We’re exploring Australia in a campervan, so we spend our nights at campsites instead of hotels or hostels. It’s our first time travelling like this, and I have to say I was quite surprised how well equipped and clean (most) campsites in Australia are. However, in the Outback the quality of the campsites seemed to decrease in comparison with the coastal areas. In this blogpost we discuss our experiences with campsites in the Outback. Features or services we deem important are clean amenities and a WiFi connection (preferably unlimited, free, and fast), which are both hard to find in the Outback. Shade on your site is always a plus, especially in hot areas, and a pool is nice as well. We’ve categorized the campsites in the Outback we stayed at according to our degree of satisfaction. The order in each category is random.
As we’d be spending three months on campsites in Australia, we decided to become member of two different campsite networks. Joining the BIG4 Loyalty Club cost us $50 for 2 years, granting a 10% discount (up to $40) on all bookings. For $40 you can buy a Family Parks Membership Card valid for 2 years, granting a 10% discount (up to $20 on sites and $40 on cabins) on all bookings. Both of these memberships are valid on a number of campsites in New Zealand as well, our next stop. A Top Parks Membership Card (used to be Top Tourist Parks) is included in the rental of our Spaceships campervan, good for a 10% discount (up to $40) on all bookings as well. If you were to buy this membership yourself, it would be $40 for 2 years, similar to the others.
Note that prices are in Australian Dollar and can vary depending on the time of the year you visit. We were in the Outback in March 2016.
Our favourite campsites in the Outback
WiFi is apparently not a service that seems to be on offer in most campsites in the Australian Outback, so we didn’t take this into account for our rating. The following campsites have clean amenities, a decent kitchen, and a nice pool. These are campsites we highly recommend when looking for a campsite in the area.
Oasis Tourist Park
- Price: powered site, 2 nights, $54 ($27 per night, including 10% discount as a FamilyParks member)
- WiFi: 300MB for free, quite fast
- Amenities: nice and clean, need code to enter, $0.20 per 3 minutes for the shower
- Friendliness of staff: very friendly
- Entertainment: television and game room, pool
- Location: Coober Pedy is like you’re on another planet, read more in another one of our blogposts
- Laundry room: washing machines $5 per load, dryers $4 per load ($1 and $2 coins), ironing board and iron, clothes line
- Camp kitchen: clean (2 gas cookers ($0.20 per 8 minutes), barbecues (barbies, $1 for 25 minutes), 2 microwaves, electric kettle, toaster, sink, fridge and small freezer, no cooking and eating utensils)
The first stop on our road trip through the Outback was Coober Pedy, where we stayed at Oasis Tourist Park. As you may or may not know, the Australian Outback is a very hot place. The sun shines relentlessly, all day long. No clouds, barely any wind, so we couldn’t be happier with a covered site at Oasis Tourist Park, granting us some shade. We got a warm welcome from the friendly owner. He was very helpful, telling us about the nearby supermarket, the petrol station, and where to be when we had problems with our car/campervan. He informed us the main gates would close at night, told us about the drive-in movie that was on that day and gave us a discount voucher of the fifth best, at least according to TripAdvisor, pizzeria in Australia. If you’d like to read more about the drive-in movie, the pizzeria, or other things to do in Coober Pedy, we refer you to another one of our blogposts.
