We have now completed 15 weeks of travelling around the south island of Tasmania in our caravan Josephine and we have loved every minute. When we first considered travelling around Tassie we initially thought 4 weeks would do, then 8 weeks and after discussions with some kind folks on The very best of caravan and camping in Tassie we settled on 14 weeks. While we were in Tasmania we bought ourselves a kayak and had to change our return date due to our added height so 15 weeks became the total time in Tasmania. Many may argue more time is needed and while they wouldn’t be incorrect, 15 weeks was sufficient time for us to meander about and really enjoy what Tasmania has to offer.
Previously on Our Wayfaring Life Facebook page we provide a four week summary of our expenditure and the question was asked is how we had kept our campsite fees (accommodation) under $5 per night, $30 per week or an estimated $400 for the entire trip. However since we initially published this article and as we continued our caravanning around Tasmania the final amount we spent on campsites was a total of $304 which works out at $3 per night or $21 per week.
How did we do it? The simple answer is free and low cost camping. We use the WikiCamps app religiously. Using the app we have stayed on beaches, next to lakes and rivers, in beautiful towns and in other great spots. At the end of this article is a complete list of where we stayed, a brief review (as we have provided on WikiCamps) and the site costs.
- Summary of our Camp Site Fees
- Why We Free or Low Cost Camp
- What You Need to Know About Free or Low Cost Camping
- How We Choose Our Camp Sites With Our Budget in Mind
- Where We Stayed in Tasmania
- Forth Recreation Ground, Forth
- Old Mac’s Caravan and Motorhome Farm Stay, Launceston
- Beaconsfield Showground, Beaconsfield
- Lilydale Falls Reserve, Lilydale
- Lake Gairdner Campsite, Moina
- Preservation Bay, Preservation Bay
- Boat Harbour Beach, Boat Harbour
- Tall Timbers RV Stop, Smithton
- Nelson Bay Informal Campsite, Nelson Bay
- Stanley Rec Site Self Contained, Stanley
- Hellyer Gorge Reserve, Parrawe
- Lake Mackintosh Dam Boat Ramp, Tullah
- Lakeside, Macquarie Heads
- Strahan Golf Course, Strahan
- Lake Burbury, Gormanston
- Derwent Bridge Camp Spots
- Ellendale Bethune Campground, Ouse
- Geeveston Ex-Servicemens and Womens Club, Geeveston
- The Huts Point (Gordon) Reserve, Gordon
- Raoul Bay Retreat, Stormlea
- Primrose Sands RSL, Primrose (Power Site)
- Hobart Showgrounds (RVFT), Glenorchy (Hobart) (Power Site)
- Kempton Roadside Stopover (Power site)
- Spring Bay Hotel (Triabunna)
- Mayfield Bay Conservation Area
- Rivers and Rocks Campground (Coles Bay)
- Lagoons Beach Campground
- St Helens RA & Dump Point (RVFT)
- Cosy Corner South – Bay of Fires
- Pyengana Recreation Ground
- Policemans Point (Ansons Bay)
- Musselroe Bay
- Scottsdale Northeast Park
- Cressy Sportsground
- Blackburn Park – Self Contained RVs (Campbell Town)
- Little Pine
- Deloraine RV Rest Area
- Railton Self-Contained Only
Summary of our Camp Site Fees
Total we spent on campsites in 15 weeks or 105 nights was $304 or $2.90 per night and $20.70 per week. Staying at Hobart Showgrounds for 4 nights was $101 of this total and made a significant difference to our overall average nightly cost.
Why We Free or Low Cost Camp
The first and obvious reason is that when travelling on a strict budget like we are, free or low cost camping goes a huge way to keeping our costs down. That is the reality of it.
Also it goes further than just financial benefits. We like and prefer free or low cost camping sites:
- Often set up in communities or towns where we`d likely just drive by on a highway; this way we see more of each state we visit than just the tourist hot spots
- The communities that often have the free or low cost sites are struggling and this is a way to bring in some of the tourism dollar. Where possible we purchase our goods and fuel in these communities to provide our support.
- We like the relaxed, often isolated settings of free camps which as well as being in small towns as noted above, are in bush and other natural settings.
- We prefer that we don`t have to book a site meaning we have more freedom to go where we want and be flexible with our plans. Since we are living on the road this flexibility is very important to us; we have left time schedules and routines behind.
- We enjoy meeting the diversity of people that choose to free camp either from time to time or routinely.
- We support the idea that free and low cost camping makes holidays and travelling a viable option to all budgets and socio-economic backgrounds.
What You Need to Know About Free or Low Cost Camping
Often located in bush or isolated settings, or on unused sports grounds in communities but not always, a lot are in beautiful settings such as right on the beaches, lakes and rivers or surrounded by bush land. It is so so important that whatever the location that it is respected.
