Tasmania free camps close … but at what cost?

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Tasmania free camping area
A dying breed ... a free camping area in Tasmania

The debate over free camping in Tasmania continues to gather pace – and ferocity – in Tasmania and elsewhere across Australia.

Since Tassie’s Meander Valley Council last month voted to ban free camping on all its reserves, the potential negative impact of the move has not been lost on many local businesses.

The authority in the north of the state originally decided that it would not allow camping on “parklands, sports fields, reserves, council land provided, or managed, by the council for the purpose of recreation”.

This came about because the 2012 Review of Council Recreational Vehicle Overnight Camping Services dictated it was illegal for councils to allow free camping on council-owned land, and that a council must “price its services to reflect costs”.

Meander Valley mayor Craig Perkins said the council had a legal responsibility to ban free camping.

“We aren’t able to provide free overnight camping – we have to apply a cost recovery model otherwise we’re in breach of the law,” he said. “You might want to thumb your nose at the law, but we have a responsibility to uphold it.”

A number of private caravan park owners in the area had previously been upset at the amount of people camping at the Bracknell Reserve and the Deloraine Racecourse.

However, in the weeks since the original banning decision was made, there have already been serious concerns raised by businesses about the impact the camping restrictions could have on the local economy.

“There was a strong view from many councillors that overnight camping provides economic value to rural towns, but at the same time we had to acknowledge the current legal arrangements,” said Crf Perkins. “We’ll consider whether we want to take this up with the government and question if we could have incidental overnight staying, that is low impact and low numbers and adds value to the town … there needs to be some flexibility in that arrangement.”

The council has now just passed a motion seeking a review of the existing policy and will submit a motion to the Local Government Association of Tasmania’s general meeting in March next year.

Meanwhile, the free camping crackdown has sparked a predictable response from many travellers.

In a letter to the Editor of the Advocate newspaper, Queensland motorhomer Leonard Patching, said he would be travelling in Tasmania for four to five months, was not a fan of caravan parks, but would still be spending money.

“I did not bring my van over on a row boat, nor does it run on fresh air, mechanics do not do repairs for free, or shops generously provide free food,” he wrote. “And restaurants are happy to accept my monies, as are local attractions, gift and coffee shops and all other shops generally.”

And, he had a blunt message to Tasmania tourism authorities if free campsites continued to close.

“Rest assured,” he wrote. “Me, and many like me, will not return.”

  • How have you found free camping in Tasmania? Are there less options than there used to be? Which is the best free camping state? Comment below.

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49 Responses to Tasmania free camps close … but at what cost?

  1. We plan to visit Tasmania for a few months in the not too distant future. We have been told how good the place is especially for free camping. This offsets the cost of getting your rig and vehicle over. Cut out free camping spots and that starts to makes the cost of travel to and around Tasmania expensive… I am sure it will make people think more about if they should do this.

    • I lived and worked on the west coast of tassie for 2 years. The biggest cost is getting over the water its soooo expensive. Have not been back since because of this. You can go a long way on the mainland in fuel for this cost. Cut out any free camps at all and you are stuck with poor quality caravan parks that you wont like. They don’t want or care about tourists.

    • I will be travelling around Australia soon and would like to see Tasmania. But if we can’t free camp that may have a big impact on whether we do Tassie or not as our pension dictates were we stay on top of the cost of getting the car and caravan over there .we are not self funded retirees.

  2. Haven’t been to Tasmania and it’s unlikely I will bother to go. Actually overseas holidays are looking more attractive than travelling around Australia.

  3. We toured Tassie for three weeks, and were so impressed with the number and nature of the free camping areas that we returned for another three months. We have plans for another three months touring the island, but if they rub our the free camps, they will rub out this couple as tourists I am afraid.

  4. I free camp and therefore spend more money in local town businesses rather than the Caravan Parks, that more than often overprice their basic services. I will not even contemplate a caravan visit to Tasmania if it is turning to be RV unfriendly. There are many, many other places to visit on the Mainland that support grey Nomads.

