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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
Location: 55 minutes Southwest of Wangaratta
Booking required? No
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!
What are your favourite free camping spots on the drive from Sydney to Melbourne?