The Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous road trips in Australia if not the world. Stretching 243km with the stunning coastline on one side and the rainforest on the other it’s a road trip you’ll never forget. What better way to truly experience this epic coastal drive than camp along the way?
Although it’s one of the most popular day trips from Melbourne, we recommend taking it slow to truly experience the epic stops on route. Camping on Great Ocean Road has many advantages – you fall asleep under the stars to the sounds of the coast and wake up to a head start against the tour buses and crowds.
Better yet, there is the opportunity to enjoy free camping on Great Ocean Road which means you can stay in this beautiful region without paying a penny! Our guide will not only cover the best campsites on Great Ocean Road (both free and paid for) but also our top tips, camping recipes and what to bring for a stress free stay.
Whether you plan on free camping along the Great Ocean Road or you’re simply after the closest campsite to the 12 Apostles, we have a campsite for everyone – regardless of budget or camping style!
BEST TIME TO GO CAMPING ON GREAT OCEAN ROAD
As its one of the most popular Melbourne day trips and we were based there for 8 months, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a Great Ocean Road trip in both Winter and Summer. Both have advantages – Summer meant unbeatable views of the glorious coastline and ideal camping conditions, Winter meant crowd-free campsites and moody seaside scenes.
Despite being Australia, it does get very cold in Victoria and depending on your camping style Winter will prove too cold for many planning on camping along the Great Ocean Road. Winter is the best time however, to witness the Great Ocean Road waterfalls in full flow – during the Summer months they are non-existent or reduced to a trickle.
We found, however, during the Summer months it was SO hot camping in Australia – not to mention the flies in abundance and some campsites even booking up a YEAR in advance as camping is incredibly popular with local families and tourists alike.
If you’re determined to go in the Summer months, our guide to keeping cool in a campervan will definitely help. Also avoiding the peak times such as Christmas holidays (which the schools call their Summer holidays) as well as the Australia day holiday.
To us, the perfect time of year to go camping on Great Ocean Road would be February – April. Crowds are not near as crazy as December and January and temperatures are pleasant not piping hot.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST CAMPSITES ON GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Alongside the obvious way of reading our guide, there are numerous other ways to find camping sites on the Great Ocean Road. This includes taking a peek at our short, insightful video which covers 5 of our top ways of finding the best sites when camping in Australia.
Wikicamps is an app which costs around $7 where locals & tourists can add their favourite campsites on Great Ocean Road as well as rate facilities. It is worthwhile purchasing the app if you plan on camping in New Zealand or also the UK, Canada and United States ad the app is available in 5 countries. It’s ideal if you plan on free camping along the Great Ocean Road as you can filter campsites by cost as well as read reviews from recent campers.
Campermate is very similar to Wikicamps but is a Free App that again marks all campsites on a map as well as water points, toilets and other facilities. The campsites are colour coded allowing you to chose paid for campsites or free campsites on the Great Ocean Road
One of the joys of camping along the Great Ocean Road is the escape from reality – the ability to unplug and immerse yourself in nature. However, without wifi, this can mean connecting to the apps above or your sat nav can be difficult and trying to hunt down a free campsite may prove stressful. Instead, keep a camping book in your glove compartment (or backpack), so you have an offline backup.
Campers are a special breed of human and Australian campers are a whole new level! When camping in Australia, we found locals were SO helpful in recommending hidden gems as well as shortcuts for our drive. When we were camping on Great Ocean Road we had NO idea, there was a koala above our van until our neighbours pointed it out (more on that campsite later!) Nothing beats sharing a few beers and a few travel fails and tales with new pals round the campfire.
WHAT TO BRING CAMPING ON GREAT OCEAN ROAD
No Great Ocean Road trip would be complete without these road trip essentials. However, if you plan on camping along the Great Ocean Road and not just driving it, you will need to pack a few other essentials such as tents, treats and torches! We’ve mentioned a few basic camping essentials below, but urge you to read our complete camping packing list (which you can also download) and use offline!
Camping is BIG business in Australia and it is so easy to get your hands on these items with minimal expense. These are the best places to purchase your kit for free camping on Great Ocean Road:
- BCF: Short for Boat Camping and Fishing. We purchased a mosquito net from here (absolute essential if you’re camping on Great Ocean Road in a van!)
