Hot tips for low cost and free camping sites along the unspoilt NSW South Coast.
The Shoalhaven is a nature-lovers paradise with 100 beaches, 70% of land devoted to coastal parks and forests and plenty of places to pitch a tent or park the van. Keep in mind, though, that there are very few free camping sites in the Shoalhaven. For summer and Easter you’ll need to plan well in advance because popular South Coast camp spots book out fast! Iconic National Park campsites like Green Patch, Bristol Point and Honeymoon Bay are allocated to visitors via a ballot each August for the NSW Summer School Holiday Period. Never fear, however, you may still find a coastal campsite with our many holiday parks. Plus we're the experts in riverfront camping, with several options on the grassy banks of the Shoalhaven River - even at Shoalhaven Zoo! If you feel like it, spend your first few nights keeping costs low but then splurge at the end of your trip with a luxe glamping experience to cap off your stay under the stars in style. Download our camping and caravanning directory here, or search online below.
Camp by the River, then Day Trip to the Beach
Wake up by the river in your own camp or let someone build it for you! The Shoalhaven River and Kangaroo Valley offer the most variety with a few more on the Clyde River. Coolendel, is particularly favoured for its beautiful grassy grounds and Shoalhaven River frontage and you don't even have to set up your tent if you book a glamping stay with Flash Camp. Pet-friendly, Grady’s Riverside Retreat also offers dirt surfing on mountain bike trails. Closer to town you can sleep to the sound of lions roaring at the Shoalhaven Zoo Camping Reserve or stay at North Nowra Riverfront Caravan Park (Shoalhaven Ski Park). In Kangaroo Valley, Bendeela offers free camping on a first in, best-dressed basis. Shallow Crossing Camping Ground on the Clyde River is also pet-friendly with great trails in the adjacent State Forest.
Be Cool when you're here
We love having you here and want you to have a great time, so here are some tips if you are heading our way especially during the summer! Rangers regularly patrol our beaches and camping grounds so plan ahead when you are stopping for the night so you don't get moved on or fined. Our best advice is to book ahead, slow down on the roads and be respectful of our communities, our environment and it's animals. Beach fires aren't cool, and neither is getting moved on by a ranger. Remember, party like your grandmother's next door! For more information, we encourage you to call up and to speak to one of the staff members at our Visitor Information Service. Have a chat with a real, local human who has all the expert knowledge to guide you along your journey.
Camping by the Beach
Waking up beside the seaside is a pretty amazing way to start your holiday but we don't want it to end in a fine! We've got dozens of well-priced holiday parks along our 120-kilometre coastline, from Shoalhaven Heads to North Durras. While this is one of the more expensive camping options over summer, it still won't break the bank and you're rewarded with beachfront access, fabulous facilities and perhaps some outdoor pizza or movie nights too. Explore camping sites, caravan sites, cabins and safari tents. See the full list below and make sure you book ahead! Our beach carparks are quaint and tiny and it's part of our charm, but they're not official places for overnight stays. So even if you're tempted please don't park up on our beaches, treating them kindly is what keeps them so unspoilt.
Camping in National Parks
Some of our National Parks campgrounds are first in, first served so it’s important to have a plan B especially in the summer as these bad boys tend to go fast! Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay has three very different campgrounds. Green Patch Camping Area is very family friendly boasting individual drive-in campsites, Bristol Point Camping Area is car-adjacent and ideal for larger groups. These two popular campgrounds are filled by ballot each August for the following summer holiday period. Cave Beach Camping Area is a great location for surfers and has a 300m walk-in from carpark to campsites. Sites at all three can booked online or by phone. In Beecroft Weapons Range, Honeymoon Bay Campground is hugely popular, with summer sites allocated by ballot in July and August. At other times, campsites are filled on a first-come, first served basis and bookings aren't available. Meroo National Park has three free campgrounds which are filled on a first come, first served basis with booking unavailable, Sunburnt Beach, Meroo Head and Termeil Point. Murramarang also has three campgrounds which can be booked online or by phone, Pebbly Beach, Pretty Beach and Depot Beach. Check with National Parks on the road condition, 4WD may be recommended.
Remote Camping Spots
Escaping into a remote area is a great way to switch off from the world and really unwind. Although we have many State Forests, Yadboro is the only one set up for camping. Nestled by the Clyde River, Yadboro Flat is a popular dog-friendly free camp, so make sure you get in early to secure a spot. If you like being remote, there are a couple of other free camps within Morton National Park you could check out, Long Gully and Blue Gum Flat Campgrounds. Long Gully is the place for experienced trekkers and Blue Gum Flat for fishing and mountain biking. Bookings aren’t available and you’ll need to arrive prepared. Hot tip: 4WD is recommended for these ones!
Van lifers and caravanners can stop over at any one of three showgrounds in the Shoalhaven, each with a dump point. Berry Showground is one of the best in Australia, with a pool, historic buildings, cosy camp kitchen, shady areas, onsite caretaker and a great location that is close to Berry's Queen Street and train station. Prices at Berry range from $12 (unpowered) to $14 (powered) per night. Nowra Showground has elevated views of the Shoalhaven River from Hanging Rock, and front row access to Ben's Walk and the grottos and forests that line this part of the Shoalhaven River. Nowra Showground has no showers, and no tent sites, and prices range from $11 (unpowered) to $14 (powered) per night. At Milton Showground Camping Area you can take the dog, pitch the tent on the grassy grounds and enjoy great facilities. There are no bookings, but the caretaker visits every afternoon to collect payment. The eateries and delights of Milton are a short walk away, and the beaches a quick trip in the car. Sites are $20 (unpowered) - $25 (powered) per night.
Coming from Canberra? Check out Main Road 92!
Main Road 92 is the shortest route to the white sand beaches of Jervis Bay as well as Canberra’s closest surf breaks. Recently upgraded and fully sealed, it's the road less travelled from Canberra to the coast. Enjoy the 2.5 hour drive through quaint country towns, Morton National Park’s breathtaking sandstone escarpments and convict history to arrive at the unspoilt coast. Read our blog for more inspo - Road Tripping Along Main Road 92. Check out these camping grounds along the way, most have no booking system and will require you to be self-sufficient and take all rubbish with you upon departure. These little camping pit stops en route to the Shoalhaven are also a great way to explore and discover our neighbouring local government areas in Regional NSW. Mulloon Creek in Tallaganda National Park is an easy hour's drive from the Capital and just off Braidwood Road, 5km north-east of Nerriga, you'll also be able to set up for the night at picturesque Endrick River Crossing. In Morton National Park, you can pitch a tent at Stewarts Crossing or Bombay Reserve, located in the Queanbeyan Region, plus there's popular Wog Wog, located in Bega Valley Shire.