From Sydney to Cairns the east coast of Australia is made for a road trip, with endless beauty from the ocean to the rainforest there’s so much to explore. Hire a campervan or car, pack up a tent and go on an adventure down under. There are some very cool campsites on Australia’s east coast, from pitches with beach views, to dreamy spots surrounded by nothing but rainforest. It’s such a fantastic way to experience Australia. I went on a road trip from Sydney to Cairns a few years ago in a campervan with Matt, we covered 1633 miles in 3 weeks. There were a few very long days of driving, sometimes 8 or 9 hours but it was always worth it for the for the adventures we had and the cool campsites we stayed at. Driving is such a great way to see the ever-changing landscape and climate as you go up or down the coast and having the freedom to decide where and when you want to stop is fantastic.
Most of the campgrounds we stopped at we only booked the day we arrived or we just turned up and inquired if they had space. In high season it’s probably best to book in advance as pitches can get fully booked months beforehand. National park campgrounds are often cheaper than privately owned ones and often need to be booked before you arrive. They will have limited facilities but are an amazing way to experience going right back to nature; proper camping if you will. It is necessary to take all your own equipment including water and food to these campgrounds as there will not be anywhere to purchase anything nearby. If you are planning a road trip on Australia’s east coast read on for my favourite campsites from Sydney to Cairns…
Euroka Campground, Blue Mountains National Park
The Blue Mountains area is a beautiful place to camp and Euroka campground is the perfect base. Found along an unpaved road amongst the bush this spot is popular with cockatoos and kangaroos. Facilities are basic with pit toilets and no showers. Sites are unpowered and unmarked which gives the campground a natural feel and there are fire pits for cooking. Bring water with you as there is none available at Euroka. It’s a tent only campground, camping fees are $24 a night plus the park entry fee of $8 per vehicle per day. This is a popular one so book before you go. From Euroka walk to Nepean River and enjoy being in the Australian outback. Visit Katoomba for a coffee and Echo Point Lookout for a fantastic view of the famous Three Sisters. There is a cable car and scenic railway to really make the most of the incredible views here. Wentworth Falls is an awesome place to stop for a hike and take photos of the gorgeous waterfall.
Racecourse Campground, Goolawah National Park
Set behind the sand dunes of Goolawah Beach, Racecourse is a relatively small campground with only 20 sites. I loved watching the sunset on the gorgeous beach and waking up to the sounds of the ocean. Be sure to go well equipped to this spot as it is fairly remote, but magical! Matt and I woke up very early one morning to watch the sunrise over the ocean. We parked up a short drive from Racecourse campsite on Point Plomer Road to cook breakfast. There were kangaroos in the field behind us and dolphins jumping in the ocean in front of us. It was an awesome spot for breakfast!
Trial Bay Gaol Campground
This is an incredible spot for camping, set on a peninsula in Arakoon National Park. The ocean is right on the edge of the campsite and has some water front pitches. The facilities are top-notch with toilet and shower blocks, its worth noting that the showers are coin operated. Trial Bay is a fantastic spot to see whales on their annual migration north in the winter and in spring on their way back south. We saw whales during our stay here which was totally unexpected and an amazing experience. We also had kangaroos pass us by in the evenings while we were barbecuing. If you love the beach and the outdoors then this cool campground is totally for you.
Calypso Holiday Park, Yamba
Yamba holds some really memorable moments on our road trip. A small town with a fishing harbour and cool surfy vibes. It was one of my favourite stops, so much so that we ended up staying an extra night. Calypso Holiday Park has pitches and cabins right on Clarence River, a gorgeous relaxing spot with fantastic sunset views. The town and beaches are all within walking distance and the YHA does a great breakfast. Take the short drive to Angourie, the beach there is a National Surfing Reserve. Stop by the Blue Pools for a dip or leap in from the cliff edge.
Black Rocks Campground, Ten Mile Beach, Bundjalung National Park
It took around 45 minutes to drive along a very bumpy gravel track surrounded by dense woodland to reach Black Rocks. This place put me on the edge of my camping comfort zone for sure! It is one of the remotest places I have ever stayed and most definitely ‘wild’ camping, I loved it.
Set behind the sand dunes of the stunning and untamed Ten Mile Beach the pitches are very private. Separated by woodland it felt like we were the only people there, apart from the faint murmur of voices somewhere in the distance. Black Rocks is an incredible place to explore, there’s Jerusalem Creek for fishing, the coastline and miles of undisturbed bush behind the dunes. Each drive in pitch comes with a bench and fire pit, the facilities are basic with only pit toilets and no showers. Be sure to arrive fully equipped and self-sufficient and take enough water for the duration of your stay. I loved that there was no light pollution, the starry skies were out of this world and in the van at night you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face. We got freaked out one evening in the dark too; as we were sat in our van having a few drinks we could hear a lot of rustling and something circling the camper…after a long time we spotted a possum by torchlight. Not so scary after all, but slightly creepy in the dark, in the middle of nowhere! This is a very cool campsite and hands down one of my favourites of our whole three weeks in Australia. If you like having your own adventures in complete remoteness then this is the campground for you.
