There’s no denying that the current pandemic has been a major downer on the vanlife community. What was once a lifestyle of freedom and exploration has now been relegated to many being trapped in their vans and only going out to get the essentials. However, the post-COVID-19 world is approaching as the restrictions on non-essential travel are being lifted (little by little).
We know it is torturous for vanlifers to be cooped up in one place for too long. And there are new people to the van community who can’t wait to get on with their open-road adventure.
Despite the easing of restrictions, the international travel ban will not likely be lifted until 2021. Since many Aussie’s love to travel abroad this might sound like bad news. However, this is an ample opportunity to explore Australia through campervan travel, as this is more affordable than staying in hotels.
Also, interstate travel is still restricted, meaning if you are in New South Wales (NSW), you can’t travel to the Northern Territory. But never fear! No matter what state you’re in, there are a great number of vanlife destinations rife for exploration and we’ve organised this article by State – easy for you to organise your next adventure!
So, without further ado, here are Australia’s best vanlife destinations:
New South Wales
New South Wales is found on the southeastern side of Australia and is home to perhaps one of Australia’s most famous and vibrant cities: Sydney. But since this is an open-world adventure, you’d be glad to know that NSW has plenty of beaches, bays and national parks where you can park your campervan and have some fun.
A number of locations you can check out in NSW include Byron Bay, Jarvis Bay, Dunns Swamp, Pretty Beach Campsite, Greenman’s On The Hawkesbury and Shelly Beach Holiday Park.
Our Top Pick: Byron Bay
Bryon Bay is one of the major destinations for vanlifers going on a holiday in NSW. It is a lovely town packed with magical beaches and charming locals. And it has plenty of top-notch campervan sites that are in walking distance to the town’s most fun activities.
Activities in Byron Bay include:
- Beach life: Start by checking out Main Beach before heading to the other beaches, such as Belongii, The Wreck, Clarkes, The Pass, Wategos and Little Wategos.
- Surfing: Don’t know how to surf? There are plenty of surf schools with instructors that know where to catch the best waves.
- Cafes and restaurants: Are you a foodie? Byron Bay has an assortment of ambitious and exotic cafes and restaurants. Try La Casita, Chupacabra, Locura, Raes on Wategos and Moonshine Coffee.
- Tea Tree Lake (Lake Ainsworth): Tea Tree Lake’s fresh and rejuvenating waters are perfect for taking a relaxing soak.
- Whale spotting: During the winter, you can hop on one of the whale watching cruises and catch a glimpse of the humpback whales as they migrate.
- Byron Bay Market: On the first Monday of each month, you can head over to the Bryon Bay market to purchase some hand-made goodies, as well as locally and organically grown food.
Queensland is the second-biggest state in Australia and a great destination for vanlifers and grey nomads alike. It has an endless supply of golden beaches and tropical islands, as well as over 200 national parks. Plus, it has easily-accessible and luscious rainforests and bushland with great trails that will bring out the hiker in you.
Great van life destinations in Queensland include Cape Tribulation, Noosa, Palm Cove Holiday Park, Seabreeze Tourist Park, Mooloolaba Beach Holiday Park, Cathedrals on Fraser and Lake Somerset Holiday Park.
If you are an experienced 4x4 driver, you may venture to Fraser Islands and Rainbow Beach!
Our Top Pick: Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is a remote area that is perfect for camping and is filled with thrilling land-based and water-based activities. You’re going to want to stay longer here, so be sure you have your gas storage box and shower cubicle installed for true off-grid living.
Here’s what makes Cape Tribulation a great camping spot:
- Chill and relax: Cape Tribulation is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Brisbane, allowing you to just sit back and take a breather. The campsite is complete with places to cook, eat, drink and book guided tours to Daintree Rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef.
- Hiking: Courtesy of Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation is the place to enjoy guided or self-guided hiking. This is also your chance to see Australia’s wildlife.
- Snorkelling: This is the most popular activity in the Great Barrier Reef, where you can peek underneath the waters to admire its beautiful underwater kingdom. You can take snorkelling to the next level with scuba diving!
- Whitehaven Beach: This white sandy beach is considered by many to be one of the best beaches in Australia. (You have probably even seen it on a postcard or two). The beautiful clear waters make it the perfect chilling and/or swimming spot.
Tasmania or Tassie is one of Australia’s smallest states. It is an island located south of mainland Australia and famous for its incredible wildlife, satisfying hike trails and picturesque locations. This is because most of Tassie remains untouched by urbanization. You will need a good camera and selfie stick if you are exploring Tassie because it's heavy on the picture moments.
