The many benefits of free camping

Lots of room free camping at Bethune Park, Ouse, Qld
We’ve been free camping for about 6 years now - all round Oz! It started as a stop gap when travelling huge distances in Western Australia and we didn’t have the energy to continue to drive to the next caravan park. We saw a bunch of RVs and thought we found a Caravan Park that wasn’t on our book.

From this we discovered many benefits of free camping.

It’s free:

Oh duh! That's why it is called free camping. Personally I like the term "freedom camping" even better! What a great way to offset the cost of travelling especially these huge distances within Australia.

 

It’s friendly:

Especially if you have rocked up to a popular site, you’re instantly welcomed into the grey nomad set. Popularity is governed generally by the natural beauty of the spot, the ease of parking, accessibility to a nearby town or tourist attraction and/or a toilet. Once in a while you will strike one with free showers and/or maybe even power too! These rare gems are treasured and word gets out and about.  So make sure to get there early for a good spot! Pay If there is a donation box there, please make the donation so that there is a good chance these places are still there for others to enjoy. (By the way, to these providers I say a hearty thank you!)

You might even get lucky with an impromptu music sing along

 

No booking required: 

It is great for those that don’t plan their journey too rigourously. You can just pull up when you are ready. No need to stick to an agenda, so if you like a place, you can stay and investigate (within site regulations) and if you don’t like it then you can move on quickly! Another reason why I prefer the term "freedom camping".

Just rock up when you are ready to stop

It’s easy going: 

Most grey nomads are a friendly easy going lot. Who can you complain to if the long drop is rather stinky or the ground is not level. You don’t have to use it or stay there! Frequently there is someone who has started a fire (when allowed) and there’s likely to be a happy hour going somewhere from anytime esp around 4-6pm which are generally open to all comers with smile, or start up your own! Even if you want your own company, you can have that too, just park on the fringes.


Mates around a campfire

 

Security is what you make it: 

This is the toughest part of free camping. Generally both commonsense and experience when camping but in most places campers are a friendly neighbourly bunch. Still we feel more secure if at least one camper joins us at a free camp. Having said that, we’ve never had a single negative experience in terms of security. However I would say trust your instincts or you’re in for a long night. We will stop at a free camp where there are no other campers, usually by 2pm. Sometimes it just take one to stop and others travelling by might decide to stop there too now that someone has stopped first. If no one else has stopped to join us by 4pm then we might move on to the next place that has some people. Again trust your instincts! Take photos of other campers esp their rigs and number plates if you like. (It is easy to delete them the next morning when you wake up.) Don't forget to lock your doors. Security is what you make it!


 

Usually Pet friendly:

Another advantage of free camping is that your fur baby is welcome too. They are usually prohibited in National Parks and some council sites. In order to maintain this privilege please keep your dog on a lead if required; or if other people, wildlife or stock are around - and for goodness stake, please pick up their droppings!

A gorgeous staffy kept on a lead

Do your research: 

Do you have enough power, water and food for the duration of your camp? Not all places welcome genies and fires. Don’t forget your toilet. If you need to go bush toilet, then take a shovel or even a garden spade and hide the evidence including toilet paper and go a long away from the populated areas.
Aussie True Blue Bush toilet!
or a bring your own toilet

Where these free camps?

We use 2 apps as our main sources of information: WikiCamps and GeoWiki (the latter is available to CMCA members only). Next we use word-of-mouth through questions and chats usually over happy hour. We started off with CampsAustraliaWide books but that is less and less often now since we have the apps. RV and Caravan magazines are another way to learn about free camps. Last but not least is the Tourist Information Offices in many towns. They have personal knowledge of their areas as well as brochures on what’s available in their area as well as interesting places to sight see whilst you’re in the area.


So if you are yet to try free camping rest assured there is an entry level to suit any comfort zone. A little research is all you need. We just appreciate the choice is ours!

The painted toilets at Frances Creek, Qld
See you on the road or at the next free camp somewhere in Oz!

Free Camping at Lake Colac

Just 8km out of Colac and right on the lake is a great little free camp. The campsites are mostly level and grassy with minimal shady sites. You can get full sun if you park further back. It is basically a long strip of camp sites that run along the shores of the lake There is a toilet block, water and picnic tables. (Sadly the toilet was full and needed a pump away at the time of our visit!)


There is also a good quality boat ramp, when the water level is average, but maybe a problem with drought conditions and water levels very low.

The waters edge is gently sloping and easy launching for canoes or access for swimming. We didn't take advantage of the swimming here but we did enjoy gentle walks and chatting to neighbours. We met a chap of American Indian descent one night and another night we met some Germans who have allowed 6 months to travel Australia.


