14 of the best campsites on the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean road trip

Camping is a favourite Aussie pastime. There’s something undeniably good about hitting the road and setting up camp somewhere amongst nature to enjoy a night under the stars. The famous scenic drive known as the Great Ocean Road offers plenty of places to stop and spend the night either next to the ocean or in the dense Great Otway National Park. From caravan parks to free public campgrounds, this blog includes some of the best Great Ocean Road campsites for your next road trip adventure. 

A camping road trip is arguably the best way to explore the Great Ocean Road. There’s no better way to truly experience the beautiful nature and wildlife of the area than to sleep out in your tent or campervan setup. I recently spent three weeks along the coastal region in my van, camping at a different spot each night. There’s plenty of great campgrounds to suit every type of traveller and all different budgets. So, I’ve decided to compile this list of the best campsites on the Great Ocean Road for anyone wanting to plan a camping trip along this stunning stretch of Victoria’s southwestern coast. 

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Best time to go camping

You can enjoy camping on the Great Ocean Road at any time of the year. Campgrounds and caravan parks are generally open all year round, meaning that you can head down the scenic ocean road and camp under the stars whenever you feel the urge. However, before you start planning your camping trip, there are some things you might want to consider. 

Summer is hot and crowded down on the Great Ocean Road. It certainly provides some epic swimming and beach weather and long daylight hours; however, this can often be hampered by the presence of 30+ degree days and a swelling of visitor numbers.

On the other hand, winter is cold, wet and generally, very quiet. The weather is definitely not at its best at this time, but you can still find the occasional brief window of clear days. It’s the perfect time if you prefer quiet campgrounds, with very few people and cheaper prices. 

Autumn and Spring are the two best seasons to head to the Great Ocean Road. This is when you can get both great weather and quiet camping spots combined. 

Weekends and school holidays are much busier than other times. From afternoon on Fridays until Sunday night, camping areas can be crowded and pre-booking sites where possible is recommended. Mid-week can be extremely quiet down the Great Ocean Road for much of the year and is an ideal option if you can take some time off work. 

Great Ocean road trip
Great Ocean Road

How to find the best campsites on the Great Ocean Road

Wikicamps | Wikicamps is a great camping app that you can download on your phone. It allows users to add campsites and leave reviews. It’s hands down the best app to have if you go camping or travelling a lot and it works right around Australia. They have a limited free trial, otherwise it costs $8 for lifetime access, which is worth every cent.

Booking.com | If you would prefer to camp in caravan parks or stay in other accommodation, you can try searching on Booking.com to read reviews and make any bookings before you go.

Visitor Centres | There are visitor information centres at the major towns along the Great Ocean Road, including Torquay, Lorne, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell. The helpful staff can recommend good campsites or you can grab a couple of brochures to go.

Locals and rangers | You can never go wrong with asking a local where the best Great Ocean Road campsites are. Whether it be the waiter at the small cafe in town or one of the Parks Victoria rangers you spot out and about, they often have the best insider tips.

Or, keep reading for the 14 best campsites on the Great Ocean Road!

Camping food

Camping essentials

Head torch | As soon as the sun sets, you’ll be needing a good quality head torch to help you find your way around the campground after dark.

Camp chair | Kick back and relax at the end of the day with a comfortable camp chair.

Gas cooker | A good gas cooker is the ultimate camping essential, so you can cook up some quality meals even when you’re off the grid.

Solar panel | If you’re camping at an unpowered site, then you might want to carry a small solar panel with you. This way you can charge your devices easily from the sun during the day.

Lifestraw bottle | Many of the Parks Victoria campgrounds have rain-fed water tanks with untreated water. Bringing along a Lifestraw bottle means you can fill it up from the tanks and drink safely without having to carry separate drinking water with you.

Thinking of hiring a campervan for your Great Ocean Road trip? Check out JUCY Rentals for great deals from one of the most iconic van rental companies in Australia.

Good to know about camping on the Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road campsites are not cheap and there are fewer free camps now than there used to be. Caravan parks in particular can be extremely expensive, but they often lower their prices in quiet periods like winter and mid-week. Otherwise, Parks Victoria managed campgrounds are generally $14.50 per site per night with basic unpowered sites and facilities. There are still a few free camps around and I’ve included the best ones below, although they are usually a short inland detour from the coast.

If you prefer more comfortable camping and accommodation options, then you should opt for caravan parks and recreation reserves which offer powered sites and hot showers amongst other amenities. Recreation reserves offer the best value for money though.

Some of the campgrounds mentioned below are on dirt roads, but they are all accessible for regular vehicles, caravans and campervans.