Places to go on your Tassie vanlife adventure include Freycinet National Park, Binalong Bay, Barilla Bay, Cloudy Bay, Bakers Beach, Bruny Island and Cradle Mountain.
Our Top Pick: Freycinet National Park
If you’re looking to get the best views in Tasmania and probably all of Australia, then we recommend Freycinet National Park. It is one of the most photographed places in the state and offers some fun and exciting activities to boot.
- Walking: The walks in Freycinet National Park will give you access to some of the most beautiful and secluded bays, beaches and lagoons. On the way there, you will get to marvel at the bay's amazing plant and animal life. Special mention goes out to Moulting Lagoon, which is home to some of the most amazing birdlife in the park.
- Beach fun: You can laze around on the white sandy beaches that surround the park or go swimming and kayaking in their pristine waters.
- Hazards Mountain Range: Hike trails give way to the most dramatic and picturesque views of Wineglass Bay. These hikes are short, but they are also demanding and totally worth it.
- Seafood: Freycinet National Park has no shortage of eateries and vineyards to get the best food and wine, but the seafood is where it shines. You can enjoy fresh and locally-caught oysters, lobsters, scallops, salmon, crayfish and more. It is a seafood lover’s dream!
Western Australia (WA) is the biggest state of them all, covering a third of the country – that’s massive! WA is where people come to fall in love with Australia, as well as experience a little adventure in its sprawling outback and coral reefs or relax in one of its panoramic beaches (kangaroos are everywhere in WA’s beaches).
Great vanlife destinations in WA include Esperance, Shark Bay, Margaret River Region (great wine region with awesome surf spots), Exmouth, Monkey Mia, Jurien Bay, Cape Range National Park, Ningaloo Marine Park and Albany.
Our Top Pick: Esperance
Esperance has become a sort of paradise for tourists in WA. If you are looking for the most pristine white sandy beaches without too many people around, then you’ll find them in Esperance. It is in the southern part of WA and is an absolute gem.
Here’s all the trouble you can get into in Esperance:
- Cape Le Grand National Park: If you want to be treated to some of the best beaches in Australia – nay, the world – then Cape Le Grand National Park is a great spot. It hosts Lucky Beach, where you can relax on the beach, swim, surf and hang with some friendly kangas.
- Great Ocean Drive: If stunning coastal scenery is your thing, this 38km drive from Esperance town centre will make your day. If you have the energy, you can even walk or cycle to get up close and personal with Great Ocean Drive. It also has beaches along the way, where you can go for a swim or surf!
- Aerial view of Lake Hillier: Ask any local about Lake Hillier and they would recommend a helicopter tour over this “Pink Lake”.
- Esperance Grower’s Market: On each second Saturday, you can head on over to Esperance Scout Hall with your bag or basket for the Esperance Grower’s Market. You can snag yourself a couple of goodies grown, baked and handcrafted by locals!
The Northern Territory (NT) is the true Australian Outback. NT is most popular for its otherworldly landscapes, chilled-out locals and ancient Aboriginal history. Most of the adventure and beauty in NT is experienced driving into the dirt, so make sure your campervan is 4x4-enabled for the great journey ahead.
Must visit places in NT include Kakadu National Park, Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs, Finke Gorge National Park, West MacDonnell Ranges, Barkly Tableland, Adelaide River, Simpson Desert and Kings Canyon.
Before we mention our top pick, a special mention goes out to Darwin. You simply must experience the Parap Village Markets, as well as see the beautiful jaw-dropping sunset at Nightcliff Beach – a local secret.
Our Top Pick: Kakadu National Park
Here is a fun fact: did you know that most of the 1986 Australian classic, Crocodile Dundee, was filmed in Kakadu National Park? While you won’t be hunting crocodiles with your bare hands, there are plenty of things to do and see in Kakadu National Park.
Here are the most popular things to do (it’s recommended to go during the dry season, which is from June to August):
- Gunlom Waterfall Creek: Apart from being the perfect camping spot, you will also experience one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ve ever seen. Just climb the hill, enter the waterfall and give your eyes a treat.
- Nourlangie: Nourlangie has a circular walk that features Aboriginal paintings that tell generationals tales of the Aboriginals and their connection to the land. Also, Anbangbang Billabong has the most amazing view of Nourlangie.
- Jim Jim Falls: It is a challenging 4x4 drive to Jim Jim Falls, but it is one you won’t regret. The Barrk-Mariam Buswalk will give you the most stunning views of this 200m-tall waterfall surrounded by its beautiful foliage. There is even a camp nearby if you wish to take your time and stay the night.