Broken Head Holiday Park, near Byron Bay
This beach campground has awesome views of Broken Head Beach, a short stroll away. It is around 7 kilometres from Byron Bay so it’s a nice distance to escape the crowds in high season. Spacious pitches, not too close to fellow campers, a camp kitchen and BBQ area plus a camp kiosk mean it has everything you need. The campsite is a short drive from Suffolk Park a lovely small town with a bakery, fuel station and convenience stores. We couldn’t find a campsite with free pitches in Byron so this little gem popped up at the right time. Byron is world-famous for its surf scene and the beaches are beautiful but it can get very busy so Broken Head is a great spot for a bit of tranquility. We spotted dolphins in the surf here while swimming in the sea and said hello to some huge lizards near our van.
Noosa River Holiday Park
Its doesn’t get more scenic than Noosa River Holiday Park. Wake up to pelicans bobbing along on the river right in front of your van or tent and enjoy a barbecue with a glass of wine in the well equipped camp kitchen as the sunsets. It is in the most perfect spot only a few steps from the sandy shoreline. I’ve stayed in this campground a few times now, even if it is full the staff will do their best to accommodate you. Matt and I once parked up in the overflow car park for the night among boats and trailers; we could still see the river from our spot! The town, Hastings Street and Gympie Terrace are all within walking distance. While you are in the area make sure you take a trip to Noosa National Park, it’s a stunning walk along miles of beautiful coastline. Hire a paddle board and explore the river too, there are some interesting mangroves a short paddle across the river. Go inland here to see the incredible Glass House Mountains and to visit the markets at Eumundi.
Ferns Hideaway Resort, Byfield
This is most definitely a hideaway. Found in the middle of nowhere surrounded by rainforest, friendly wallabies and fruit bats. Camping at Ferns Hideaway comes with complimentary use of kayaks to explore the stretch of privately owned creek. Matt and I absolutely loved paddling along the creek and exploring this hidden spot. Pitches aren’t marked out, you chose where you would like to park up. It is a lovely, small site with with a camp kitchen, clean shower facilities and welcoming owners. There is also a swimming pool and restaurant on site along with a handful of log cabins. If you are looking for a unique campground then Ferns Hideaway is it.
Big4 Whitsundays Tropical Eco Resort, Airlie Beach
I loved the laid back vibes of Airlie Beach, we stopped here to go on a Whitsunday Islands boat trip. The pitch we stayed on at this Big4 site was partly shaded by tropical plants, perfect for keeping the van cool. A camp kitchen with two fridges and gas barbecues, plus a playground, swimming pool and clean facilities make this a great spot. A trip to the Whitsunday Islands is a must when on the east coast of Australia. Whitehaven Beach is a well-known beauty spot on Whitsunday Island, pure white sand and sparkling turquoise ocean make it a picture perfect paradise. Book onto a day trip or jump aboard a sailing boat for a longer trip on the water.
Mission Beach Hideaway Holiday Village
This campground is very convenient for the beach which is just over the road and my gosh what a stunning beach it is. Miles and miles of golden sand backed by palm trees, it is a breathtaking spot. We stayed at Mission Beach Hideaway Holiday Village for less than 24 hours but had a really nice time. The facilities are well-kept and there is a swimming pool and camp kitchen. Mission Beach is popular for sky diving, trips to Dunk Island and exploring waterfalls. Around 40 minutes north of Mission Beach is the gorgeous Etty Bay, it’s a small, secluded beach with a café and a caravan park with cabins, powered sites and tent pitches. We went in search of the cassowary, a shy bird known to live in the area. Sightings are rare, so to see one on the beach would be fantastic; unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to find one when we were there.
NRMA Cairns Holiday Park
This campsite wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice, everywhere was full so from what I can remember it was one of our only options. It was pretty packed and pitches were quite close together, but the facilities were clean and it had a great camp kitchen and a pool. It also had a little veggie garden which you could help yourself to, a nice little touch. Cairns is the place to be to see the Great Barrier Reef. I will never forget catching a glimpse of it for the first time; crystal clear waters and colourful corals. Snorkelling above the reef and spotting a turtle was an incredible experience.
For more on planning an Australian road trip and what to pack, head to my blog post all about it: Planning a Road Trip on the East Coast of Australia.
If you have time check out this short video of all my adventures down under: Three weeks in three and a half minutes.
If you are looking for ideas on things to do in Sydney I’ve got a post all about it here: Five things to do in Sydney.
For whale watching here’s the lowdown on an amazing day trip: Whale watching in Australia.