There are wood fired barbecues (bring your own firewood), rubbish bins and flushing toilets as well as town drinking water available from a couple of taps.

This campground is maintained by council as a free camp. I am sure I don't need to tell the majority of my readers, however I do encourage you to show your appreciation & do the right thing: leave it tidy and do your shopping in town.


We were fascinated with these mini shells/snail shells that were evident on most of the fence posts separating the campsite from the farm land next door. Anyone know anything about them?


We used this camp as our base camp for visiting the area including the main goal of this trip which is to see the Great Ocean Road, leaving the motorhome behind and venturing out in the Grand Vitara.

We'll be back with the next post on our impressions of The Great Ocean Road.

Mornington Penninsula and London Bridge


We started with the colourful bathing boxes at Mornington. These glorified sheds are timber boxes, the size of a single garage shed. Apparently they are not allowed to have any plumbing in them. Thus no toilets or plumbed kitchen. Still if you were going down to the beach for the day, at least you can don't have to cart a shade, chairs, tables etc. Most are privately owned and some can be rented out. A hut sold for just over $600,000 recently, though most are handed down from family to family. Still that makes it one of the priciest pieces of real estate in Victoria.



I prefer a sandy beach myself, not the rocky foreshore that is at Mornington. I have been spoilt with the fabulous sandy beaches of home back in Wollongong.

Beach at Mornington

On a separate day whilst heading for our ferry across to Queenscliffe, we thought we'd drive around Morning Peninsula a bit.
Sorrento is a rather a upper class touristy beachside area. We could see a sign directing us to London Bridge but in the end the sign to the actual location is not easy to spot. However we found it and hopped out to have a look. The area is the most northern beach in the Mornington Peninsula National Park.

London Bridge at low tide

We found the bridge at the end of a relatively short bitumen footpath. It provides stunning views of this famous landform and the surrounding beach which is composed of sandstone and has been formed through weathering action of thousands of years of wind, rain and waves.

Apparently you can access the beach too but it is a very steep set of steps which we didn't even try to attempt.

It was weird to turn around and see a swathe of artificial turf in what should be a National Park. Apparently there is a golf course for the rich here and I gather that they could get natural grass to grow on the very sandy soil. It seems wrong to me!

I love the recycled wood table and bench seats

Oh well, there didn't seem to be much to see by car in this area so we went into Sorrento and had a fabulous fish and chip lunch. We had to wait a long time for the food but it was worth it. I love the table and seats were from recycled timbers.

The lovely SeaRoad Ferry

Finally we hop onto the Searoad Ferry. The ferry leaves Sorrento every hour on the hour and the trip is relatively short.

Looking back to Sorrento
Sadly I didn't find the crossing nor the views anything spectacular. Maybe I am too blase from going on the Manly Ferry too often which I never tire of!

Michelle relaxing with a paper

Massaman Curried Chicken


Looking for a non spicy Thai curry? Then you will like this yummy chicken massaman curry made with the left over BBQ Chicken which we had picked up the day before. Keeping a jar of the various curry pastes is a quick & fabulous way to add variety to your cooking. Here's my simple but tasty recipe:

MASSAMAN CURRY CHICKEN (serves 2 generously)

 

2 chicken breast (or some left over BBQ chicken)
2 potatoes
1 sweet potatoes
1 carrot
1 onion
1 Tablespoon oil with a dash of sesame oil
1 ½ jar (200g) of Massaman curry paste
1 can coconut milk (or coconut cream)
½ cup chicken stock (or ¼ teaspoon stock powder with ½ cup water)
salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. Fry chicken if not using BBQ about 2 minutes each side in a dash of hot oil. Set aside.
  2. In the hot oil, brown the white potatoes about 5 minutes the add the sweet potatoes and continuing browning for another 5 minutes.
  3. Remove potatoes and set aside. Saute the onions adding more oil if necessary until they are just starting to brown. Lower the heat and add the curry past with the coconut milk and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add all the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 15-20 minutes. (if using your Dream pot then now is when you pop it in and let it finish cooking for about an hour – just perfect for cooking whilst you have happy hour).
  5. Taste and adjust your seasonings. 
  6. Serve with steamed greens such as peas, broccolini and pak choy.

Marlay Point at Lake Wellington

Marlay Point Free Camping Site is just in front of Lake Wellington Yacht Club which is approximately 18 kms from Sale on Clydebank Road. Note: The turnoff is easily missed, so keep an eye open and use the GPS coordinates to help you find this great location.


It offers nice grassy areas (just near yacht club), a boat ramp and toilet facilities. Lake Wellington is part of the Gippsland Lakes. Though being such a shallow lake at just 3 metres deep it is quite brownish looking.