  5. We just don’t like spending much time in caravan parks and like an open space. Might just drive over for 10 days or so, stay with friends and
    b & b’s and leave the van on the mainland.

  6. One of the main industries in tassie is the tourism industry, without it their economy will suffer dramatically. Many, many tourists expend significant monies just getting there, and if they now need to spend another significant amount staying in CPs, then many will go elsewhere and not go to Tassie at all. Short sighted policies like the one banning free camping will destroy many small business operators in tassie who by and large depend on the nomads purse strings, then you have the major operators like the ‘spirit’. Why oh why is tassie shooting themselves in the foot, when they need as many of us to visit tassie as possible. I am arriving in tassie for three months from mid feb 18 with my caravan, I may as well leave it in my brothers back yard ( in tassie) and take day trips, not spending my hard earned in CPs, restaurants, or local economies around the free camps. How bloody ridiculous.

  7. Whoever wrote this article is so incorrect with the facts, only one free camp is closing due to The Economic Regulator deeming it too close to a free hold caravan park. T put this out there is scare mongering and you should be ashamed of you Journalistic skills or lack of….

  8. So I take it that councils are therefor obliged to charge people for providing them a public toilet to use, and for a parking spot outside the toilet or anywhere else. All driven by local caravan parks complaining. They fail to realise that people who prefer to free camp will NEVER use caravan parks regardless.

  9. I spend time in caravan parks as well as free camping. It defrays the overall cost allowing me to travel longer and spend more on other things, like attractions, coffee shops, restaurants, fuel, etc. I also have an income stream from investments, but it is small so I can afford to spend money, but not all at once, over a short period of time. I would have to save up for the crossing but then would want to stay in Tassie for an extended period of time. No free camps… then this little black duck won’t be going. PS on my last visit the Caravan Parks in Tasmania were, in general poor, especially west coast. Small sites, only adequate amenities.

  10. As a pensioner monies spent on caravan parks leaves less to be spent in towns. Was looking forward to going back to Tassy but will now consider if it is worth it.

  11. Many of caravan parks in Tas and all other states are not up the standards
    Carravanners now expect particularly as the Rigs travelling today are much larger than 20 to 30 years back with the result that parking them in these parks presents many difficulties also the Vans today come with all mod cons. Showers Toilets etc etc hence the preference for free camping and off road camping

  12. Meander businesses will be the ones to suffer, our local council !Glamorgan Spring Bay welcomes people to Triabunna where there is two great free camps right in the middle of town
    It’s amazing how different councils have different views, in our councils latest news letter it states that it has had legal advise that it cannot police RVs (self contained) from stopping in its areas apparently the law requires a delegated officer in the area where the vechile should are stopped, it also states that the only thing council has jurisdiction over is if there is a public health issue which there needs to be clear evidence of
    Finally, no more trips to Bracknell around Agfest time and free camping and spending money in the town, there loss

  13. The short sightedness will have a long term consequence. I have been a grey nomad for some years now. I keep financial records of my trips and included every cent that is spent. I can tell you that I spend in the vicinity of $140/day on my travels on the main land. I do big kilometres and therefore my fuel cost have a considerable impact on the overall cost. I can also tell you that even with the free camping that I experienced in Tasmania, my daily expenses was around the same however the cost of travel to the island had a considerable impact on my cost, but I would, and intended to re visit this wonderful part of Australia because the expense of getting there was compensated by the free camping that I was able to enjoy. If the removal of free camping continues, Tasmania will soon be like the northern towns of Western Australia. They too stopped looking after the tourist and the tourists stopped going to the towns. Now those towns say they have changed, please come back they say. The grey nomads don’t forget. Everyone loses in this argument. Don’t be short sighted Tasmania. Isolate yourself from the mainland even more and your isolation will be amplified in the high cost to your businesses

  14. If the coucil must charge for legal reasons then charge a token fee, $1 a night. These moves are instigated by caravan park owners. I detest caravan parks, they are cramped, noisy and overpriced and I would rather spread my money around many local businesses not just the park. Looks like Tassie is off the list.

