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Freedom Camping in Australia and New Zealand

freedom camping in Australia and New Zealand: Van life
Freedom camping in Australia and New Zealand is without a doubt one of the best things I’ve experienced this year. If you’re just about to embark on your Australia or New Zealand road trip adventure then you’re probably thinking about where you might spend the night. For me, nothing beats the sense of liberation, surrounding beauty and budget-friendly option of freedom camping! Spending your first night wild camping is probably a bit daunting so I’ve put together a guide to freedom camping in Australia and New Zealand for you!
Why Freedom Camp?
Freedom camping is the best because not only is it free (saving you the $40+ per night that a campsite tends to cost) but it’s also far more enjoyable. You’ll find wide open spaces, spectacular views, cosy bush camps and the ability to come and go as you please. There’s no cramming into a slot like at a campsite, parking next to squealing children or trudging around overused and overpriced camp facilities.
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Is it Legal?
You can’t just pitch up anywhere you fancy and you absolutely do need to pay attention to ‘no camping’ signs to avoid a hefty fine from an irked ranger at 5am. Thankfully, there are plenty of freedom camping sites all across Australia and New Zealand!
In New Zealand you may find some are reserved for self-contained vehicles only but during our 3 week road trip we never had an issue finding somewhere cool to spend the night.
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What about hygiene and using the toilet?
Freedom camps generally do not have showers. Personally that’s never bothered me; in Australia almost every single beach has a shower (some are even indoors!) and in New Zealand there are freshwater creeks, lakes, rivers and streams aplenty. In fact, it’s one of the things I love about freedom camping. Waking up and going for a refreshing dip to start the day! Of course, the lack of facilities are not for everyone though.
Some camps will have toilet facilities of varying quality. I’m happy to pop-a-squat for a wee and – spoiler alert – have never once had to shit in the woods in almost 3 months of van life. It’s easy guys, there are always McDonalds, service stations, public loos and the like within reach!
How to find campsites?
For both Australia and New Zealand I relied on WikiCamps. The app costs about a fiver but is well worth it. You can filter by ‘free’ or ‘donation’ as well as various different facilities. Lots of sites have plenty of reviews and photos so you can even check it out first!
Occasionally there will not be an appropriate freedom camp. I’ve only had this in major towns or cities like Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast or Queenstown in New Zealand. When this happens, you’ll have to suck it up for the night or stay further afield and just drive in in the morning!
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Is it always mountain views and dreamy bush camps?
Well, no. Sometimes we’ve stayed in road-side laybys with the truckies and yeah, that’s definitely not making the ‘gram. However, this hasn’t happened often and has only been when we’ve chosen to opt for that over paying for somewhere!
Do you need to plan ahead?
That’s entirely up to you! Personally I just have an idea of where I want to go and the drive times between them. I normally don’t choose a freedom camp until the day itself. RatPack offer a really handy free travel calendar that will help if you’re trying to map out your road trip!
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