The Great Ocean Road in general is not very kind to free camp-enthusiasts like other coastal areas in Australia. You will notice signs everywhere in the major towns stating that no overnight parking is allowed. Police and authorities are quite strict with people who are sleeping in vehicles on the side of the road, so it’s always safer to find an official camping area to avoid a fine.

Read next: The Ultimate Road Trip Guide to the Great Ocean Road

14 of the best Great Ocean Road campsites

I’ve compiled these campsites from my own experience on the Great Ocean Road. Here you’ll find a combination of caravan parks, public paid campgrounds and free camps.

I have listed these campsites in order to run roughly from west to east along the Great Ocean Road, so you can find them easily enough on the map. The prices are current as of December 2020, check the Parks Victoria website, Booking.com or Wikicamps app for more up to date information.

Port Campbell Recreation Reserve

  • Location: Port Campbell, entrance is off Desailly Street.
  • Camping fees: $15 per person ($20 in peak season), and $10 extra for powered site (paid in cash at reception).
  • Facilities: Unpowered and powered sites, toilet and hot shower block and sheltered kitchen area.
  • Good to know: Caretakers are not always there 24/7, they usually come round at 5pm onwards to check that everyone has paid. In peak season, this is more stringent.
  • More info: Website

Recreation reserves are a great budget camping option on the Great Ocean Road. They are usually within walking distance to towns with basic but clean facilities. Port Campbell’s Recreation Reserve is a great place to camp the night if you’re exploring the Port Campbell National Park, including the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge. It’s also a nice little town itself with a great beach, some walking trails and cute cafes and shops. You don’t necessarily have to pre-book a site with plenty of room for all different camping setups most of the year, unless you’re travelling in the busy summer holiday period. 

Princetown
View of Princetown

Princetown Recreation Reserve

  • Location: Old Coach Road in Princetown, turnoff signs are located on Great Ocean Road.
  • Camping fees: $15 for unpowered site for one person or $20 for two people, and $5 extra for powered site (paid in cash at reception).
  • Facilities: Powered and unpowered sites, toilet and hot shower block, sheltered kitchen and BBQ area.
  • Good to know: They offer parking for hikers doing the Great Ocean Walk for $5 per night. 
  • More info: Website

I stayed at this recreation reserve a couple of times before and after my Great Ocean Walk hike. It’s ideally located on the Great Ocean Road, just 7km from the Twelve Apostles. It’s also near a popular fishing spot with a beautiful beach within walking distance of the reserve. Princetown itself is a tiny settlement on the hill above the camping area but shops are only open in high season. There’s plenty of room at the campground all year round except the Christmas and New Year period which should be booked ahead. I parked my van here for a week while I completed the Great Ocean Walk, which was very convenient.

Johanna Beach Campground

  • Location: Accessible from Red Johanna Road off the Great Ocean Road.
  • Camping fees: $14.50 per site via Parks Victoria website here.
  • Facilities: Unpowered sites, rain-fed water tanks and drop toilets.
  • Good to know: There are a couple of lookouts at Johanna Beach (near the beach access points) that are worth enjoying for sunrise and sunset. If you want to walk further, the views from the hike-in GOW campsite on the top of the hill are even better.
  • More info: Website

Johanna Beach is a popular surf beach and camping area. When you arrive at the day visitor car park, the drive-in public campground is a further 500m down the road to the left. There is also a hike-in only Great Ocean Walk (GOW) campground that is 700m to the right of the day visitor area up the top of the hill. This is one of my favourite places to camp on the Great Ocean Road, with the beach just 100m from the campsites. It’s a popular place though and is often fully booked even mid-week. There’s very limited phone reception, but you can get a signal near the lookouts and the toilet.

Read next: A Complete Guide to the Great Ocean Walk

Johanna Beach
Johanna Beach

Aire River East and West

  • Location: Accessed via Hordern Vale Road off the Great Ocean Road.
  • Camping fees: $14.50 per site via Parks Victoria website here.
  • Facilities: Unpowered sites, rain-fed water tanks and drop toilets.
  • Good to know: There’s no phone reception at the campground, so make sure that you book and pay online before you get there.
  • More info: Website

This is actually two separate campsites, one on the east side of Aire River and one on the west (the west side being larger with more sites). There is also a GOW hike-in campsite near the Aire River West public campground too. It’s a popular location favoured by kayak and fishing enthusiasts with plenty of grassy areas and picnic spots. You also might find plenty of wildlife around camp, including koalas, echidnas and kangaroos. If you follow the river down to the beach, you’ll reach a beautiful secluded spot where the river meets the ocean.