The campsite is quite small, but has everything you need. Apart from the shaded sites, there’s a covered pool as well, where you can get out of the blistering hot sun and enjoy a refreshing dip. The amenities were nice and clean, but you need to pay for the water to shower: $0.20 per 3 minutes. Not an inconceivable matter, as water tends to be precious in the desert in the middle of nowhere. The camp kitchen is decent, but there are no tables and you have to pay $0.20 per 8 minutes to use the gas cookers. The barbecues are in a covered area away from the camp kitchen, and cost $1 per 25 minutes. There are a couple of picnic tables, a sink, and recycling bins. At the reception you can buy souvenirs and drinks, and there’s a vending machine as well. WiFi is available and quite fast all around the campsite, but unfortunately usage is limited. You’ll get one login and password, valid for 300MB, which can be used on three devices. If you need more, you can buy it.Go to Oasis Tourist Park
BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park
- Price: powered site, 3 nights, $113.40 ($37.80 per night, including 10% discount as a BIG4 Loyalty Club member)
- WiFi: a limited amount is free and it’s not quite fast
- Amenities: clean, but hot
- Friendliness of staff: not overly friendly
- Entertainment: television and recreation room, go karts hire, pool with slide, children’s playground next to camp kitchen
- Location: Alice Springs, see another one of our blogposts about what to do here
- Laundry room: washing machines 4 x $1 per load, dryers, clothes line
- Camp kitchen: clean (cooking fire, barbecues (barbies), microwave, electric kettle, toaster, sinks, fridge and freezer, no cooking and eating utensils)
After about a week in the middle of nowhere, we finally arrived back in a real city: Alice Springs. We stayed at BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park for three nights, exploring the neighbourhood. We’ve had friendlier welcomes, but we received all the information we needed. There’s quite a large shop at the reception, selling some basic groceries and lots of souvenirs. We did our grocery shopping at the nearby Woolworths, which is about a 10 minute drive away. The campgrounds have to be entered through a boom gate by scanning a card. The camp kitchen has lots of picnic tables, but only a few cooking fires. There are recycling bins and a small herb garden as well. We loved the free pancake breakfast on Sunday morning. You get a name tag, queue for a pancake or three, choose the topping of your liking and sit down to enjoy your Sunday morning.Go to BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park
Average campsites in the Outback
These campsites were nice, but had some flaws. The amenities weren’t that clean, or there was no or a very small kitchen. We were satisfied with our stay, but maybe it’s possible to find a better campsite in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, in the Outback, there’s often only one campsite in the neighbourhood, so you don’t have much of a choice.
Ayers Rock Campground
- Price: powered site, 3 nights, $88 ($29.34 per night, special rate at the time: stay 3 nights, pay 2, different prices and promotions depending on when you visit, check their website)
- WiFi: no free WiFi, we paid $20 for 3 days unlimited WiFi for 1 device
- Amenities: not really clean, feels like they’re neglected in comparison to the rest of the resort
- Friendliness of staff: friendly
- Entertainment: pool, volleyball court, children’s playground, giant chess
- Location: next to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
- Laundry room: washing machines and dryers, each 4 x $1 per load
- Camp kitchen: none, only barbies underneath shelters
After a great morning hike at Kings Canyon, we arrived at Ayers Rock Campground in the afternoon. Finally it was time to explore the most famous landmark of Australia: Uluru, the big red rock in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival we received a nice map of the Ayers Rock Campground, one of Ayers Rock Resort, and one of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park next door. This included information about the different walking tracks throughout the national park and the park rules of the resort. Ayers Rock Campground is only a small part of Ayers Rock Resort, which is basically a town. It has a Town Square with a supermarket, an ATM, a post office, specialty shops, and a tour and information centre. There’s a fire station, a police station, a petrol station, and a medical centre. Different restaurants and take-out places cater to the various tastes and budgets of the truckloads of tourists coming out to see the natural wonder named Uluru. There’s even public transport: a free shuttle bus driving around the resort every 20 minutes to take you from the campground to the supermarket for example.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is of course the main thing to do in a radius of hundreds of kilometers. Nevertheless, you won’t get bored in the resort either. There are several lookouts, a camel farm, art galleries, a tennis court, a spa, you name it! Each type of accommodation in the resort has its own pool, but you’re allowed to swim in whichever pool you feel like. For dinner we tried the Outback Pioneer BBQ and Bar, and Ayers Wok Noodle Bar (clever name, right?). At the Outback Pioneer BBQ and Bar you get to choose you’re meat, cook it yourself on the barbies provided, fill your plate with sides from the buffet, and enjoy all this on the picnic tables in the bar. We had the prawn skewers and porterhouse steak ($26.90 each), which were quite good. Brecht tried a kangaroo skewer ($7) as well, which reminded him of steak. The buffet could have been better and it was really noisy in the bar, but overall we were satisfied with our dinner.
