NSW is blessed with a swagload of great campsites, they’re scattered through the state like sultanas in scroggin. However, there’s just one thing better than finding a beaut campground, and that’s finding a campground that doesn’t cost you a penny. Time to check out the best free camping in NSW.
When we asked our crew of seasoned Explorers to recommend their favourite free campsites in NSW, there was no doubt that they’d deliver, and just like a regular bunch of legends, they’ve come up with some absolute belters. Yes, these free campsites might have limited facilities; yes, some of them require a walk from the car, and yes, they’re all worth checking out.
So you’d better get your calendar out because these free campsites are primed for a cheeky micro; or better yet, a full-blown NSW assault.
Looking for NSW adventures? Head to our NSW Adventure Hub
Free Camping South Of Sydney
1. Sunburnt Beach Campground
Time from Sydney: 4 hours
Sat in Meroo National Park, just south of Lake Tabourie, this beachside campsite is simple and sweet. Not quite a full-on hiking in experience, nevertheless you’ll need to carry your camp gear 50-100m from the carpark. Not great for luxury campers, but perfect for keeping the crowds away.
Enjoy relaxing in the natural bush setting, exploring the beach or catching waves when the swell is just right.
This campsite is 4WD access only and camping spots are suitable for tents – no trailers or vans.
2. Cascades Campground
Time from Sydney: 5 hours
Head south to Cooma and instead of continuing on to the Snowy Mountains, head east into Wadbilliga National Park for stay at Cascades campground. With just 6 sites for trailers and tents, there’s every possibility you’ll have this free campsite to yourself. Set up camp, then explore the beauty of the Tuross River.
Don’t just stick to the banks, bring your SUP, kayak or canoe and get on the water for a different experience.
Make sure you’ve planned this one out as bookings are essential year-round.
3. Bendethera Valley Campground
Time from Sydney: 6 hours
Load up the fourbie and head deep into Deua National Park for a slice of remote valley life. The Deua river flows through the valley, offering the chance for a cool swim or a paddle. This large open space has plenty of room to spread out the trailer, bring a crew and fire up a barbie.
If you’re chasing more adventure, head (safely) into the Bendethera caves or check out the extensive hiking trails.
4WD access only to a very remote campground, travel safely and be prepared.
4. Thredbo Diggings Campground
Time from Sydney: 5.5 hours
This mountain beauty is open year-round and has great access to the start of Kosciuszko National Park. Come in winter and you’ll need to be prepared for the cold, there’s often snow to be found next to the frozen Thredbo River. Or come in summer, the water might still be frigid, but there’s plenty on offer by bike, foot, or tube.
There’s basic facilities at the site and a decent number of sites for vans, trailers and tents.
Diggings is a free campsite, but you’ll need to make sure you’ve paid for the National Parks Pass (obtainable in Jindy or from the ticket gate on the way in).
Free Camping North Of Sydney
5. Newnes Campground
Time from Sydney: 3.25 hours
Far enough from Sydney that you’ll be away from the day trippers, but close enough for an afterwork overnighter. Newnes campground sits in the Wolgan Valley, surrounded by sandstone cliffs and on the banks of the Wolgan river. Drive in, park up and get exploring.
Check out the nearby Glow Worm Tunnels or Newnes Industrial Ruins walk.
There’s no bookings at this one, so try and get in early to bag a great spot.
Important Update: Paid Camping Comes To Newnes Campground (still worth a visit though!)
6. Spring Gully Campground
Time from Sydney: 4.5 hours
If you don’t mind sharing camp with kangas and wombats, then Spring Gully Campground is the perfect getaway. Relax around camp or take a dip in the Goulburn River if the water levels allow. The open campground has space for all your camping needs, so go minimal with the hammock or fully loaded with the trailer, the choice is yours.
Spring Gully’s surrounding area has a rich history of Australia through the people of the Wiradjuri, Gamileroi and Wonnarua Clans. The valley where the river runs through Goulburn River National Park was an important trading route between the Aboriginal people who lived on the coast and the western plains.
If you’re up for the 1hr drive, don’t miss The Drip Walking track and Hands on the Rock Aboriginal art site in Ulan as a worthwhile opportunity to pay respect and learn more about the history of this area.
There are no water drinking facilities here, so make sure to BYO water. Also, take your rubbish with you as there are no bins. Everything you take in, you take out.
7. Bretti Reserve
Time from Sydney: 4 hours
Cows may wander through this grassy free campsite, but there’s plenty of room for everyone to park up the van or pitch their tent. Bring your watercraft for a paddle on the Barnard River, take a swim of cast your line. This one’s also pet friendly, so let the pooch out to stretch their legs.
Fires are permitted, but make sure you’re responsible and check local fire warnings.
With so many cows around, maybe don’t drink the creek water. Instead, bring enough with you for your stay.
8. Roses Park Rest Area
Time from Sydney: 6 hours
If you haven’t explored Waterfall Way, near Dorrigo National Park, ‘water’ you waiting for! Roses Park Rest Area is right off the side of the road, so might not be the most peaceful site you come across. However, as a free campsite (pay by donation) in such a great part of NSW, you can’t really complain.
Head west from Roses to explore more of the National Park, or head back east to Bellingen for coffee and small town hangs.
Don’t exceed your welcome, 48 hours is the longest you can stay here.
9. Shelley Head Campground
Time from Sydney: 7.5 hours
7km along the Yuraygir Coastal Walk, you’ll arrive at the semi-remote beauty of Shelley Head. This ocean-fronted site is perfect for swimming, surfing or sea fishing. It’s also a great spot for relaxing away from any crowds, so maybe just pack a book and put your feet up.
Try this one in winter and you might get treated to views of migrating whales!
As with any remote campsite, particularly one that has no road access, make sure you’ve planned your visit, taken precautions and stay safe.
Feature photo of Cascades Campground by Jackie Martin