There’s nothing quite like the freedom of camping – packing up your home and heading wherever your itchy feet take you.
It’s also one of the most economical means of accommodation and best if you want to get close to wild world.
For those after an even more rugged, and budget-friendly, experience you can actually camp free of charge in several countries.
Free camping works on a trust basis; everything campers bring into sites needs to be taken out again and special care must be taken not to disturb wildlife or damage the natural beauty of the area. Many also have a restriction on the number of nights you can stay so contact the local park manager if you have any questions.
To inspire your inner adventurer we’ve picked 10 of our favourite free campsites around the world.
New Zealand is a freedom camper’s dream! Hundreds of free, and almost free, campsites can be found across the country. Largely managed by the Department for Conservation, there is no better way to get back to nature.
If you’re looking to get around the country at minimal cost the team at Juicy Rentals have put together this handy interactive map of no-cost campsites with reviews from rankers.co.nz (you can also download it as an app).Cheap Flights To New Zealand
Mangatutu Hot Springs Camping Ground, Kaweka Forest Park, Hawkes Bay
Free camping plus natural mineral hot pools – we’re in! The catch – you have to drive for an hour on a gravel road to get to the Mangatutu Hot Springs Camping Ground, but if you can manage that you’re set. Tramp, swim or fish for rainbow trout in the Mohaka River to cook on the campsite barbeque.
Lake Pearson (Moana Rua), Waimakariri Basin, Canterbury
35 km south of Arthur’s Pass village you’ll find a little slice of freedom camping heaven on the shores of Lake Pearson.
Managed by the Department of Conservation, glampers need not apply. Like most free sites, this minimalist camp has no showers, your water source is the stream and toilets are of the long drop variety.
Swim, fish, kayak, birdwatch or relax and take in the impressive views. Dogs and fires are not allowed on the site and remember to pack extra layers for the chilly nights and insect repellent to keep those pesky mossies at bay.
As with its neighbour NZ, Australia has a massive variety of free camp grounds on offer.
Paradise Beach, Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park, Victoria
With a name like Paradise Beach you really can’t go wrong! Camp free of charge on a strip of Victoria’s pristine Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park – a collection of lakes, marshes and lagoons separated from the ocean by the golden sandy dunes the make up Ninety Mile Beach.
As you’d imagine, water sports are a main draw with boating, fishing, surfing and water sports the order of the day.
At night, kick back under a blanket of stars and let the sounds of waves sing you to sleep.
Grants Lagoon, Bay of Fires, Tasmania
Known as larapuna in the indigenous language, the Bay of Fires is best known for its distinct white sand, blue sea and brilliant orange granite rocks.
The camping area by Grants Lagoon on Binalong Bay has access for tents, caravans and motorhomes. There’s a pit toilet on site, but you’ll have to bring your own water and take all your rubbish with you.
Be careful not to disturb any protected Aboriginal sites found in sand dunes around the bay.
Camping, the great outdoors and North America’s wide open spaces are a great combination and there are hundreds of free ‘primitive’ campsites to be found across the continent.
Burns Lake Village Campground, British Columbia, Canada
Stay free for up to three nights in this small, but lovely, campground on the Burns Lake shore.
Breath in the fresh mountain air as you toast marshmallows over an open fire, swim in the lake or take a boat ride. Burns Lake Village has a proud First Nation heritage and its natural beauty is shown off through hiking trails, golf courses, mountain bike trails and cross country skiing.
Lava Point Campground, Zion National Park, Utah, United States
It’s first come first served at the popular Lava Point Campground. Zion National Park is an incredible natural playground home to multi-coloured sandstone cliffs, a slot canyon, and a variety of plant-life and animals.
Open June to October, it’s a one hour and 20 minutes’ drive to the camp from the South Entrance of Zion Canyon.
There are site basic campsites on offer with pit toilets and rubbish bins, but no water.
During spring and autumn the weather in the region can change rapidly so always check weather conditions before you head out.
Sage Creek, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, United States
Watch the sunrise and set over Badland’s rugged landscape and explore the impressive geology and colourful flora.
Open year round, you can stay for up to 14 nights in Sage Creek. Pit toilets and covered picnic tables are on site, but you’re going to need to bring your own water.
Camping has long been a popular pastime in Japan with over 3000 sites scattered across the island nation.
Higashi-Onuma Camp-jo, Lake Onuma, Hokkaido
Set in Ōnuma Quasi-National Park, Higashi-Onuma Camp-jo is one of only a handful of free Japanese campsites.
A 5 minute walk from Choshiguchi Station, the camp is open from late April to late October and features a water service, toilets, cooking facilities, showers and vending machines!
Along with boating and fishing on Lake Onuma there’s also a mountain bike trail and a hot spring.
Known as Wild Camping, several of the UK’s national parks let you pitch a tent for the night free of charge so long as you don’t disturb any wildlife or leave any trace of your visit behind. Check with park authorities ahead of time to confirm as you may need prior permission.
Dartmoor National Park, South Devon, England
Spend the night in the rolling green hills and moorland of Dartmoor National Park.
This picturesque setting is open to wild campers for one or two night stays so long as they respect the natural environment and remove everything that is brought into the park.
Stay away from farmland, walled off moorland, flood plains and archaeological sites and stick to lightweight camping equipment.
Mar Lodge Estate, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
Owned by the National Trust, Mar Lodge Estate is surrounded by some of the most remote and beautiful untamed land in Scotland, and four of the UK’s highest mountains, in Cairngorms National Park.
The Estate lies 3 miles west of Braemar and welcomes wild campers for short stays and it’s recommended for campers to contact the estate in advance.
No fires are permitted on the site and there is a park ranger service on hand to assist visitors.
Featured image by eutrophication&hypoxia