- Bunnings: A little like Vegemite – you’ll either LOVE or loathe Bunnings. They sell all things DIY from paint to patios, camping to BBQs. A little like B & Q in the UK.
- Camping World / Tentworld: Do what they say on the tin – shops specialising in camping essentials.
- Big W / K-Mart: If you’re camping on a budget, these are the shops you need. Both offer camping essentials such as sleeping bags, cool boxes, chairs and tents. If like us, you’re trying to keep cool in a campervan (or car) we found the cheapest window shades here.
- Facebook Groups / Gumtree: We are always looking for ways to be more sustainable travellers where possible, and it makes no sense to purchase brand new equipment if you are only camping on Great Ocean Road for two nights. To avoid the expense (and help the planet) buy second hand. Search Facebook Groups or Marketplace and Gumtree as many backpackers sell their equipment when they move on.
Before your Great Ocean Road camping trip begins, download this camping checklist and save it to your phone to use offline or print it out. As a tip, we use this packing list not only before our trip to ensure we have everything packed but we also use it before we leave to check we haven’t left anything at the campsite!
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BEST SITES FOR FREE CAMPING ON GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Hotels and campsites on the Great Ocean Road all add premiums during the peak months not to mention how expensive they can be in the first place. Therefore, free camping on Great Ocean Road is a great way of saving money, and surprisingly, there are many sites to choose from.
Hammond Road Campground
Location: Wensleydale VIC 3241
Facilities: Hammond Road campground is one of the first free campsites on the Great Ocean Road. The site is located around 20 minutes inland from the memorial Arch which marks the official start of the road and is one of the most famous Great Ocean Road stops. There are drop toilets, fire pits/BBQs and around 20 pitches suitable for campervans and tents. Note, if you are in a rented van or car, this campsite is located along an unsealed road which many rentals forbid. The main reason this is one of the best free camping sites on Great Ocean Road is the friendly kangaroos who are likely to be hopping around during your stay.
Allenvale Mill Bush Campground
Location: From Lorne, head 1.5km via suburban streets until reaching Allenvale Rd. You’ll find the car park just before bridge at Allenvale then short walk to campsite.
Facilities: Drop toilets and numbered pitches – first come first served. Nearby St Georges River Walking Track with the coast just 2.7km hike away. Note, cars are NOT allowed at the campground (tents only.) The local council have banned cars from the actual site, to protect the natural landscape so cars must park in the designated carpark 200m walk away and camping equipment transported by hand into the site.
Dando’s Camping Spot
Location: Sayers Track, Gellibrand VIC 3239
Facilities: Ideal for families who are free camping on Great Ocean Road as the pitches are spacious with BBQs, a grassy play area, nearby Gellibrand river to swim in and even fire pits. There are also drop toilets, and the location is perfect – just 20 minutes inland from the coast.
Sharps Camping Area
Location: (approx. 5km from Lorne) Sharps Camping Area, Sharps Rd, Lorne VIC 3232
Facilities: If searching for a Lorne camping ground, this is ideal as it’s just a 12-minute drive from town. Although there are only six pitches so arrive early, it is an ideal campsite for exploring the Great Ocean Road waterfalls, as its just a 25-minute walk (5 minutes by car) from Sheoak Picnic area where many waterfall trails start. Note, there are no toilets but there are at Sheoak Picnic area. Sharps is one of the best free campsites on Great Ocean Road for spotting koalas, so make sure to look up!
Stevensons Falls Free Campground
Location: Roadknight Creek Road, Barramunga VIC 3249, Australia
Facilities: Ideal spot for those free camping along the Great Ocean Road as it neighbours one of the best waterfalls in the Otways – Stevensons Falls. From the campsite, it’s just a 25-minute walk to reach the waterfalls. It’s also one of the largest free campsites on the Great Ocean Road with over 50 pitches and drop toilets. Each pitch comes with a firepit, but you will need to take your own firewood.