On another night we got take-out from Ayers Wok Noodle Bar, which made for a much cheaper meal. We ordered sweet and sour chicken with rice ($16) and sweet and sour prawns with rice ($16). Unfortunately, when we got back at the campervan, we discovered we got Pad Thai instead of the prawn dish. It wasn’t bad, but we’ve had better. There’s a well-stocked supermarket in the resort and at the reception of the Ayers Rock Campground is a little shop as well, selling ice cream and a range of grocery items. I loved the Frozen Fanta they sell there for $3, so heavenly refreshing in the extremely hot weather in the Outback. Our favourite place to escape the heat was the pool and the picnic tables in the shade near the pool. On the powered sites there is unfortunately no shade to be found, so we tried to spend a minimal amount of time there. We did had a lot of ants and flies, but that seems to be inevitable in the Outback.Go to Ayers Rock Campground
Sunset Top Tourist Park
- Price: powered site, 1 night, $29.70 (including 10% discount as a Top Parks member)
- WiFi: $5 for 24h, didn’t try it
- Amenities: more or less clean
- Friendliness of staff: friendly
- Entertainment: pool, children’s playground
- Location: Mount Isa, only went to the Mount Isa Lookout
- Laundry room: didn’t go in there, but there was one, as well as a clothes line
- Camp kitchen: nice and clean (cooking fire, oven, barbecues (barbies), microwave, electric kettle, toaster, sink, fridge and freezer, limited cooking utensils)
The second of three stops on our way from Alice Springs to Townsville was at Mount Isa, where we stayed at Sunset Top Tourist Park for one night. The lady at the reception was very friendly. She told us to pick any site we liked, as it wasn’t busy. We found a nice spot in the shade, with just a few ants. There were a few grasshoppers on the campsite as well, but nothing compared to Tennant Creek Caravan Park. They didn’t torment the camp kitchen either, so we had a nice and quiet dinner at the picnic tables. We did our grocery shopping at the Woolworths, a 3 minute drive from the campsite. There’s a Coles as well, or you can turn to the little shop at the reception ice cream, soft drinks, small portions of washing powder and pins.Go to Sunset Top Tourist Park
Lakeview Caravan Park
- Price: powered site, 1 night, $24
- WiFi: normally unlimited and free, but connection problems with Telstra that day
- Amenities: clean, need code to enter
- Friendliness of staff: very friendly
- Entertainment: television in camp kitchen
- Location: Richmond, next to Lake Fred Tritton
- Laundry room: washing machines and dryers, each 4 x $1 per load, ironing board and iron, clothes line
- Camp kitchen: very small and hot, but clean (cooking fire, microwave, electric kettle, toaster, sink, fridge and small freezer)
The third and last stopover on our way from Alice Springs to Townsville was at Richmond. We stayed for one night at Lakeview Caravan Park, the cheapest caravan park where we’ve stayed in three months in Australia. It’s owned by a very friendly older couple who gave us a warm welcome. They told us about things to see and do in the neighbourhood, which is not much. It seems they’re very proud on the Kronosaurus Korner, the marine fossil museum, though. Unfortunately we arrived a little too late to visit this museum, so instead we walked around Lake Fred Tritton, situated right next to the caravan park. It’s a nice walk, over a 1.2 km paved walking track, and there’s a children’s playground as well.
Normally there’s unlimited free WiFi available on the campsite, but there were connection problems with Telstra that day. Although we got a signal on our phone, which has a Telstra sim card, we didn’t get any internet connection either. It’s a very small town, so no Woolworths or Coles close by. At the reception they run a little shop selling ice cream and soft drinks. We didn’t do any laundry at Lakeview Caravan Park, because they warn about a possible discolouring of your clothes due to the usage of bore water. The camp kitchen is quite small and very hot, so we cooked on our camping fire on the picnic tables underneath a shelter. There are barbecues as well, and the area is lighted.Go to Lakeview Caravan Park
Campsites in the Outback we wouldn’t return to
These are campsites we wouldn’t return to, if we had a choice. For some it’s possible to skip them, for others that’s the only choice in the neighbourhood. Often the amenities weren’t clean at all, there wasn’t a camp kitchen, or in one particular case there was a grasshopper invasion.