Often there are no or very little in the way of facilities provided including but not only no power, no toilets or showers, no rubbish collection and or no water. It is important to be aware of this and pre plan for what you need, for this reason most regular stayers at free or low cost sites are self contained. We don`t subscribe to the belief to free camp you must be self contained but if you are not then you need to have a plan and provisions for things such as your toileting.
If you go to campsites with no toilet you need to have your own toilet, use a local public toilet if available or dig a hole and bury it, covering it with leaves or dirt or going behind a tree is grossly insufficient. Look at it as if it is your backyard, you wouldn`t use your backyard as a toilet or leave toilet paper lying around, so do NOT do it at campsites. If you cannot be respectful of the environment you are in and of others, stay at home.
It is not unusual for free or low cost campsites not to provide bins or rubbish collection. For the cost they are not obliged to do so, so be prepared with the means you need to take your rubbish with you. If you can carry it in, you can carry it out.
Phone, Internet and TV Reception
Free camping can mean you will be out of range of these services.
Free Campground Rules
Sites often have rules such as how long you can stay, whether or not you need to be self contained and where you can set up. There is also unsaid rules such as respecting the site by not leaving rubbish, being mindful of your noise levels and being mindful of the amount of space you use.
How We Choose Our Camp Sites With Our Budget in Mind
- For us every camp site has to be dog friendly.
- We consider the free camp options first out of those that are dog friendly.
- We are self sufficient with solar power and gas so power sites while nice for a bit of luxury, it isn`t necessary for us.
- Sites have to be located near to where we want to do sightseeing or in the direction we are heading next. There is no point driving kilometres out of our way and spending a fortune on fuel or having the inconvenience of the time this takes.
- In areas, especially cities, where we wanted to do a lot of sightseeing it makes financial sense to pay for low cost sites rather than drive for kilometres to and from free site. Examples of this is our stays at Old Mac`s Farm in Launceston and the Hobart Showgrounds. The nearest free sites that suited our needs were 30 – 40 mins drive away each way which would have cost money in fuel, our time and lacked convenience.
- We are self sufficient for food storage and preparation which means we don`t need to be close to supermarkets (provided we have supplies) or restaurants to eat which means more isolate or bush camps are an option such as at Lake Gairdner or Cape Raoul.
- We pay some attention to the WikiCamp reviews but don`t take them as gospel.
Where We Stayed in Tasmania
Forth Recreation Ground, Forth
Review: A lovely grass flat area big enough for large vans. Lovely little town with a pub, servo and café a stones throw away. Toilets a walk away from the camping area but doable.
Old Mac’s Caravan and Motorhome Farm Stay, Launceston
Cost: $10 per night We Paid: $40
Review: Great spot close to Launceston. Feels like an oasis. Well maintained grounds and lots of room. Well worth the $10/night. It is a fair hike to the toilet – our dog enjoyed the walk 🙂
Beaconsfield Showground, Beaconsfield
Review: The area is literally a very flat gravel area next to the local sports field. The toilets are cleaned each morning and are reasonable (take a torch as its dark in the cubicles). We arrived before 5pm (but in the afternoon) and a couple of other vans already there. No one seemed to mind. Local bakery sells very nice sour dough bread.
Lilydale Falls Reserve, Lilydale
Review: Lovely spot with nice waterfalls along a short trail. The spots for vans are limited and a bit tight. Our 18ft van fitted comfortably but bigger rigs may find it a squeeze. Nice grass area, playground, BBQs and clean toilets.
Lake Gairdner Campsite, Moina
Review: We loved it here. Stayed for four nights. Used it as a base to visit Cradle Mountain (less than 30 min drive). Saw platypus under the bridge! No facilities but great scenery. Our dog loved it too.
We have full article on this campsite here.
Preservation Bay, Preservation Bay
Cost: Free / Donation We Paid: $5
Review: Brilliant spot overlooking the ocean. Beach is dog friendly on a lead. Train comes by a few times but isn`t noisy as it goes very slow. No facilities including no bins (take rubbish with you). Happily gave a donation to SLSC.
Boat Harbour Beach, Boat Harbour
Review: A favourite on our trip around Tassie. Sea is stunning. There are 2 areas for camping, if the first is full continue a little further on the same road. Café on the beach. Toilets open approx. 7am – 10pm. Shower is cold (beach shower) outside. Playground and free BBQs. Lots of day trippers too. Dog friendly but not beach between 10am – 6pm. Beach patrolled 12 – 5pm. Enjoy! Don’t leave your rubbish.
Tall Timbers RV Stop, Smithton
Review: Very nice huge grass area. Dog friendly. We used the laundry $2 a load to wash, $1 for the drier. Also used the heated pool/spa/gym/showers for $7/person for 2hrs. Pub, bottle shop and bistro on site.
