I was recently trying to explain ‘freedom’ camping to a cousin at a family reunion. The caravanners in the group nodded sagely but this particular cousin is probably still scratching her head and wondering what on earth we all get up to when out on the road.
Some caravanners choose to stay in caravan parks but not long after we bought our first pop top caravan we made the decision to explore other options. Caravan Parks, National Parks, Showgrounds, Freedom Camps, Farm Stays, Pub Stays and Rest Areas. In fact, it’s hard not to include the odd rest area if you are travelling in the outback where towns are few and far between.
Our first freedom camp, the Charlton RV Camp in the township of Charlton, Vic was where instead of meeting the expected axe murderer, we met a helpful lady of whom we have become great friends and are still travelling with seven years later.
At Happy Jacks roadside rest area, our second free camp, on the Maldon Bypass near Bendigo we were watched over by a mob of kangaroos. We soon realised that this was an added bonus of freedom camping. Then there was 40degree heat at Bendigo Showgrounds where we met a Dutch couple who undeterred by heat caravan around Australia every southern summer and visit their two daughters who now live here.
The Tarcutta Truck Stop was probably a little daring as we were surrounded by trucks switching loads on the halfway point between Melbourne and Sydney. I think we may have been trespassing. Nobbies Beach in Newcastle was the perfect spot for ship watching, being at the river mouth and a short walk to the city centre and coffee shops. Sadly, it has now been closed to free campers but freedom camping in a city was a novelty.
Mystery Bay on the NSW South Coast was a beautiful camp spot in a grove of spotted gums overlooking a stunning beach. Berry Showgrounds where the caretaker put flowers in the ladies’ bathroom was just a block from the heart of this delightful historic town. Caboolture Showgrounds was a bit untidy when we visited but at least we could watch the horse trials while we listened to our neighbour burping. Tenterfield Showgrounds in the heart of New England saw us camped beside a tiny creek and just a stroll from town.
In Lake Eildon National Park there were kangaroos all around us and King Parrots poking their heads in the van looking for breakfast. Then we discovered Skipworth Reserve near Jamieson, Vic. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know that this is an oft visited favourite now. Camped beside the wild Goulburn River we decided that it was decision time. We either throw ourselves in the icy river or upgrade the van to one with a bathroom as we’d come to love this freedom camping caper.
A month or two later and we were at Mt Franklin Reserve, camped inside a volcanic crater in our new van, with bathroom and wonder upon wonder, steaming hot water. We enjoyed the stillness of the bush at Moonambel Picnic Ground and we had it all to ourselves. Then we discovered the tranquility of Ayson’s Reserve near Elmore on the way to the Girgarre Town Reserve and the Girgarre Moosic Muster. Any thoughts that Woody may have had of a quiet country town, were dashed when 800 ukulele and banjo players tuned up and played for three days straight.
It may be hard to describe freedom camping but there’s nothing like this caravanning life.