  15. Some 10+ years ago, we took our car across to Tassie (van left on mainland) for driving holiday, expecting to blend B&B, CP Cabins & On-Site Vans.
    It was an extremely difficult holiday, spending too much time trying to find suitable accomodation, with very little available, most too expensive and CP choices generally of a very poor quality.
    Two weeks later, despite finding the state history & beauty great we returned to the mainland early.
    Friends who have afew times had extended stays “free camping” Tassie have raved about it and Tassie, such that several of us considering a convoy group 2+ month free camp caravan holiday ..but already talk is to cancel it, if free camping options lbeing limited or removed.
    Tassie Tourism & Govt need to resolve these issues urgently, otherwise think the impact on local towns/business will be harsh !

  16. We agree with these fellow travelers. If you cut out the freedom camping we will not be coming over to visit your island. When we come over we spend 3 months touring around spending money in the local community as we go if you cut out the free camps this would no longer be possible. We want to set up camp in what we call natural surroundings not cramped in a caravan park with the only view another caravan we might as well pull up in a caracan sales yard. Most of us have our own facilities on board including waste holding tanks this is what the modern caravans are made for now FREEDOM CAMPING your businesses will feel the impact if you cut out the free camps. Last time we came one of your towns had closed their free camp so we spent NO MONEY here we moved on to the next one. We know of other towns in QLD who closed their free camp only to open it up again as the town shops were loosing so much business. THINK REAL HARD BEFORE YOU MAKE A DECISION AND WHAT THE COST WILL BE. Allison

  17. I can’t imagine anyone would object to a low basic fee like $5/night to offset maintenance costs. I agree that this sounds a bit like scaremongering rather than accurate info & logical solutions.

  18. I have travelled free camping with my very unwell brother to show his children the sights and history it was fantastic i would love to return and do it again with my family as my brother is not here anymore but will not be able to do this from the mainland as well as pay for accommodation every night i enjoyed spending money on the red and yellow boats and the tree tops adventure etc etc hope i can afford to come back and do this as life is short

  19. I dont mind paying a couple dollars in free camps. Someone has to clean ammenities and mow the grass etc. They should be low cost camp sites not free camps

  20. Well for a start the land is not owned by the council it is owned by the ratepayers of the area and it would be shame for the small businesses to miss out on tourist dollars because of council greed

    • I agree it is owned by the rate payers, and rate payers also meet cost of cleaning up after you . Toilets garbage and water. You use free dumps, refill water tanks at our expense. We also pay for every lite of water used at our residence so a charge of $5 per night is not unreasonable, and we love you to enjoy oour beautiful state, as we do the North Island of Australia, but I think the morale to this is nothing is free. User pays

  21. I am a pensioner who has been over to Tas 10 or more times over the last 15 yrs, love the people & the scenery. I have always been a tent man who spends a fair amount of money there & CANNOT afford caravan parks with their restrictions & charges. There are not as many places for tenting as for R/Tv’s & motor homes,, & consequently I have to give some places a miss. If free camping spots are restricted I will ( reluctantly) curtail further trips there, as will God only knows how many thousands more., to the huge losses to a state that depends on tourist dollars.Get your act together Tas, don’t restrict free campsites, create them.!!

  22. I always spend one or two weeks in Tasmania every year using a mix of free caping and van parks and this sort of local attitude makes me stay away from those areas, I guess to the detriment of the local businesses

  23. I was coming over in the next few months , but now will not be coming , Free camping people spend lots of money in you towns so like me you lose out

  24. We travelled through Tasmania during February, March & April 2017 with 28 days of each month free camping in different locations during our fantastic trip.
    Whenever we free camp we try to give extra back to the community by visiting Hotels, Restaurants, Coffe shops, Shows and especially tourist attractions that we couldn’t afford if we stayed in caravan parks.
    We spent a good deal of money in Tasmania during the 3 month stay crisscrossing from 1 beautiful place to the next and this was our 2nd trip.
    The caravan park model generally doesn’t suit Grey Nomads and is aimed rightly so at the Family travellers but we need suitable affordable sites with basic requirements and the personal safety of numbers.
    Without the freecamping possibilities we will not be coming back or rating travel in Tasmania as the best.
    Col & Jenny Catterall
    p.s. You may pass our concerns on to any interested Tasmanian authority.

