Free camping all the way
The coast south of Cairns and north of the Whitsunday has heaps of free camp sites and caravan parks. Not always the easiest to find but with a smart phone and a bit of English you should be able to get there. Luckily our camping book provided us with coordinates of the camp sites. All we have to do is put them into google maps and let us guide by the soothing voice of the navigation lady. We only ended up in one or two unexpected places!...
Mostly, the free camp sites are pretty much in the middle of frickin’ nowhere. Sometimes with literally nothing but sugar cane fields around, sometimes close to Hicksville, sometimes on the car park of a gas station and sometimes in the backyard of the only pub within a radius of 50km. Sounds boring? Au contraire, dear travelers!
We started our trip with the idea of just sleeping anywhere along the road. Travelling in combination with being students we really don’t have a lot of money to spend so we decided skip all luxuries. Like showers and toilets. However, wild camping (besides being illegal in Australia) is not that easy if two people have to sleep in a tent. Rule number one: find a spot before darkness so you can see where you’re actually pitching your tent. But as I wrote before, we had some trouble following that rule. So I’m really not exaggerating when I say: We looove free camping and it saved our trip.
Ok, sometimes the showers are cold and/or outside. But there is always toilet paper (ka ching, another dollar each saved!). So the only difference is that we can’t plug in the van because the sites are unpowered. AND you get to meet 80% of the retired Australian population! Commonly known as the Grey Nomads. It seems that the way to go after retirement is to get yourself a nice caravan, compile your complete living room into the thing, pack your dog and your wife and travel your country under the motto “Adventure before dementia” (seriously seen on the back of a caravan). And they all seem to know about and unite at the free camp sites!
We got lucky and met a lovely old couple who run a pub in the countryside and offer people a place for their vans and tents in the backyard. We spent the best night there drinking with the locals, getting invited to a couple of jugs of beer, talking about family, life and traveling. And although they normally close down the place at 9pm, they kept it open until one in the morning…and got us totally hammered.
Another funny encounter: getting beeped at by some truck driver at 7am while crossing the car park of a gas station scantily dressed to get to the showers. And I’m totally getting used to instant coffee every morning and canned food and pasta every day. Not to mention drinking beer on the concrete by candle light with a kangaroo just a couple of meters away.
That’s real camping romance, baby!