Jamieson Creek Bush Campground
Location: Jamieson Creek Bush Campground, Separation Creek VIC 3234
Facilities: If you are free camping on Great Ocean Road this is a hidden gem with one of the best views in the area as its just steps away from a beautiful beach renowned for its sunrise. The campsite was recently upgraded to include toilets which make this free campsite even better. It’s ideal for wildlife enthusiasts as kangaroos are common in the area as are stargazers due to the incredible views of the night sky. Note, unlike Stevensons Falls above, fires are banned at Jamieson Creek campground.
Aire Crossing Campsite
Location: Air River Crossing Track Great Otway National Park, Johanna VIC 3238, Australia
Facilities: There are only five pitches, but if you’re looking to go free camping in Apollo Bay this is one of the closest spots (around 1 hours’ drive from town.) Aire Crossing is also nearby one of the most famous Great Ocean Road waterfalls – Triplet Falls. Aire River is also nearby which is safe for a swim. Drop toilet and no fires are permitted. As a tip, the local area is known for glow-worms so take a wander after nightfall.
Beauchamp Falls Campsite
Location: Beauchamp Falls Walking Track, Beech Forest VIC 3237, Australia
Facilities: Another great spot for free camping in Apollo Bay, is around 55 minutes inland from the coast. As the name describes it’s nearby Beauchamp Falls, a favourite of the Otways Waterfalls. Like most free camping sites on Great Ocean Road, this is on an unsealed track so although 4WD is not necessary, check your rental allows this. Your drive will be worth it however as there is fire pits/BBQs, toilets and a short walk to the beautiful falls.
Location:8830 Princes Hwy, Panmure VIC 3265, Australia
Facilities: Warrnambool is where the Great Ocean Road ends and this campground is only 20 minutes inland from Warrnambool. It was the last campsite we visited during our road trip and to us, is one of the best free campsites on Great Ocean Road because it has FLUSH toilets instead of the drop toilets which can be a tad scary at times. It is also in a very peaceful location despite being just off the highway and there is even a playground for children and covered BBQ area as well as a swimming spot complete with diving board. Overall an excellent place for free camping on Great Ocean Road and one we’d definitely return to.
Big Hill Track Camping
Location: 1265 Deans Marsh-Lorne Rd, Benwerrin VIC 3235
Facilities: There are 12 pitches at this Lorne camping ground, and it is one of the best for free camping sites on Great Ocean Road. A highlight of this campsite is the friendly king parrots who are very inquisitive (and like to scavenge for leftovers so keep your camp tidy!) There are drop toilets and fire pits, but you will need to supply your own firewood.
BEST PAID CAMPING SITES ON GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Although there are many places to go free camping along the Great Ocean Road as we were in a campervan, we needed to plug in and charge. This meant we needed to research a lot (but spend a little) on camping sites which were worth paying for and thankfully, we were not disappointed. Not only are these some of the best camping sites on Great Ocean Road, but genuinely some of the best we stumbled across during our entire time camping in Australia.
Kennett River Holiday Park
Location: 1-13 Great Ocean Rd, Kennett River VIC 3234, Australia
Cost: $35 per night for a powered site. View prices & Book here.
Facilities: One word – UNFORGETTABLE. Not only do you have the usual facilities (hot showers, camp kitchen, powered sites) but you have the beach just minutes away and koalas EVERYWHERE. We woke up to a koala above our van, a koala crossing the road in front of us, a koala climbing a tree next to our campervan…it was a definite highlight from our entire Great Ocean Road itinerary.
Kennett River is known as the koala capital of Victoria and the “koala walk” borders the campsite, which is literally a gum tree-lined road that is home to around a dozen koalas – sometimes more. There are also very friendly birds, but please be a responsible traveller and don’t feed the wildlife.
Timboon Recreation Reserve
Location: Timboon, Victoria 3268 (30 minutes from 12 Apostles)
Cost: Donation (Suggested $5)
Facilities: If you are camping along the Great Ocean Road or Australia in general, Showgrounds (often called Recreation grounds) are ideal as they have all necessary facilities but are usually very cheap and welcome larger motorhomes as well as tents. Although note, during major sporting events or weekends some will be out of use so check online for events calendars when the campsite may be closed.
