For popular caravan parks and camps, you need to book ahead over peak periods like Christmas, summer, Easter, other school holidays and often The Dry season up north. Some bookings at iconic beach parks or camps can only be won in a ballot.
But if you are like us, we don’t often plan ahead. We love not knowing where we’ll be that night. Perhaps you’ve just secured time off over summer, or you have some new camping gear for Christmas that you want to try out, or maybe you are on the road permanently – is it possible to find a campground in peak season at the last minute? Here’s some strategies…
1. FREEDOM camp
Often free camps have no bookings, wide open spaces – and sometimes access to waterholes, rivers, creeks or dams! Plus prices are great on the wallet. However, remember to park as far away as possible from other campers (number 14 in our list of camping dos and don’ts).
In our books, these sites are ones without a $ symbol (you can also search in the CAMPS App). Please read the listing, some sites are free but still require a booking. Also check out this extensive list of free camps on our website – just click on the state.
2. Go country
If you want campgrounds with availability – seek rural or bush locations, rather than hugging a coastline. Go for outback national parks, rather than the beachy ones. Choose country caravan parks, instead of oceanside…
A good example is a gorgeous lakeside camp we stopped at – only an hour or so from us. Because it did not allow motorcraft and jet skis, it only attracted fishers. We loved it – and there was only one other site taken. We had it to ourselves for most of the day – and it was school holidays!
3. Get off the beaten track
Often, the further from the bitumen you are, the more likely there will be availability. Depending on the area and season, that is. For instance, there is not much bitumen on The Gibb River Road in the remote Kimberley – but during the season, you are likely to find it very busy!
4. Avoid festivals
Small town festivals and race meetings are great if you have booked ahead. If you come across an event and you don’t have a site booking – return when it is quieter. Or stop for the day and camp at an out-of-town site. For example, south western Queensland is super busy around the Birdsville Big Red Bash time when about 10000 campers arrive! It is just not Birdsville that is pumping – when we travelled, campgrounds were hectic from Nindigully to Eromanga!
5. Look out for country shows
Don’t plan on stopping at a showground when the local show is on – because they generally close the gates! When you are passing through many towns, this can be something that is difficult to keep track. Closures are normally on their website or socials – and they can be shut for days before and after an event.
6. Take a road trip
Instead of visiting one place, plan a feast of campgrounds and destinations (like some roadtrip suggestions)! A popular spot may have a window of a night or two, but not a week or fortnight. Book it and move around, on the downside, it does mean more pack ups and setting up again – but the beauty of this type of holiday is the variety. Ever changing landscapes, playgrounds, activities and new friends to meet each!
7. Go opposite
The majority of travellers go north for winter. This means, southern sites are almost vacant over this time. We rugged up and loved checking out Victorian sites in winter. Of course, if you plan to go north in summer, be prepared for the humidity and the rain. Do your research first – access may be impossible in The Wet season.
8. Choose towns with lots of camping options
Take Gravesend, a little country town in New South Wales. It boasts three camps – showgrounds, pub, and a riverside freebie just out of town. There are lots of communities like this who need us to come visit! (They’re all in our books!)
9. Showgrounds, recreation grounds and community halls
What other camps are likely to have availability? Some locations are restricted by space (like the back of a pub) others by sites allowed. Showgrounds, recreation grounds and community halls often have tons of grass to camp on – and often you can call ahead.
10. Enjoy farm and station stays
Farm and station stays can be a great option, too. Many have creeks or dams to play around in and they are popular with families. There were hundreds enjoying the artesian water at Charlotte Plains when we visited in the school holidays, and stations like this often have more than one campground area.
Loved ‘taking the waters’ at Charlotte Plains
11. Try state forests
State Forests are also a good one to check out – shady, often with toilets available and not always as popular. Nature reserves are also in this category.
12. Remember ‘overnighters’
Finally, if you get stuck, stop at a rest area. Most are overnight only – but you can still can soak in a big sky and a beautiful sunset. Many allow campfires or BYO firepits. (We don’t mean truck only rest areas – they are just for truckies. We don’t list these in CAMPS.)
If you would like order your own CAMPS Pendium, here is a special coupon code for you:
…and you’ll receive $20 off! Add the code into the checkout!