Before coming to Australia I didn’t really picture myself living in my car during our road trips – but here we are! Although life is not always that simple on the road I really enjoy the freedom that it gives you and most of the time it us actually really fun.
Here are some tips on how to live in your car while road tripping Australia!
If you don’t have the camping equipment already some of the basic necessities you need to your ‘home on wheels’ include:
- Sleeping stuff – Such as mattress, quilts or sleeping bags and pillows. If you are planning to spend a lot of time sleeping in your vehicle or in your tent I would really recommend to invest in a proper mattress. Depending on where you are planning to travel try to buy proper quilt or sleeping bag suitable for the climate. In some areas nights can get really cold especially in the winter time but then again, in the north it might be really hot still in the night-time.
- Cooking utensils – Since eating out in Australia is expensive you want to be able to cook your own meals. At least you need a gas cooker, cutlery, pot(s), pan(s), plates and cups.
TIP: I have found that refilling the gas bottle is usually cheapest in camping stores.
- Water – Always carry at least 10 L canister of water in the car for drinking and washing dishes. Many places for example beaches, BBQ areas and campgrounds have water taps you can use for refilling.
- Boxes – Something where you can store your food and cooking stuff.
- Lamps – Headlamp is really useful but it’s also good to have some other lamps to bring more light. In the winter time it gets dark quite early.
- Esky/fridge – To keep your food cool.
- Camping chairs and table
- Curtains – Something for the windows to give some privacy and also cover from the sun. There are different possible set up options depending on what kind of a interior you have in your car – be creative! We have small clips glued in the corner of back windows and pieces of black fabric as a curtain material.
Where to look
If the money is scarce (like usually we backpackers have) and you want to acquire all the things you need as cheaply as possible, the best places to start looking are: Kmart, IKEA, Big W, Fantastic Furniture (for mattress) and charity shops (Vinnies, Salvos, OP-shops etc.).
Surely you get most things you need also from camping stores but usually they are more expensive. Some bigger camping stores include BCF, Anaconda and Rays Outdoor. These are good places to go look for the equipment you don’t find from cheap shops.
Some backpackers also sell their camping equipment on Gumtree. If you get lucky you may be able to find the whole set for a good price.
Essential mobile apps
Praise the technology! There are some extremely useful travel apps available to download on your mobile device that makes living on the road so much easier. I know mobile data is expensive and poor in Australia but try to utilize Wifi’s when possible.
- WikiCamps – This app is a absolute must have on your mobile device if you are going to do any road tripping or camping in Australia. Everything you need on the road you find from this app. It works with GPS so you see conveniently what is in the area where you are located or are planning to go.
- Maps – If you don’t have a navigator the mobile apps work just as fine if not even better, I use Apple Maps or Google Maps. Google Maps is good in the cities since you can set it to avoid toll roads.
- Music – Something to keep you entertained since driving can be a little boring sometimes. Download some songs to offline list when connected to Wifi to save your mobile data.
- Fuel Map – Convenient especially in some more rural areas. It tells you where the petrol stations are located and also gives some indication about the price.
Since camping is really popular in Australia there is a lot of different camping possibilities. Finding a place to spend a night is usually not a problem, although in some popular areas budget options may be scarce.
Australia is a caravan nation so there is caravan parks everywhere. No matter how small of a town there is always a caravan park.
Caravan parks can be sometimes bit expensive but there is also reasonably priced options in this category. We have paid usually around 25-40$/2 people for unpowered site. I’ve found that the quality of the parks vary quite a lot, but they have all the facilities you need.
Usually there is not much other backpackers in caravan parks and this is not also my favorite form of accommodation, but there are some areas where there is not much other options.
Many hostels offer possibility to sleep in your own van or car in their car park and use the facilities. The ones we have stayed in have charged 10-15$/ per person, so quite a lot cheaper compared to dorms.
I like to stay in these when possible. In hostels you meet a lot of other backpackers and the facilities are usually good. One downside is that usually hostels have quite small car parks, so when fully booked they can get a bit cramped.
These are mostly located in the bush like in state forests or national parks. If you love nature and wildlife then national park campgrounds are for you. Best thing in campgrounds is that many of them are totally free of charge! National park campgrounds usually have camping fees but they are not expensive, in most places around 6$ per night.
Many forest camps don’t have too much facilities except toilets so you need to bring your own drinking water and shower elsewhere. Quite often you have to travel some gravel road to access the campgrounds so with a 2WD it is a bit annoying, especially if the road is in bad condition. A lot of campgrounds have only 4WD access so if you want to camp a lot in the bush 4WD will be quite handy.
Roadside rest areas
Most of the roadside rest areas and some petrol stations allow you to stay a night. These are free and located near highway so quite convenient if you only want to sleep somewhere overnight.
The quality of the facilities vary quite a lot. Also they do have road noise so earplugs are good to have. Comments section in WikiCamps gives a bit of a guideline for what to expect.
TIP: Try to avoid camping during holiday seasons (including school holidays). Many places raise their prices and are full.
If you have some other useful tips for camping or road tripping please share in the comment box below. 🙂
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