Although not one of the free campsites on Great Ocean Road, Timboon Recreation Reserve is one of the cheapest, as admission is by donation (suggested $5) which is ideal for those on a budget but in need of hot showers. Timboon is around 19km from Port Campbell and around 30 minutes from The 12 Apostles.
Princetown Recreation Reserve
Location:93 Old Coach Road, Princetown 3269
Cost: Cash Only – $20 for unpowered + $25 for powered (based on 2 people – more info on fees here)
Facilities: This is probably one of our favourite camping sites on Great Ocean Road (after Kennett River) and is another showground like mentioned above. Set in a cricket ground, not only is this campsite super affordable, but it offers hot showers and power alongside two amazing advantages – kangaroos and the 12 apostles! This campsite is just TEN minutes from the 12 apostles, a highlight of any Great Ocean Road itinerary. This means you can secure a good sunrise (or sunset) spot before the tourist busses and crowds!
It was also the most kangaroos we’ve ever seen in one place (apart from Hall’s Gap in the Grampians which was another favourite day trip from Melbourne.) We even had a hilarious incident where kangaroos were boxing right outside our van so we were too scared to go pee (Daz opted for a bottle, Loz held it in) but that’s all part of the adventure when camping on the Great Ocean Road.
Port Campbell Holiday Park
Location: 30 Morris St, Port Campbell VIC 3269, Australia
Cost: $35 for a powered site
Facilities: Located in the beautiful seaside town of Port Campbell, conveniently next to the Tourist Information Centre, this campsite has all the home comforts including camp kitchen and a tv room. Port Campbell was one of our favourite stops on the Great Ocean Road, and we had a delicious meal at Forage on The Foreshore – a 5-minute walk from the campsite!
Killarney Beach Camping Reserve
Location: 125 Mahoneys Rd, Killarney VIC 3283
Cost: $22 for unpowered, $27 for powered
Facilities: Now onto one of the last camping sites on Great Ocean Road, located around 20 minutes from Warrnambool (which is pretty much the end of the road.) Although the facilities are basic, you will be treated to spacious pitches and a stunning beach right on the doorstep, which is safe for snorkelling. There is even a playground for kids, sporting oval and BBQ shelter – more info here.
Levi Caravan Park
Location: 1A Harris Rd, Vale Park SA 5081, Australia
Cost: $39 for a powered site – Top Caravan members receive discount. Search prices & book here.
Facilities: As many people start their road trip in Adelaide and work their way back to Melbourne, we thought we’d add this campsite to the line-up. When we were camping on the Great Ocean Road in Summer, we drove the opposite way (heading towards Melbourne instead of away from) and stayed here for two nights. The campsite was in a perfect location for walking into town and visit the major Adelaide attractions. Although the toilets and showers were a little retro (there was even a bath!?) this was all part of the site’s charm, and we couldn’t fault our stay.
MEAL IDEAS FOR CAMPING ON GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Alongside free camping along the Great Ocean Road to save money, we love cooking in our campervan instead of dining out at the expensive restaurants along the route. If the idea of cooking on a campstove scares you some what, fear not – we have put together a detailed guide into the best food to take camping which also includes a full food list, cooking tips and our tastiest camping recipes.
If it’s your first taste of van life, we recommend our tips for cooking in a campervan – a guide we wrote after a few flames and a stinky salmon incident.
We should probably mention too that after a wine too many while travelling New Zealand in a campervan we recorded a few of these recipes because we were Wi-Fi free in the wilderness with nothing better to do. These videos were turned into a cooking in a campervan series which is guaranteed to provide some giggles though very little nutritional info.
Feel free to take a look and let us know your favourite meal from camping in Australia in the comments!
Hopefully this guide has proved that just because you’re visiting one of the world’s most famous coastlines, you don’t have to spend a fortune on accommodation. Camping on the Great Ocean Road is not only one of the best ways to beat the crowds, its the best way to take it slow and truly absorb the stunning scenery that surrounds you. Whether you prefer free camping along the Great Ocean Road, or still need a few home comforts and opt for paid ones, we hope you find a campsite or two that will make your road trip even more unforgettable. Let us know in the comments if your favourite campsite on Great Ocean Road is missing – we’d love to add a few more hidden gems!