Two great free camping spots between Melbourne and Sydney

I recently got to discover two great free camping spots on a trip in the Club 4X4 Mobile HQ GU Patrol to Melbourne.  I was headed South to support our friends at Darche for the opening of their first retail store.  Having been away a lot for work over the proceeding weeks, the boss agreed to let me have a few days in lieu and take the family.

At the last minute, plans to have our dog looked after fell through, so blankets were put down and we squeezed him in too.  Little did I realise the challenges that attempting to keep on top of work, plus travel with kids, and have a dog in tow would bring (but that’s a story in itself).

Heading from Sydney, and with family in tow, I knew that I’d need to allow a few days to do the drive.  And now with the dog, I had to rule out the plans I had to stay in National Parks along the way…

What better way to travel than do some free camping then?  I estimated that I’d need to allow a little extra travel time with the family in tow, so I planned on travelling 3.5-4 hours per day.

With that in mind, I researched what I could find at those sort of distances, and we hit the road. I chose to Free Camp at the Jugiong showground the first night, and James Reserve the second.

Jugiong Showground

View of Jugiong Showground at dusk

Jugiong is a very small place, nestled off the side of the Freeway about 3 ½ hours South West of Sydney. It is the perfect place for your first night away because it is far enough away that you can eat into the trip south, but close enough that you can leave on a Friday afternoon and be setting up camp before dusk.  And for the first night away in a while, that makes it perfect for the shakeout as you re-familiarise yourself with the setup, work out if you’ve forgotten anything, and re-pack everything so it is more practical for the needs of the trip after rushing out the door.

Setting up Camp…

Kids playing as the sunsets

Location: 3 ½ hrs Southwest of Sydney

Booking required? No

Cost: Free (donation box provided to support amenities)

Nearest Town: Jugiong (shops almost across the road).

View of local shops from the Showground

Nearest Fuel: Fuel station approx. 1.4km East of the Showground.

Fires Allowed: No

Pets allowed: Yes (on leash)

Amenities: – Toilet block, BBQ’s, Playground, Picnic area

Water: Limited.  Recommend you bring your own

Jugiong showground is very tidy.  There is plenty of open space to setup camp, as well as some tree cover if you prefer shade.

Toilets are well maintained.  There are picnic tables and also BBQ’s if you wish to use them.

Toilets were well maintained

BBQ’s and picnic facilities


There is also some fascinating history relating to days of Bushrangers, which you can read about.  The campground is by the Murumbidgee River if you are keen to throw a line in.

The only downside to the experience is the fact that you can hear noise from the freeway.  Its probably enough to notice if you are sleeping in a tent, but wouldn’t bother you if you are in a van.

Living the camping dream!



James Campground

Entrance to James Reserve…

When looking for night two to stay, the shire of Wangaratta was high on the list because it wasn’t too long a drive with the family, and it had an abundance of Free Camping spots.  I wanted one that was a little bit out of the way, and that allowed dogs!

The kids loved the Darche Rooftop tent!

James Campground fitted the spot perfectly.  And it didn’t disappoint.  About an hour out of Wangaratta itself, James Campground boasts clean and tidy long drop toilets, had timber and fire pits already there, and was right by a creek.

Toilet facilities

Pre-prepared fire pits!

Location: 55 minutes Southwest of Wangaratta

Booking required? No

Cost: Free

Nearest town: Benalla to the North or Mansfield to the South for supermarkets. Both about 30 min drive.

Nearest fuel: Liberty Fuel at Swanpool, Approximately 15km NNE.

Pets allowed? Yes (on leash)

Fires allowed? Yes – timber was available there too (unsure who had left it)

Amenities: Long drop toilet (there was toilet paper but I’d recommend brining a few rolls anyway)

Water: No – you could collect and boil water from the creek, but levels were pretty low when we were there

A little more remote than our first night, James Campground really made us feel like we had gotten away from it all. A much needed break for the family, and brilliant time together!

My daughter ‘taking a picture’ of me

The family! We cooked Chicken pesto pasta that night, and it tasted so much better than it does at home…

What are your favourite free camping spots on the drive from Sydney to Melbourne?


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Comments 12

  1. Great read, lovely places to stay i have written them down for when i get down that way. Maybe when the weather’s warmer. Regards Len Pearson.

  2. You didn’t mention that at Jugiong is an excellent old/new pub directly across the road from the camp ground. The Sir George is excellent and has great food. Or you can try the Long Track Cafe. Also directly across the road!!

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      To be honest Bill,I didn’t stop in at the Pub because we had a dog in tow. Thanks for giving the Sir George a plug – I’ll be sure to stop in for a meal on the next trip given your recommendation…

  3. very good I always looking for free overnight parking when I travel with my wife and dog going to Melbourne, but is it safe ?

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    2. Hi Gerd
      I am a local to the area and yes it would be a safe place to stay as there are people staying there every night of the week. (Grey nomads)

  4. Please … with all that Jugiong has to offer: a lovely clean toilet block, BBQ’s, a playground for the kids and a picnic area – please don’t say it’s “free”. In order to support the local communities we need to ensure we put some money into the donation box. We cannot expect to have such wonderful facilities free. Someone cleans those toilets. If everyone supports these places, maybe more little towns will support us and provide these beautiful spaces for us to “free camp”.

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      I did state that there was a donation box and even put a photo of it in the article. I personally left money in the donation box too. I’ll keep this in mind though and update the page details for you to reflect your sentiment. Thanks for the feedback.

    2. I personally think everyone should donate a couple of dollars, for the upkeep of these “freedom camps”.
      Who wants to use dirty toilets?

  5. Great, finally a bit of info about travelling around our great country without having to cross twenty creeks, do ten hill climbs and break my rig. Im very happy to go off road, and have been doing it for 40 years, without having to call a recovery crew. My rig is used to travel and thats what I (and my family love) would love to get a bit more info on family fishing spots it the Alpine regions. Great work team.

  6. Excellent article. Another free camp we can recommend is the Gunning Barbour Park Rest Area, obviously in Gunning. We tow a 20 foot caravan and found the site large enough to accomodate it. There are hot showers open 24 hours with toilet facilities. From what I can remember, drinking water is available at the site. There is a service station/ local general store 5 mins walk away at entry to site with the pub just up the road. The meals are good value, tasty as well as well priced. A donation can be left at the service station or just support the local businesses. If the site is full, the local showground, also free I believe, is the overflow option.

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