more. Some are higher, and those that are particularly great can be a fair bit more, but its still decent value. We’ve seen a few at $20 and $30, but the overwhelming majority are $10 per night.
Camping is limited to those with memberships
For us, the primary benefit was that we’d get access to places that you would never know about without the membership. We love camping on private property, and seeing new backyards of other people in this great country.
We’d much rather pay a farmer to camp on their land with limited, or no amenities than be jammed into a caravan park like sardines (and pay a premium for it).
This particular thought pattern was hugely useful in Victoria recently, when we knew a long weekend was coming up, and had no idea of where to go. We could have winged it, but given we are unfamiliar with the region, and we didn’t know exactly where we’d be, it is handy to have this to fall back on. We found 3 or 4 properties that would have suited, and messaged one after locking a few nights in at Lake Eildon.
We spent an awesome 2 nights on a nice property, next to a dam with no one else around, and took a drive on the Sunday to some local camp sites that literally had hundreds of people, wall to wall in them.
Our experiences with Caravan Overnight Stay
It didn’t take too long to find a couple of properties that looked promising, and we quickly messaged one to ask if we could stay. They were very obliging, and sent us details to stay, and we arrived a few days later.
This particular property was a big cattle farm in South Australia, and we arrived in the heat of the day, to see a fairly normal farm property on a hot day. The grass was dry and thick, there was limited shade and flat spots to pull up (and we had my folks in their van with us), and there was a lot of old machinery, fencing wire and sharp bits around that I was sure the kids would probably hurt themselves on.
We had a discussion and said we’d stay here if we couldn’t find anything else, but decided to look around. looking online we found a free camp right on the beach just up the road, and decided to head out and check that out instead, and had a nice stay (and let the owners know we wouldn’t be staying this time around).
Our second time using Caravan Overnight Farmstay was far more productive, with the owners letting us stay on a beautiful hobby farm next to a nice dam, with sheep in the paddock and a nice covered area with a BBQ pit. In essence, the owner actually lost $30 for the night by having us stay, as we paid $20 to camp, and I accidently drove over his $50 sprinkler (which we offered to pay for).
We avoided the hordes of people camping on the long weekend, had a quiet stay and were truly grateful for a place to pull up, and only pay $10 each night. The owners were amazing, and the property was perfect.
How do you use Caravan Overnight Farmstay?
In essence, this service is pretty straightforward. You sign up, and pay your fee, and you’ll get a login and member number. From there, you can see the properties on a map, or list form, and you can find something that you like.
Some properties have directions and all the information that you need to get to the camp sites, and others you need information from the owners. There’s contact details, and you can either ring, email or SMS, and wait for a response. I usually explain that we’re looking for somewhere to pull up for a night or two, and would love to camp.
They respond with the information you need, you arrange to arrive and pay your fees (or leave it in a microwave, like one place), and away you go. The real benefit of this is simply the contact for finding someone who’s happy to have you stay on their property.
Would we recommend Caravan Overnight Farmstay?
Yep, with no reservations, but I want to re-iterate that this is called Farmstay for a reason. A lot of these properties are big farms, and that means they are not set up as camp grounds. They are set up for you to be able to stay, not for you to stay in luxury.
As we found out on our first visit, some farms aren’t that nice for camping (especially in summer), and the real benefit is that you get access to somewhere to stay, which can be very valuable. I’m sure there are plenty more awesome farm stays on the site, and we’ll keep a close eye and make use of them whenever we are nearby.
For the price though, its worth getting, and we’re pretty happy to have an other arsenal to finding a camp site, especially in school holidays, and on long weekends. I don’t expect to stay at massive numbers of these properties, but if they are nice, economical and nearby, we’ll certainly make use of more of them.
Have you used Caravan Overnight Farmstay? What have you thought of it?