The wind was blowing a gale when we camped right on the foreshore of Lake Wellington. I loved being near the water watching the birds, mostly seagulls from inside the warmth and dry of the motorhome.


Beware that Marlay Point is also home to the who hold regular yachting regattas over the summer period especially over the Labour Day Long weekend and no camping is allowed this weekend.


The cooler evening lent itself to a warm curry for dinner, Massaman Curried Chicken, which I will post up next..


Wilsons Promontory

Wilsons Promontory is a very popular camping destination. It is Victoria's largest coastal wilderness. We didn't camp here but visited for a couple of hours.

A panoramic view. Click through to larger image

It is really not much to see just from a drive through. One really needs to get out and walk the bush and walk to the beautiful beaches. From the info there is quite a diverse range of micro climates from beach dunes,  heath lands, rocky outcrops and mountain rainforests.

One of the pristine beaches

Rocky outcrops
Tidal River is the main location for accommodation and camping. Just outside the parks offices, shops etcis very poplar with campers though personally it was not my sort of camping area. There are other camping areas that have much more grass and secluded areas etc though maybe further from toilets. Each to their own.

Campground at Tidal River office/shop area

Cape Conran & Marlo

Cape Conran Coastal Park is about 30 mins from Orbost towards the coast past Marlo. We didn't stay here but there are 135 campsites, 7 cabins, 1 lodge and wilderness retreats located at Cape Conran. You can click the link above for all the details on the types of accommodation and prices.


The beach at west Cape Conran offers a very interesting landscape populated with a sandy beaches and a huge array of highly eroded rocks. There are lots of walking tracks which we didn't have the time nor the energy to attempt today, maybe one day in the future.


Basically we took the easy option of sightseeing basically just from the car. I can see that some areas would be fantastic for photography at dawn or sunset. Maybe also at high surf too with the large waves crashing into the rocks which would create a really impressive scene judging by my puny little photo above.

Bridge to Yeerang Gorge walking track

We did start the walk to Yeerang Gorge but there was no indicators how long the walk was. We kept on walking until we could see that it was going to be too hard to walk back up the steep part into and out of the gorge itself.

Overall we really should revisit this location at some later date, esp when we feel well enough to tackle some of the easy walks. It certainly seems like there’s a lot to explore here but most of it is by foot. I just wish it was a little bit closer to home for a weekend visit.

Free camping on the Snowy River

We drove into Orbost around 2pm where we went shopping then headed for a free camp out the Marlo Road, free camping beside the Snowy River.


The Snowy River runs into the sea nearby at Marlo. There are several free-camps right on the banks of the Snowy River just south of Orbost and north (west) of Marlo from which you can free camp, fish or even launch a kayak.


We have a fantastic spot right on the river which we are sharing with a bout 6 other campers. The local council even encourage free camping here for 48 hours. They even mow the camp grounds. Our camp (the one closest to Marlo) has a small fishing jetty which was popular even with the locals. We had one returned local fishing at the same time as a camper and one caught maybe 6 mallet however the other guy caught nothing. (We are like the unlucky fisherman, we just don't seem to have the knack!)

I enjoyed being greeted by the minions that a farmer had made from his hay bales 

We camped just 3m from the water. What a wonderful place to sit and watch the waters pass by. The only drawback is that it is alongside the only road between Orbost and Marlo and surprisingly quite busy, well busy enough to make it not a peaceful camp.



From this camp ground we took a couple of trips leaving the motorhome behind to Cape Conran and Marlo where the Snowy River actually runs into the sea. We also did our grocery shopping in Orbost and I can highly recommend the sausage rolls at the bakery in the middle of the main street!

We enjoyed sitting at the tables under the trees watching the world go by.


 We were totally fascinated with the white eyes of this dog.

Cann River Rainforest Caravan Park


The Cann River Rainforest Caravan Park is a partly shaded caravan park on the south bank of the Cann River. It is within easy walking distance to the local pub and shops. The fuel prices here beat those of surrounding towns by 5-10cents a litre. The town has 4 cafe/coffee shops plus 2 bakeries and a general store which also has fishing, hardware, plumbing gear some of which Rob commented he has never seen before!


Effectively we were free camping in the town of Cann River. We chatted to people as one does and found that the caravan park at Cann River was without a manager for a short while and thus stays there were available for free.



Originally we were only going to stay 2 nights but we decided to stay an extra night as we were enjoying the company of our neighbours. We had a terrific happy hour complete with a mini sing a long.


Rob even ran into a guy, Dolf, he hasn't seen for 40 years. We even found out he lives just about 15-20km away from us.