Top Tassie free camps

By: Catherine Lawson, Photography by: David Bristow


Discover the best free camps on the Apple Isle.

Lake -Pedder

It’s easy to escape the crowds and get wild in Tasmania where blissfully blue coves, long deserted beaches and remote myrtle forests provide excellent free camping.

There are more free camps in this state than you could possibly experience in a single trip, making Tasmania nirvana for campers craving a little elbow room this summer.

EAST COAST TRIPPING

Camp in surprising seclusion, a stone’s throw from Tassie’s relaxed, rural seaside shores.

Mayfield Bay Coastal Reserve

Mayfield -Bay

Topping my list is this little beachside beauty where grassy camping nooks overlook Mayfield Bay and the white sand sweeps endlessly south past the 1845 convict-built Three Arch Bridge. It’s a shady spot with spacious campsites and grand views across Great Oyster Bay to Freycinet Peninsula.

There are toilets, fire places and some day-use picnic tables and, like most spots, on this coast, the relaxed conditions permit dogs on leads and free stays for up to four weeks. A donation box is in place to preserve the camp if you feel like dropping a few coins.

You’ll find the camp signposted off the Tasman Highway (A3), 15km south of Swansea and just south of another convict creation – the 1840s Spiky Bridge, which rates as one of the most distinctive in the state. If you stay, BYO water and firewood.

Lagoons Beach Conservation Area

Lagoons -Beach

This stunning beach discovered on our most recent trip is especially memorable for the pair of red capped plovers we spotted tending their two tiny speckled eggs in an unlikely nest scraped into the sand. Higher on the dunes among thick tufts of spinifex, pied oystercatchers followed suit, luring walkers away whenever they ventured too close to the nest’s location.

Stretching for about 7km along the coast, Lagoons Beach is a spacious camp, signposted off the A3 about 2km north of the St Marys’ turn-off. There’s plenty of shade, fireplaces and toilets and if the camp and its great salmon fishing keep you interested, you can stay for up to four weeks. Dogs are permitted but you’ll need to keep them tethered and away from nesting seabirds.

Freycinet’s friendly beaches

Freycinet -NP

To choose between Freycinet’s stellar camping grounds is like having to decide whether I love beaches more than mountains, but the clincher here is that only at the Friendly Beaches can you stay for free. Signposted 19km north of Coles Bay at Isaacs Point, this über welcoming free campground provides cosy nooks and open ground for bigger rigs, tucked into the coastal heath along one of the most bewitching beaches in the country.

Sea ravaged headlands of golden granite boulders tumble away into the sea, severing a seemingly endless ribbon of white silica sands. Translucent seas sway with great gardens of giant kelp, and powdery dunes offer vantage points for spotting whales if you happen to visit, as we did, in the lucky month of October. 

This gorgeous spot just begs to be explored, and while our friends enjoyed the beach fishing and even braved the chilly surf swell, we tackled long beach walks towards the Cape Tourville Lighthouse and spent the hours before dusk watching Bennett’s wallabies and wombats grazing around camp. Facilities are limited to hybrid, wheelchair-accessible toilets so you’ll need to bring drinking water and take away your rubbish. Due to its national park status no dogs or campfires are permitted, maximum stay is two weeks and national park entry fees of $24/vehicle apply for those travelling without a parks pass.

Bay of Fires

Bay -of -Fires

Rivalling Freycinet’s Friendly Beaches, this tri-coloured coastline of white sands, arcing blue coves and sea ravaged granite headlands ignited by the setting sun, is quite possibly the best camping area on the island. Discover this spot first and your itinerary will be blown to bits, because it’s just about impossible to move on from, and why would you?

Eight fantastic free campgrounds have been created on the shores of shimmering lagoons and wild, sunny beaches, atop weathered granite headlands and beside tiny, blue coves – all offering long stays and relaxed conditions.

With a boat ramp and grassy, free-range sites, Grants Lagoon campground is a hit with the anglers, boaties and paddlers, but on my recent visit, I made a beeline for the secluded, roomy camps at Jeanneret Beach.

Park your camper trailer here and enjoy long walks north along Swimcart Beach, where you can also set up camp. Cosy Corner has secluded and more spacious sites located at either end of the beach, and there are basic sites (no toilets) on both sides of the headland at Sloop Reef.

Past more campgrounds at Sloop Lagoon and Big Lagoon, take unsealed Fire Road to reach the isolated camp at Policemans Point, an idyllic spot with big, grassy sites at the mouth of Ansons Bay. Captain Tobias Furneaux named Bay of Fires for the indigenous campfires he spotted burning ashore as he sailed past in 1773.

TASSIE’S NORTH-WEST

Witness Tasmania’s wild side where nature thrives at full force.