Nelson Bay Informal Campsite, Nelson Bay
Cost: $6 per night We paid: $12
Review: Isolated spot on the untamed west coast. Site fees are payable at NPWS office in Arthur River. Unless near the grass covered dune/hill you can be exposed to big winds. Come to the Pieman-Arthur region with food and fuel supplies because availability is limited but possible if desperate up in Marrawah or east in Smithton (40-50km away).
Stanley Rec Site Self Contained, Stanley
Cost: $8 per night or $40 per week We paid: $16
Review: Nice spot overlooking Sawyer Bay and view of The Nut. Water available. No toilets but some are a few minutes stroll away. Dog friendly. Stanley is lovely with lots to do. Highly recommended.
Please see our article on Stanley.
Hellyer Gorge Reserve, Parrawe
Review: Decent overnight stop with flushing toilets. Camping spots on both sides of the road. Next to the road but very little road noise at night. The two walks are very brief.
Lake Mackintosh Dam Boat Ramp, Tullah
Review: Popular spot at second boat ramp. Nice spot for a few days but due to commitments elsewhere we only stayed one.
Lakeside, Macquarie Heads
Review: This are a number of small spots good for 2 – 3 small set ups. Lovely views of the harbour. Disappointing the amount of rubbish especially toilet paper left lying around.
Strahan Golf Course, Strahan
Cost: $10 per night We paid: $40
Review: Big open space that suits all size rigs. Power can be used for charging phones etc and the toilet at the club house. Dump point down the road. Water available.
Lake Burbury, Gormanston
Review: Nice spot on the lake. Rubbish left lying around which is always frustrating. Beware the pot holes on the road to the campsite. We stayed 3 days and ventured into Queenstown a couple of times.
Derwent Bridge Camp Spots
Review: Very nice camp area right on the river. Water is cold but crystal clear. Good Telstra phone coverage. No where to buy food supplies with 80km in either direction so come prepared. Important: this is NO longer a dog friendly site as it is now run by NPWS (WikiCamps updated to reflect this).
Ellendale Bethune Campground, Ouse
Review: Nice views up on the hill of Meadowbank Lake. Campsite is well away from the waters edge. Toilets are clean enough. Open camp area with room for all rig sizes. Ground is dry and dusty, obviously been no rain for quite some time.
Geeveston Ex-Servicemens and Womens Club, Geeveston
Cost: Donation We paid: $10
Review: Nice campsite with lovely grass and some spots besides the creek. Large area big enough for all size rigs and some nice smaller spots for tents. Toilets are clean. Tap water available. Ducks and geese wander about. Geeveston’s main street is lovely as is the very impressive new kids playground near town. Platypus sightings by the bridge. Recommend.
The Huts Point (Gordon) Reserve, Gordon
Cost: $5 per night We paid: $5
Review: It was busy when we stayed. Toilets are clean. Nice view of the water. Fees are $5 per night which goes into the local community.
Raoul Bay Retreat, Stormlea
Cost: $10 per night per person We paid: $20
Review: The camping area is a privately owned grass area. Great location for hiking Cape Raoul. The road to it is dirt and narrow with logging trucks so take your time if towing a caravan. I thought $10 per person per night was too much. $10 per van would be fair.
Primrose Sands RSL, Primrose (Power Site)
Cost: $10 per night We paid: $10
Review: Flat area behind the RSL, large enough for all size rigs. The bay/beach is lovely and well worth a walk. It is an interesting town with its shacks. We loved it and found the RSL staff to be wonderful. $10 per night for power goes back to the local community.
Hobart Showgrounds (RVFT), Glenorchy (Hobart) (Power Site)
Cost: $22 – $30 per night plus $5 booking fee We paid: $101
Review: This is a budget camp ground with the convenience of being close to the city (Hobart) and MONA. Hobart (like much of Tassie) is in a drought so the grounds are dry and dusty, bring the right attitude and you will cope. The showers are $1 for 5 mins; very clean and hot.
Kempton Roadside Stopover (Power site)
Cost: Donation We paid: $30
Review: Great site with showers, toilets, power, bbq and playground. Nice town with some nice historical buildings.
Spring Bay Hotel (Triabunna)
Cost: Donation We paid: $0 (We simply forgot to give our donation)
Review: Great location behind the pub and across the marina. Toilets in the pub or near the marina. Grassy sites. Plenty of room (especially if some don’t take up more than their share). Donations appreciated. Avoid the local butcher no prices up and cost twice as much as others we have bought from in small towns in Tassie.
