All across the Great Ocean Road region, there is not much in the way of free camping. Luckily, if you know where to go, you can spend days exploring the area without spending a cent on accommodation or camp grounds. Although there is absolutely no free spots on the coast line (correct me if wrong please), there are great, peaceful spots in bushland and reserves a few kilometres inland.
Within the past 2 years the Parks department has wacked fees on many of the previously free camp spots around the region. All paid campsites, whether powered or unpowered, begin at $37 per night, year round. For this reason, I compiled the list of free campgrounds along the Great Ocean Road. We were able to stay 3 nights and take the road trip a bit more relaxed while saving a lot of money by seeking the free camp sites. Not only did we save money, we met some really interesting people and had some great experiences at the free sites.
There is a fantastic App available for free campsites right across Australia. Many of these camp sites were located using the App – Wiki Camps. It gives you the campsite location, which facilities are available, sometimes images and comments from users. It also shows points of interest and facilities such as showers (very useful!) and barbeque areas.
Here is my list! The campsites are listed in order from Torquay to Warrnambool.
Otway State Forest
There is a designated camping area right in the centre of the reserve, on Tanners Road. A simple site in bushland. Unfortunately there are no facilities and lots of dirt bike tracks in the area. (We decided to go onto Hammonds Road – great decision!).
Hammond Road Campground
Hammond Road campground is an option if you want to get up and begin the Great Ocean Road first thing in the morning. It is just approximately a 30 minute drive right into Torquay, or even less to the first major attraction, Bells Beach. The campground is in a forest reserve, and has a lot of space but no view beyond the Aussie bush. There is a very high chance of seeing multiple Kangaroos here at dusk (a whole family was there when we stayed!). There are a couple of toilets, a rain water tank and multiple fire pots which are great. There is even a small lake just by the campground (may be suitable for a dip).
Great Otway National Park (No free camping)
Some guides say that free camping exists around the Otway’s and within the National Park. This is now out-dated information, according to a Great Otway National Park Ranger. There is no free camping within the Great Otway National park. The closest spot is called Aires Crossing, which is on the other side of the Great Ocean Road to Johanna (a beach). I recommend this spot for a night or two to explore the Otways – as there are endless places to see and explore here.
If you want to explore the Otways and stay in a relaxing, secluded area, then Aire Crossing is perfect. Situated in the forest, with a gorgeous stream (pictured) running by just 20 metres away it is a lovely, quiet camp ground. There are just 4 spots, and the area is surrounded by huge trees and ferns and multiple hikes through the forest. There is 1 toilet, a rain water tank (undrinkable) and unfortunately no fire pots. Take a portable gas cooker.
To get to Aire Crossing, you will find the turn off the Great Ocean Road almost opposite the turn off to Johanna Beach (if you are headed west). Drive along Settlers road for about 10km, then turn right at the sign to Aire Crossing. This winding dirt road continues 2.4km until you reach the camp site. Despite the 12km dirt road access, this camp site is in a central location along the GOR.
Carlisle River Recreation Reserve
This is a free camp site in a reserve quite a way inland off the Great Ocean Road. Turn up the Lavers Hill Cobden Road from Lavers Hill and turn right onto C161. The campsite is a few kilometres up this road. It seems to have good facilities, with toilets, all picnic facilities, but no water.
Morehouse Bridge Reserve
This campground is directly north of Port Campbell by approximately 25 km. It is situated just north of Scott’s Creek. There is a covered picnic area, but no toilets. This is the closest free camping site to Warrnambool (the end of the Great Ocean Road).
Camping at the Twelve Apostles
If you want to spend some time around the limestone cliffs, or specifically the Twelve Apostles, there is not much in the way of free camping really close by. The Aires Crossing camp ground is the closest free camp ground along the Great Ocean Road, being 60 or so kilometres to the East. Port Campbell is just a 10 minute drive to the West.
Princetown Recreation Reserve is the closest paid camping ground to the Twelve Apostles, at just 7 km to the East. Unfortunately they don’t offer free camping, however; they offer full facilities including non-powered and powered sites.
Around the Warrnambool region, there are a handful of free camping, however they are often far inland or beyond the end of the Great Ocean Road. Check out Wiki Camps App to find these spots.
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Enjoy your free camping trip xx