Koala in the Otways

Bimbi Park

  • Location: 90 Manna Gum Drive (off Lighthouse Road), Cape Otway 
  • Camping fees: Varies depending on sites and season but ranges from $25 to $45 per camping site. Check availability and prices here.
  • Facilities: Unpowered and powered camping sites, cabins, toilet and hot shower blocks, camp kitchen, laundry, onsite shop and tourist information.
  • Good to know: Bimbi Park is conveniently located as a base for the Great Ocean Walk if you prefer accommodation instead of the hike-in campgrounds along the trail. They can provide track notes and shuttle services to and from the trail as well.
  • More info: Bookings

Bimbi Park is a well-known caravan park in Cape Otway. It’s in a beautiful bush setting with a variety of accommodation to suit everyone’s needs from unpowered camping sites to cabins. The staff are known to be super friendly and can help with any day trips you want to do. They are within an easy drive to Apollo Bay, Twelve Apostles and a range of beaches, plus the Cape Otway Lighthouse is just 5km away. It’s also common to see a bunch of friendly wildlife around including koalas, kangaroos and echidnas.

Camping

Blanket Bay Campground

  • Location: Blanket Bay Road, Cape Otway
  • Camping fees: $14.50 per site via Parks Victoria website here.
  • Facilities: Unpowered sites, drop toilets, untreated rain water tanks and picnic tables.
  • Good to know: This is a very popular spot meaning that it is booked out well in advance through December and January and on long weekends such as Easter.
  • More info: Website

This is a very popular family camping spot on the eastern side of Cape Otway. Situated right on the edge of a sheltered beach, it’s a great spot for swimming and snorkelling. There are also plenty of nice walks from the campground, with the Great Ocean Walk passing right through. There is also a hike-in GOW campsite nearby for people completing overnight walks on the trail. There’s very limited phone reception in the area, but the day visitor area offers some signal.

Aire Crossing

  • Location: Aire Crossing Track off Wait-A-While Road not far from Lavers Hill.
  • Camping fees: Free
  • Facilities: Drop toilets
  • Good to know: There’s only a small camping area with room for around five vehicles, so you should arrive before 4pm (earlier on weekends) if you want to guarantee a spot.

This perfect little campground is nestled right amongst the forest on the edge of a river. It’s a great free camp with a toilet and untreated water not far from many of the popular waterfalls in the Otways. There’s very limited phone reception though (none with Optus) and it’s quite a way off the main road, but the peaceful bush setting is the real highlight.

Stevensons Falls Campground
Stevensons Falls Campground

Stevensons Falls Campground

  • Location: Upper Gellibrand Road off the Forrest-Apollo Bay Road, Barramunga.
  • Camping fees: Free
  • Facilities: Drop toilets and fire pits.
  • Good to know: There’s quite a few fire pits scattered around the area but you’ll have to bring your own firewood. It’s worth noting that there’s no phone reception here either.

This is one of the best free Great Ocean Road campsites in the Otway National Park. It’s a little far away, located 35km from Apollo Bay, but it’s perfect for exploring some of the waterfalls. The huge flat area has plenty of room for up to 50 pitches but no designated numbered sites. It’s first come first served, so you’ll want to be early on weekends and in summer to get a good site. Otherwise, I found that there’s plenty of room most of the time. The campground is just 1.5km from Stevensons Falls along a pretty easy walking trail that begins from the far end of the camping area and is worth your time. Considering that it’s a free camp, it does get a bit rowdy on Saturday nights and long weekends, but mid-week is usually completely peaceful.

Stevensons Falls
Stevensons Falls

Dandos Campground

  • Location: Lardners Track off Gellibrand East Road, Gellibrand.
  • Camping fees: Free
  • Facilities: Drop toilets and fire pits.
  • Good to know: This is one of the largest camping areas in the region and considering it’s free, it offers a great spot for the whole family. There’s no internet and very limited phone reception.

Another great free campground in the Otways, this place is similar to Stevensons Falls Campground. It has a large flat area amongst trees near the Gellibrand River that is big enough for more than 50 pitches. The gravel drive into the campground is fine for any vehicle but can be slippery after heavy rains. As with Stevensons Falls, on weekends the place fills up and can get quite noisy, so you might want to arrive early or visit mid-week if you’re after peace and quiet. It’s still one of the best places to stay for free in the Otways.