Mayfield Bay Conservation Area
Cost: Donation We paid: $0 (Listed on Wikicamps as free so we weren’t aware it was donation)
Review: Great spot right on the water. Lovely outlook of the bay and loved listening to the waves crash. Busy at the moment so especially for larger rigs it is best to get here well before midday for a spot. The beach does have some weed and lots of shells but it is nature and its still stunning. Toilets are good. South end of the bay is off leash dog area.
Rivers and Rocks Campground (Coles Bay)
Review: Great location to Freycinet National Park and Coles Bay town. Dog friendly. Drop toilet just ok. The bay down a very short track (<45 secs) is nice. Good for swimming, fishing, kayaking, SUP etc. Campground has soft sand in parts and black sand. Advise vanners get in early. Backpackers cram in esp later in the evening. Rubbish needs to be taken.
Lagoons Beach Campground
Review: Very large campground running about km between the hwy and the coast. Plenty of large and small spots separated by bush and trees so doesn’t feel like a lot of others are around. Drop toilets are ok. Beach is wide, long and stunning. Lagoon is clean. Great fishing and kayaking. Dog friendly. Very few spots with a beach view but can hear it. Recommend.
St Helens RA & Dump Point (RVFT)
Review: Level gravel campground near sports fields. Dog friendly (dogs prohibited on sports fields and lots of area around town). Dump point and water at campsite. Close to St Helens – great library, IGA, mix of shops, cafes etc. St Helens Point Conservation Area is great, nice walks, beaches etc some dog friendly. Stock up in St Helens before heading to the Bay of Fires.
Cosy Corner South – Bay of Fires
Review: Lovely spot. Campground spread along a large area so lots of spots but fairly busy. Plenty of room for parking for day visitors. Beach is lovely with direct access and the large granite rocks are great to explore. Toilet so-so. Take rubbish with you. Telstra reception so-so.
Pyengana Recreation Ground
Cost: Donation We paid: $10
Review: A very nice campground on very large flat grass area suitable for all type and size rigs. Has a very country feel surrounded by farm land. Fantastic new toilets and showers ($2). Community provide/pay for drinking water so important to use sparingly and NOT to fill tanks or wash vehicles. Donation welcome. Dog friendly. Saw a few echidnas too.
Policemans Point (Ansons Bay)
Review: Fantastic dog friendly free camp on the Ansons Bay Inlet, Bay of Fires (North) with views of Mount William National Park. Campsites with water views or more secluded spots in the shrub/bushes. Has drop composting toilets. Road in is dirt with some corrugations but not too bad and is accessible for all vehicles. No bins. Telstra ok. No shops or fuel nearby.
Review: Loved it here. Campground is basic grass area. Drop toilets ok. Dog friendly. Inlet and beach area is nice. Boat ramp up the road. Inlet and bay brilliant for kayaking with gorgeous beach the otherside of the spit. Popular for fishing. Took some time to visit Mt William National Park also. Gorgeous beach sunsets.
Scottsdale Northeast Park
Cost: Donation We paid: $5
Review: Busy popular campground on level grass areas with toilets and showers ($3). Bins and bbqs also provided. Definitely now dog friendly. Platypus in the pond areas lovely to watch and can be spotted during the day. Rail Trail walk and North East Park right next to the campground nice to walk and explore. Main St of Scottsdale 1km away has everything.
Review: Flat grass area next to local sports field. Bins provided but no amenities. Dog friendly on lead. Bakery, IGA and pub within walking distance. Good stopover for 1 or 2 nights.
Blackburn Park – Self Contained RVs (Campbell Town)
Review: A very nice dog friendly free campground fairly close to town. The area has grass and is mostly flat. The Red Bridge is stunning. For cheap drinks and relaxed local chatter we recommend the Bowls Club. No amenities but town has everything you need including toilets, supermarket and free wifi.
Review: Great spot on the lagoon. Beautiful spot, feels very remote and is suitable for all rigs and tents. Drop toilets are good. No water. Day use area and boat ramps. Temperatures dropped a lot overnight. We had a lovely kayak on the lagoon. Lots of trout being caught by locals from the tiny village. In winter the lagoon freezes.
Deloraine RV Rest Area
Review: Busy campground but quiet and grass areas big enough for all size rigs if you get in early enough. Deloraine is a beautiful town with everything you need. Walk along the river is lovely.
Railton Self-Contained Only
Review: Fair size flat gravel area suitable for all size rigs. Bins, water and dump point provided. No toilets. Close to pub and post office. No supermarket. Topiary in town is looking good as is the new murals. Campground right on train line, we were woken by the train horns. Stayed here before getting on the Spirit of Tasmania – easy 25 min drive.
However you travel, wherever you go we hope you make some wonderful memories and see some fantastic sites because that is what it is really about.
Originally written and published: 29 January 2018
Edited and republished: 12 December 2019