Lake Rowallan Bridge

Lake -Rowallan

From lofty heights on Tassie’s Central Plateau, the Mersey River drops through World Heritage-listed wilderness, carving its secluded, steep-sided valley before ebbing away to the north. Since the 1960s hydro-electricity dams have harnessed the Mersey’s once wild flow that pools as Lakes Parangana and Rowallan, a favourite spot for angling and paddling with free camping permitted along its western edge.

Mersey White Water Forest Reserve throws a protective border around this riverside haven, named because the water surging between the lakes can be cranked up to thrill white water kayakers. But the calm waters that back up behind the dam walls are the domain of anglers who visit from August to April to test their skills against stocks of annually replenished rainbow trout.

To reach Lake Rowallan Bridge camp head 15km west of Mole Creek (B12), turn south just before Liena and after 6km take the Mersey Forest Road and continue to Lake Rowallan Bridge. The camp provides toilets and permits pets and there’s a boat ramp on the lake’s eastern side.

Hall Point

Hall -Point

I’d travel to watch wild penguins, but the nocturnal wildlife spectacle at this beach takes place just metres from camp. On Tassie’s northwest coast, penguins breed from October, tending eggs soon after and raising chicks that peep after nightfall as parents tumble in surf, bellies full with fish to share.

Flanked by long stretches of sand, Hall Point is lovely but has no facilities so come self-contained. It is 10km east of Burnie and if you are travelling with a dog, continue east to the nearby surf lifesaving club. There’s a 48-hour limit but no camping fees are charged.

AROUND LAUNCESTON

Marvel at mountain vistas and majestic old growth forest unique to this semi-rural region.

Liffey River Camp

Liffey -River -Camp

Protecting an amazing habitat for Tasmanian devils, bandicoots and pygmy possums, echidnas and potoroos, bettongs and wallabies, the Liffey River Reserve is a surprising patch of World Heritage-listed wilderness, located south of Deloraine at the foot of Drys Bluff.

Bob Brown saved this pristine patch of riparian rainforest and sclerophyll forest when he outbid loggers to buy the land at auction and gifted it to back to Bush Heritage Australia. Today, the reserve safeguards traditional Indigenous meeting places and is a really magnificent place to breathe in the forest and spend time walking beneath towering king ferns that flank the Liffey River.

The river’s trio of waterfalls is accessible in a 2-3 hour return stroll from the campground, which provides picnic tables and firepits. There’s more walking alongside Pages Creek through stands of sassafras, myrtle and blackwood too. To access the campground, head west of Launceston, turn off the highway at Carrick and take the signposted turns to Bracknell and Liffey River.

Ben Lomond National Park

Ben -Lomond -NP

A forecast for snow had us bound for Ben Lomond, tackling the daring drive up Jacobs Ladder along a road precariously etched into the side of Tasmania’s second highest cluster of peaks. From the ski village nestled beneath Legges Tor (1572m), we leapfrogged up sodden summertime slopes, climbing to a chilly patch of old snow for our child’s first snowball fight.

After thoroughly soaking ourselves we retreated off the mountain to the free bush campground on Ben Lomond’s lower flanks to stoke a roaring campfire that left us as toasty as our marshmallows. The six spacious campsites here provide ample space for camper trailers and motorhomes, and there’s a shelter shed with picnic tables, toilets and fireplaces (with wood provided, too).

Located around 50km form Launceston, Ben Lomond’s camp is a great find. You’ll need a national parks pass to stay (or simply pay the $24 entry fee on arrival) and bring drinking water.

THE GREAT SOUTH-WEST

Kick back and enjoy all the spoils this near untouched wilderness has to offer.

Edgar Dam

Edgar -Dam

Gazing out across Lake Peddar, it’s impossible to fathom what this monstrous waterway must once have looked like before its controversial drowning that swamped pink quartzite beaches and reduced towering peaks to islands. The damming of the Huon and Serpentine rivers swelled Lake Peddar to an astonishing 242 sq km and, on its banks, Edgar Dam campground is a faraway basecamp for watery adventures.

It’s also a great place to stoke a campfire to ward off the famously chilly southwest weather and enjoy the pademelons that graze around camp. You’ll find it 155km from Hobart, nestled beneath stark, serrated quartzite peaks with ominous summits and exposed ridgelines. Excellent facilities include two big shelter sheds, picnic tables, fireplaces, rainwater tanks, composting wheelchair-accessible toilets, rubbish bins, a boat ramp and firewood too (no pets).

There are no camping fees or time limits on stays, but entry requires Tasmania National Park’s pass. To reach Edgar Dam head west of Mt Field National Park, turn off Strathgordon Road 30km west of Maydena (the last stop of fuel) and follow Scotts Peak Road 35km to the lake.

Check out the full feature in issue #109 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.