- Maguk (Barramundi Gorge): The Maguk campground offers bush camping at its finest. And you can take a short walk to the serene and beautiful plunge pool and dive right in! A 4x4 campervan is required to make the trip.
- Yellow Water Billabong Cruise: With its picturesque sunrises and sunsets, it is no wonder Yellow Water Billabong is the most visited billabong in the area. There are plenty of cruises happening all day, so be sure to get one and sail across the billabong while being escorted by crocodiles and seeing the most amazing birdlife you’ve ever seen.
Southern Australia is a great place for Outback adventures filled with food and wine (we’ve heard good things about the wineries in Adelaide hills). On top of that, it is a journey where you will run into the cutest animals Aussie has to offer. It is a low-key vanlife destination, which is completely surprising since it is absolutely awesome!.
The best places to visit in Southern Australia include Kangaroo Island, Adelaide hills, Deep Creek Conservation Park, Coffin Bay National Park, McLaren Vale, Mount Remarkable and Yorke Peninsula.
Our Top Pick: Kangaroo Island
While the island is small, outdoor activities and exceptional wildlife, as well as food and wine await anyone who takes the trip to Kangaroo Island. You will need to take a ferry there, and since there are plenty of dirt roads, you’ll need a vehicle that is equipped and in good condition to handle them.
If you have rented a campervan, be very cautious when driving at night, as there is wildlife everywhere. Some rental companies will not insure you against this.
Here’s what Kangaroo Island has to offer:
- Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park: Apart from kangaroos, this park hosts over 150 species of Aussie’s native wildlife. From wombats to crocodiles, you can observe them all and interact with some of them.
- Vivonne Bay: One the most popular Australian beaches, Vivonne Bay is a popular surfing, fishing and sunbathing spot on Kangaroo Island. However, due to its chilly waters and strong undertow, swimming is not recommended.
- Food and Wine: The locals of Kangaroo Island are known for creating some of the best gourmet experiences that delight the taste buds and can be washed down with some of the best and locally-produced wine.
- National Park Tour: With seven national parks on Kangaroo Island, a national park tour is recommended. You will marvel at just how well-preserved Australia’s nature is on this island. Start with Flinders Chase National Park (see some wild Koalas and the “Remarkable Rocks” – nature’s abstract masterpiece) and work your way to Cape Willoughby Conservation Park.
- Little Sahara: Water is not the only thing you can surf on Kangaroo Island! The huge dunes of Little Sahara beg you to go sand boarding.
Victoria’s draw for vanlifer’s is its abundant greenery – thanks to its cooler climate. Also, its coastlines are rugged and perfect for scenic drives, the national parks are leafy, the campsites are refreshing and the food and wine scene is sensational. In short, Victoria begs to be explored and tasted!
We recommend the following destinations on your vanlife tour of Victoria: Mornington Peninsula, Alpine National Park, Grampians National Park, Healesville Sanctuary, Carlton Gardens, Phillip Island, Great Otway National Park and Torquay.
Our Top Pick: Mornington Peninsula
Mornington Peninsula is only 45km (about an hours drive) away from Melbourne and a must-visit vanlife destination in Victoria. What awaits you in Mornington Peninsula? Plenty of outdoor adventures, fresh air, relaxation, delicious local cuisine and superb wine.
- Mornington Peninsula National Park: In Mornington Peninsula National Park, Victoria’s rugged coastline comes alive. It houses the famous and picturesque Cape Schanck Lighthouse and Pulpit Rock and also has plenty of beaches for surfing fun. We recommend the 26km Coastal Walk to experience the best Mornington Peninsula National Park has to offer.
- Restaurant Tour: The restaurants in Mornington Peninsula offer the best and savoury local cuisine while overlooking the peninsula’s gorgeous waterscape. Try out the Mediterranian-style seafood at Max’s Restaurant.
- Wine Tour: Delicious meals go well together with wine, and Mornington Peninsula has an exquisite wine region that you can sample your way through. Try out Polperro Winery and thank us later!
- Bushrangers Bay Rock Pool: If you fancy a swim, Bushrangers Bay Rock Pool is a great place. It also offers stunning views of the volcanic coastline. You have to take a 40-minute walk on a dirt road to get there from the Bushrangers Bay Parking Area, but you will have no regrets.
Penguin Parade: Phillip Island is not far from Mornington Peninsula. You can ferry there to catch the spectacular and natural phenomenon that is the Penguin Parade. This is where thousands of these little waddling birds emerge from the sea at sunset every day and make their way to their burrows.
Well there it is