Marengo Holiday Park
Marengo Holiday Park

Marengo Holiday Park

  • Location: Great Ocean Road in Marengo, 3km outside of Apollo Bay.
  • Camping fees: Varies depending on sites and season but ranges from $35 to $50 per camping site. Check availability and prices here.
  • Facilities: Unpowered and powered camping sites, cabins, toilet and hot shower blocks, camp kitchen, laundry and Wi-Fi.
  • Good to know: The caravan park is just 50m from the beach at the edge of Apollo Bay with shallow water and rock pools. It’s a beautiful place to be for sunset and sunrise.
  • More info: Bookings

This is one of the best caravan parks on the Great Ocean Road. It’s located in Marengo just down the road from Apollo Bay, and is situated right on the edge of the ocean. They have everything from unpowered and powered sites to comfortable cabins. A few of the camping sites have ocean views, which I was lucky enough to get on my second overnight stay there. It’s usually heavily booked in advance for Christmas, New Year and Easter and weekends in summer can be occasionally booked out if you’re after a powered site. However, I found that mid-week in November they were nice and quiet and had plenty of choices. They don’t have all the fancy facilities that Big 4 caravan parks have, but the location right on the water is the real highlight here.

Sharps Campground

  • Location: Sharps Road off Allenvale Road in Lorne.
  • Camping fees: Free
  • Facilities: Six unpowered sites.
  • Good to know: There are no toilets in the camping area, but there are toilets and untreated rain water available at Sheoak Picnic Area which is just 1.5km away.
  • More info: Website

This is a great free campground not far out of Lorne. It’s very convenient if you want to stay somewhere close to the popular beach town but in a nice bush setting. It’s also conveniently close to Sheoak Picnic Area which has some great walks to waterfalls like Kalimna Falls. Sharps Campground is not big, however, with just 6 good sized spots for vehicles. This means you really need to get in early to secure a spot, especially on weekends. I arrived at 4pm and easily got a site with my van, but from 5pm onwards it started to fill. It’s not uncommon for people who turn up late to park off the side of the dirt road before the campground, but technically there’s signs saying not to do that. It’s definitely the best place to stay for free near Lorne.

Sharps Campground
Sharps Campground

Big Hill Campground

  • Location: At the intersection of Big Hill Track and Lorne-Deans March Road.
  • Camping fees: $14.50 per site via Parks Victoria website here.
  • Facilities: Unpowered sites, drop toilets and untreated rain water tanks.
  • Good to know: This used to be a free camp until November 2020, so you might find some sources online still saying that it’s free. There is very limited phone reception at the campground.
  • More info: Website

Big Hill Campground is one of the most popular Great Ocean Road campsites not far from Lorne. The camping area is situated in a beautiful bush setting just 11km from the Great Ocean Road. There are 13 sites available with half being reserved for tents-only and the other’s being available for campervans, caravans and other vehicles. It’s a peaceful place but can be noisy when full as it’s just a small clearing in the forest. I recommend booking in advance on weekends in summer and public holidays, otherwise I found that mid-week it only half filled and I was able to book on the day.

Hammonds Road Campground

  • Location: Hammonds Road off Bambra Road, Wensleydale.
  • Camping fees: $14.50 per site via Parks Victoria website here.
  • Facilities: Unpowered sites, drop toilets and untreated rain water tank.
  • Good to know: If you’re disappointed that this spot is no longer free, continue driving down Hammonds Rd for 1.3km and you’ll find another camping area called Hammond Road North which is still free and has similar amenities.
  • More info: Website

Hammonds Road has 16 sites, but only four can accommodate campervans and caravans, with the rest reserved for tents only. It’s in a beautiful part of the Otways which is frequented by kangaroos all year round. The campground is in a quiet area just 12km inland from Aireys Inlet on a dirt road, although it can fill up on weekends and in school holidays. This is another campground that was free until November 2020 and rangers patrol most days to check people have paid.

Bells Beach
Bells Beach Car Park

Bells Beach Backpackers

  • Location: 51-53 Surf Coast Highway, Torquay (just 200m away from the surf shop outlets).
  • Camping fees: $33 per night for van parking. Check availability here.
  • Facilities: Six van parking spots, six bed and four bed dorms and one private double room, kitchen and lounge area with TV, toilets and hot showers, free Wi-Fi, outdoor patio area and BBQ.
  • Good to know: This hostel is perfectly located just 200m from the surf outlets and 1km from the main street and beach. It is located on the main Surf Coast Highway, so it has heavy vehicle traffic, but is otherwise a great place to stay for the night.
  • More info: Bookings

For something a little different, this backpackers offers van parking for travellers looking for somewhere to camp overnight in Torquay. You get full access to all the amenities but simply sleep in your own vehicle. They have a grassy area out the back or you can simply park in their main car park in the front. The only thing to note is that it can only accommodate tents, roof top campers and small vans, not caravans or large campervans.

It’s a perfect option for people who want to still meet other travellers on the road. At $33 it’s not the cheapest camping option, but considering you get to use all the facilities, it works out pretty affordable compared to caravan parks on the Great Ocean Road. The owner is super nice as well and can help with any information you need. If you prefer to stay in rooms, their dorm beds start from $44 and the private room is around $124 depending on the season.

Read next: A Weekend Guide to Torquay

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