- Price: powered site, 1 night, $32
- WiFi: not available
- Amenities: little old and not really clean
- Friendliness of staff: friendly
- Entertainment: pool, emu farm, small kangaroo reserve
- Location: nothing to do in area between Coober Pedy and Kings Canyon
- Laundry room: washing machines 5 x $1 per load, dryers 2 x $1 per load, no ironing board and iron, clothes line
- Camp kitchen: none, only barbecues and sink
On our way from Coober Pedy to Kings Canyon we spent the night at Erldunda Roadhouse, near the true centre of Australia. While checking in, the friendly guy at the reception showed us a map of the campgrounds and explained the things to do on the campsite: a pool, an emu enclosure, a kangaroo farm, and a sunset viewing platform. Outside of the campsite gates, which close at night, there’s nothing to see but desert. Apart form emus and kangaroos, there are lots and lots of ants and flies as well. Consider yourself warned, a fly net may look ridiculous, but it’s very effective.
We were told to pick whichever powered site we liked, as it was calm. Although we like a site close to the amenities, shade is way more important when you’re in the Australian Outback (in summer)! The amenities block was a little old and not really clean. The laundry room was even worse, with old dryers and dirty sinks. The pool wasn’t that clean either, but we took a refreshing dip anyway. For $2 you can feed the emus, but we had already met them up close and personal at the Tower Hill Reserve in Victoria. The sunset as seen from the viewing platform was absolutely beautiful. We had never seen the different colours of a sunset so clearly. WiFi was not available at the campsite (even though it’s advertised), but luckily there was cell phone reception.
There’s no television or game room, but in front of the campsite is a tavern with a large television and a pool table. From 16h30 until 18h it’s happy hour with a 20% discount on all alcoholic drinks. We got some work done while sipping a Rekoderlig cider (strawberry-lime is my favourite), before ordering dinner. After seeing the campsite our expectations were rather low, but we were pleasantly surprised. The food was really good! Brecht loved the fries with his grilled baramundi ($19), and I ate the sauce that came with my beef parmigiana ($15, special of the day) to the last drop. If you prefer to cook your food yourself or are in need of some other groceries or even souvenirs, you can stop by the shop at the gas station, right next to the tavern.
Looking back, Erldunda Roadhouse was an unnecessary stop. It took us 5 hours to get from Coober Pedy to Erldunda, including a couple of stops for pictures and a lunch break of over an hour. We probably could have made it to Kings Canyon in another 2.5 hours maximum and still arrive before dark. Instead, we stayed at Erldunda, where there’s nothing to see, and the campsite isn’t all that clean. So except for the good food, no need to stop here.Go to Erldunda Roadhouse
Kings Canyon Resort
- Price: powered site, 1 night, $50
- WiFi: Roaming WiFi available ($4.95 per 100MB)
- Amenities: numerous blocks, but not clean
- Friendliness of staff: friendly
- Entertainment: pool, tennis court, children’s playground, sunset viewing platform
- Location: close to Kings Canyon, nice walking tracks
- Laundry room: washing machines and dryers each 4 x $1 per load
- Camp kitchen: small and dirty (cooking fire, microwave, electric kettle, sink, fridge with small freezer compartment)
Kings Canyon is definitely worth a visit when you’re exploring Australia’s Red Centre. Too bad the only campsite in the neighbourhood, Kings Canyon Resort, isn’t clean at all. There are only a couple of walking tracks in Watarrka National Park, so we limited our stay to one night. We arrived in the afternoon, with enough time left to complete two of the short walking tracks. The next morning we hiked the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, which was amazing, before driving to the Ayers Rock Campground near Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. For more information on these walking tracks, you can read about our experience in the blogpost about what to do in Australia’s Red Centre.