  25. We spent 5 weeks in Tassie in 2011 using free & low cost camping.We are planning to go again in 2019 but for a longer stay.If the availability of free & low cost camping is going to be reduced then we definetly won’t be returning.

  26. Cut out free camping and you won’t need the new Spiris. In fact you will be lucky to need one.

  27. My wife and I had planned to tour Tassie for 3 months beginning February next year and have spent considerable monies setting up our van so we could enjoy the free camping the apple isle is renowned for. If these shortsighted councils are going to restrict or stop this then we will not be coming, like all grey nomads our budgets won’t cover the cost of the ferry as well as caravan parks. Looks like we will be spending our money on the mainland. Macca

  28. I have been twice to Tasmania with my ‘van, last time in 2006. We were going again in 2018, but because of the “No camping” areas we will not be spending the $2000 on the ferry, or the 3 to 4 months of fuel, food and other tourist things. We will travel on the “Big Island”. Tassie is a great place but for someone from QLD it is expensive to tour there.

  29. We are staying at Westbury at the moment which is in the council area you are talking about. We have been shopping in the town and most of the businesses have a sign in there window saying they support fee camping in their town. We are finding it hard to find free or low cost camping in Tassie. We have a bus & trailer and can’t fit into CP’s. There is a camp at Latrobe that charges $10 per night with water, toilets and dump point and the money is collected by the local school and a great fundraiser for them.This is a great idea and surely other councils could support local sports and other community groups to make money for their organisations. Also more of the Showgrounds could take advantage of the RV tourism dollar by providing lower cost camping like they do on the mainland.

  30. The council put paid to free camping at Stanley, and the town businesses have suffered. A great example of prosperity is St Helens, where you can free camp at most beaches for a MONTH. Beautiful beaches, terrific township, extremely friendly people(who welcome you). And Somerset is another town to consider.We have been here at St Helens for 2 weeks so far and spent around $1400 , this included liquid beverage, food, party lights for xmas, gas, fuel , newspapers, A couple of AGM batteries. BUT, the town is flourishing…………..Other townships need to look at this example for their local businesses sake……..NOT overnights, everyone has enough for an OVERNIGHT !!

  31. St Helens also has Motel, Caravan park and they survive nicely thank you.
    No greed in this town, all get a share of the travelling dollar !!!!!

  32. Wouldn’t it be better to give 10 businesses $100 each rather than !(ONE) caravan park owner $1000 ?????

  33. We where in Tasmania this year for 7 weeks February and March without the free camping we would not have been able to afford it. We were planning to visit again in a couple of years but not now if free camping no longer exists. We spent a great deal of money in Tasmania including service on the motor home, sightseeing, diesel, groceries and dining

  34. buying things in a shop does not justify exploiting the local communities. there is nothing free about camping particularly in the towns. water, rubbish disposal , sewage processing and maintaining public spaces is not free. every other resident and visitor covers these costs through either rates or as part of the tarrif on a motel room, site fee’s. most other travelers if not al,l would spend more in a community than a passer by in an rv or caravan. pay up if you want to stay in a town like everyother resident or visitor. Freeloading RV and caravan owners end up costing the community as they have to foot the bill for all the essential service needs. the rates collected as a portion of the claimed spending habits of an RVer only equates to a few cents ending up in council hands. where as the services used cost in the dollars per day. its a BS justification and is 100% wrong. even still the rates paid by the shop are supposed to be for that shops contribution not a collection from tight arsed RV owners.

