Itching for a digital disconnect? Are you (like most of us right now) busy planning your next getaway, but your bank balance is saying you're not going anywhere? Great! Throw everything you own in the boot and get out of town—we’ve done the hard yards for you and tracked down the best free camping spots in Queensland so you don’t have to stress over your bank statement.
Cumberland Historic Mine Site
If you’re road tripping north and need an overnight pit stop, Cumberland Historic Mine Site is somewhere free to drop your pin for a while. The now ghost-town of Cumberland, this humble watering hole has plenty of places to pitch a tent or park your campervan, with a little bird watching thrown in for good measure. Rich in history, dating back to the 1800s, the historic gold mine even has drop loos for you to use (so you won’t be leaving any nuggets of your own). A little luxury goes a long way when you’re on the road.
Babinda Rotary Park Campground
Only an hour south of Cairns, Babinda Rotary Park is a great little getaway on the Queensland Coast. Camping is free for up to a three day stay and has great facilities if you fancy a swim, so whack some snags on the BBQ and settle in for an afternoon at the picnic tables with your travel pals. It’s only a short work to explore the Babinda township, and dog friendly if you’re travelling with a furbaby. The park caters primarily to tents and camping, so keep that in mind if you’re travelling in an RV or campervan.
Boulders Rest Area
Venture a little further west of Babinda and find a spot to rest your head at Boulders Rest Area. This free gem is a little better suited to ‘big rigs’ like RVs and campervans. Stay up to three days for free and enjoy the benefits of hot showers and working toilets. While you can’t bring your furry friend to this stop, they do allow camp fires (just check local fire bans first) to sing Kumbaya with your camp mates over a few toasted marshmallows. Find a stick and get roasting.
Bushy Parker Rest Area Campground
Just a stone’s throw from Townsville, this sleepy little camp stop is just off the Bruce Highway and has plenty of shady spots for caravans, campervans and tents. Save yourself from the coastal stingers and swim in the local swimming hole, a shallow little creek accessible by a set of wooden stairs. A great spot for young families, Bushy Parker Rest Area is decked out with picnic tables, BBQs and swings and doesn’t at all look like the start of a rural Australian horror movie.
Elphinstone Lake Campground
Inland from Mackay, this fisherman’s delight runs the length of Elphinstone Lake, where you can swim, fish, canoe and kayak your days away in rural Queensland. Breathe in the fresh outback air and sink into that ‘nowhere to be’ goodness. Pets are allowed at these free digs, but you’ll want to travel with your own drinking water, as it’s not always readily available on site (and no one’s got time to boil water for 10 minutes when you’re outback kinda thirsty).
Ngumbi Campground (Mt Joyce Base Camp)
If you’re as short on time as you are on funds, a trip out to beautiful Beaudesert doesn’t go astray. The Ngumbi campground is only an few hours away and boasts some pretty spectacular views if you go wandering. Set up camp on the banks of Lake Wyaralong and throw a snag on the BBQ to fuel up for a day of kayaking on the water. There are only six sites available at this free gem, and it can fill up quickly on school holidays, so best to book ahead if you’re heading Beaudesert way.
Mary Kathleen Ghost Town
What it lacks in facilities in makes up in wow factor: Mary Kathleen Ghost Town is the place to go if you dig abandoned towns and old uranium mines. Drive the streets of the 100-year-old town and pull up a slab for the night—as in a literal slab of concrete left behind from temporary housing in the mining days. You can go for a wander up the hill to the abandoned mine site, but we 100% don’t recommend going for a swim in the radioactive turquoise water.
Fountain Springs Rest Area
Don’t be like us and get Fountain Springs confused with Kath and Kim’s Fountain Lakes. But that’s not to stop you from gathering an esky full of little baby cheeses and heading to Mount Isa’s idyllic (and free) rest area for a night. Surrounded by the colourful quartzite Fountain Range on one side, and Mount Philip’s volcanic peak on the other, this little spot has everything from a waterhole to a hiking track so you can while away a few digital-free days. PSA there’s toilets, but no showers, but that’s never stopped anyone from hitting the spring for a freshen up.
Little Yabba Creek
Montville is a long-time favourite getaway for city slickers, and Little Yabba Creek is as sweet in name as it is in nature. Not too far away, take the drive up past Kenilworth and into the state forest for a pet-friendly getaway with all the bells and whistles. You can fish and swim in the creek, take a hike through the state forest or put on a BBQ while you enjoy some tinnies by the water.
Prefer running water and a toilet that flushes when you camp? Check out these spectacular (paid) campsites.
Image credit: Sayan Nath