The reception looked really nice and we got a friendly welcome, including a nice map of the campsite with some park rules on the back. We picked up an information sheet about the walks in Watarrka National Park before heading over to our powered site, which was partly in the shade. So far we were quite pleased. Until we saw the amenities and camp kitchen, which weren’t clean at all. Everything else seems promising though, the pool has a pleasant temperature, the store selling souvenirs and groceries looks nice, there’s a fuel station and recycling bins, you can dine at Desert Oaks Bistro or have a drink at the Thirsty Dingo Bar. In high season you can dine at the Outback BBQ & Grill as well, but the campsite seems neglected.
There’s no cellphone reception and no free WiFi at the campsite, but they have a wireless internet service called Roaming WiFi. According to the information we had, it was accessible from the reception and the Thristy Dingo Bar, but it worked from our powered site as well. Unfortunately it was crazy expensive: $4.95 per 100MB or $20 for 500MB. Throughout the campsite there are several barbies and sinks beneath shelters. The sunset viewing platform was very nice, with a beautiful tree at the edge. Head over there early, because it’s quite a walk over the boardwalk to the platform. They warn for dingos and not to feed them, but we didn’t saw any. We did see a lot of flies. And I mean A LOT! A fly net is a must have feature and better not buy it at the souvenir shop at the resort, as it’s almost twice the price you pay at the Ayers Rock Campground near Uluru. We paid $9.95 each and discovered the next day it would have been only $4.95 each if we had waited a little longer. Anyway, definitely worth the money!Go to Kings Canyon Resort
Tennant Creek Caravan Park
- Price: powered site, 1 night, $29
- WiFi: not available
- Amenities: quite clean, except for the grasshoppers
- Friendliness of staff: friendly
- Entertainment: pool
- Location: Tennant Creek, stopover on our way from Outback to East coast
- Laundry room: washing machines 2 x $2 per load, dryers 2 x $1 per load, clothes line
- Camp kitchen: old, not that clean, grashoppers everywhere (cooking fire, barbecues (barbies), microwave, electric kettle, toaster, sink, fridge with small freezer, no cooking and eating utensils)
On our way from Alice Springs to the East coast of Australia, we made three stopovers before we reached Townsville. Tennant Creek was the first stop, where we stayed at Tennant Creek Caravan Park. We got a friendly welcome from the new owner, showing us on his map where on the campground we could choose a powered site. We didn’t get a copy, but that wasn’t necessary, as the campsite isn’t that big. The first thing we noticed was the abundance of grasshoppers on the campsite. They were literally everywhere, even on the sponges in the kitchen. They jump away in every direction when you walk through the grass, hop on your dishes, or stare at you when you’re on the toilet. We were kind of surprised only one of them made it inside our campervan. Or at least that we know of. Upon arrival at another campsite the next day, we noticed that the bumper of our campervan was covered in dead grasshoppers. Disgusting.
New owners recently bought the campsite and were renovating. The women’s amenities block was ready, the men’s not yet. You could see it was new and I loved the colour, but it was extremely hot inside and dead and alive grasshoppers were everywhere. Guess you can’t do all that much about the grasshoppers, as I saw someone clean the amenities block and when I went to the toilet not much later, there already were dead grasshoppers on the floor. A real plague! Or a real bad cleaner of course. There were picnic tables and cooking appliances in the camp kitchen, but again, grasshoppers everywhere. The recycling bins were next to the pool, not the place I’d put them. You could see everything was a bit old, but as renovation works have started, maybe it will be better in the future.Go to Tennant Creek Caravan Park
We were a bit disappointed about the campsites in the Outback. Often there’s only one campsite in the neighbourhood, so no rivals to compete with. Maybe that’s why they don’t feel any pressure to keep the amenities and camp kitchen spick and span. Nevertheless, we’re very satisfied with the WikiCamps app, which is a great starting point for finding campsites in the Outback (and all around Australia). We’ll be covering this in a future blogpost as well.