How to Travel the East Coast of Australia by Campervan

Last year we asked you to pick your favourite campervan route from a choice of 3 amazing Australian itineraries and 2 marvellous New Zealand routes. The winner was Charli’s East Coast extravaganza where she rocked the Cairns to Sydney.

Want to do it yourself? Read on for a run down of how it’s done.

How to Travel the East Coast of Australia in a Campervan


your trip looked pretty epic – run us through it?

We picked up our van in Cairns and explored the Atherton Tablelands before heading up to the far north to Cape Tribulation rainforest. Then onto Mission Beach for a break and down to Townsville before hopping on the ferry to Magnetic Island for hikes.

Up next was Airlie Beach for Whitsundays sailing and then a stopover in Rockhampton to break up the journey to Rainbow Beach. From Rainbow Beach it was Fraser Island to spot dingos & swim in some of the best lakes I’ve seen!

Mckenzie Lake, Fraser Island

After Noosa we drove to Brisbane for some much needed city humdrum and cocktail bars! We spent time in Byron Bay soaking up the hippy culture before heading to Coffs Harbour & Corindi Beach to stay with a local family on their farm. After exploring the beaches we did a round of the National Parks including Crowdy Bay, Booti Booti, Barrington Tops, Watagans and Blue Mountains (yeah we like parks).

Our last stop was Sydney where we drove in on the iconic Harbour Bridge and parked our wee van outside our new house where we were moving to work for the next 6 months.

Wow! If you had to pick 3 highlights?

1. Getting off the beaten track near Airlie Beach after finishing our Whitsundays sailing. We found out about Eungella NP from a local; it’s off the East Coast trail and we got to see platypus and turtles, walk through diverse rainforest and jump into waterfalls where there were no people at all!

2. The Outback in New South Wales. We stayed in a really open camping ground with about 7 other people, it was a clear evening so we all lay down around the campfire and looked up to the sky. With no towns or cities for hundreds of miles there was no light pollution so the stars were unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Outback sunset

3. Zip wiring through Cape Tribulation rainforest in northern Queensland and then camping in the rainforest (minus the bugs).

What about the logistics? Did you take turns driving?

We had cruise control so it was really easy driving on the highways, especially the highways that were less busy, we’d set the car to 100kmph and then just steer! As I was a new driver at the time I didn’t do too much driving, only the easier parts, My boyfriend did the city and town driving and the busy highways.

Ever get lost?

It’s actually more difficult than you think to get lost! Aus has pretty much has one highway down the east coast and you can get to most major towns/cities off it. The only time we ever got lost was trying to avoid the toll roads in Sydney!

Was it easy to find camping sites?

We had an Australia Road Atlas which also had recommended camping spots along the highways, national parks, beaches, tourist areas and towns/cities which varied from free Rest Areas, beach camps and national parks to low cost campsites and the full service campsites. Even the most basic sites in Australia were pretty well equipped with bbq pits and (sometimes questionable) toilets.

It's not all glamour

Camping can seem lonely – did you meet any fun people on the way?

We met quite a few people along the way from eccentric Aussie hippies, retirees travelling around their country in luxurious caravans (which I was always very jealous of, especially their showers!), European travellers in campers and station wagons and everyone in between.

There was one English couple we kept bumping into so after a couple of weeks of seeing them everywhere we went we decided to travel with them, we ended up heading down the coast for a month and then working with them a while later in Perth for 6 weeks. They are still really good friends to this day.

A German couple we met were trying really hard to improve their English and would suss out everyone who turned up in the campsite and pick people to come over and ask if they wanted to join them for a drink around their camp fire, I found this rather bizarre to begin with but actually it became really normal.

What tips would you give someone attempting this trip?

Get some kind of campsites directory as the myth of ‘you can camp anywhere in Australia’ is just not true – in fact you can get fined hundreds of dollars if you’re not in a designated campsite.

Also be sure take a yellow light and bug spray! The amount of weird and wonderful bugs you encounter whilst camping is equally terrifying and funny. I had one night where I would not get out of the van or turn on the lights as the light attracted these bugs the Aussies called ‘Christmas Beetles’. There were hundreds and they will fly straight into you and even into your mouth!

If that final bug story hasn’t put you off then check out our deals on campervans in Australia, as well as the exclusive CamperFLEX Pass for a trip as flexible as you (or more if you’re not really bendy).