    • Hey Local if this is the way you and Councils think we will take our hard earned $8k we have plan to spend including the $2k for the ferry to Tasmania as we have never been there and I think maybe why bother and go to New Zealand, Asia or a cruise for a month for the same money or just spend a lot less and stay on the big Island

  35. Looking to go over next year but have to spend $800 to get to island and $1500 from wa to Melbourne return dear trip If no free camping won’t go Wa in the north has got rid of free camping Caravan parks Average $50 powered a night $43 unpowered You are cutting you own throat.

  36. Looking to go over next year but have to spend $800 to get to island and $1500 from wa to Melbourne return dear trip If no free camping won’t go Wa in the north has got rid of free camping Caravan parks Average $50 powered a night $43 unpowered You are cutting you own throat.

  37. Was planning to go to Tassie February 2019 and take van. Cost from WA to Melbourne first off will cost, then $2000 to take van on Ferry. Does anyone know if there are enough free camps to make this possible. Would not be able to afford Caravan parks everywhere. If not enough free camps might have to rethink and go elsewhere. This was suppose to be long service trip which have been waiting for for a long time.

  38. I am a local Tassie ,apologies to our mainland travellers. Tell the councils to shove their sites and travel on the big island.We have far toomany councils inTassie ,where they are managed by rednecks with Tassie inbred mentality .Looking forward to a dismal tourist season next year .Tell em, to shove it !

  39. Can’t believe the decision to start close free camps in Tassie. Consider the cost of our mainland visitors getting their vehicles here and back $2000 approx. Then having to pay on average $50 a night for a caravan park. Generally mainlanders come for 2 to 3 months so that’s a lot of money spent before going to all the amazing places and attractions. So $6,500 just to come here before you start doing anything. If you stay on the mainland you can use all that money for fuel attraction and food and drink. Which would you choose? Exactly travel mainland. Government says we need tourism so this decision is a great way to loose a huge amount of tourist. May as well cancel all the new ferries they will be empty

    • Average of $50 may I enquire when and where you stayed that it averaged out at $50, mainland Aus but definitely not in Tasmania. Please use logic and truth in your argument not exaggerated prices or unsubstantiated ‘facts’

      • Being able to afford a 3 month holiday each year is nothing to sneeze at is it???…..I’d need to rent my house out while away to be able to afford that (and make a profit in the process) 😉

  40. We are heading to tassie early November travelling from wa but not taking van to tassie. Can someone please suggest a caravan park that lets one store van that is not too expensive. We will be in tassie for 1 month camping in a tent.

  41. Very shortsighted of Tasmania. I heard they also want to restrict free camps to 10%. That means you have to have nine caravan parks in a local government area before you are allowed one free camp. Don’t know any areas that even have nine van parks. This will be the end of free camping in Tasmania which of course is what the van park operators want. They had better sell a lot of vans in Tassie as I for one will not be paying to take my van over if I am forced to stay in caravan park. Too bad for the Spirit of Tasmania it will go broke, at least they can turn it into a floating hotel in the Derwent. Thank goodness I’ve already been there when sanity ruled so won’t go back if they bring in this policy..

  42. A great initiative to manage the ‘free camping’ situation – I just traveled up the east coast of Tasmania with a small caravan and just could not find a camp spot…two things were apparent – firstly the reticence of many who stayed in National Parks such as Friendly Beaches to pay pass fees and contribute to the maintenance of such areas (many willing to risk the ‘fine’ which is really the same as the pass fee). Secondly, the impact the sheer volume of traffic is having upon ‘free’ state reserve camping places and surrounds,,,,the Tas government just doesn’t have the resources to look after these areas and the degradation is become increasingly apparent…visitors need to be prepared to contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of these areas – the “i spend money elsewhere’ argument just doesn’t stack up – people are on holiday, it’s a privilege, not a right, and it costs…a small levy for each night’s accommodation is a small price to pay and reasonable expectation for visiting on holiday

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