Camping is a popular Australian activity. The Great Ocean Road is best explored by taking a camping road trip. Sleeping out in your tent or campervan is the best way to truly experience the area’s beautiful nature and wildlife. Here are the top 10 camping grounds on Great Ocean Road that bring you close to nature, including Dandos campground, Marengo Holiday Park, and Jamieson Creek Campground.
Dandos is a great free campground in the Otways. It has a large flat area among the trees near the Gellibrand River that can accommodate over 50 pitches. The gravel drive into the campground is suitable for all vehicles, but it can become slick after heavy rains. The place fills up on weekends and can get quite noisy, so if you want peace and quiet, arrive early or visit mid-week. Dandos Campground is still one of the best free places to stay in the Otways.
Port Campbell Recreation Reserve
Recreation reserves are an excellent low-cost camping option along the Great Ocean Road. They are typically located within walking distance of towns with basic but clean amenities. If you’re exploring the Port Campbell National Park, including the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, Port Campbell’s Recreation Reserve is a great place to spend the night. It’s also a charming little town with a beautiful beach, walking trails, and cute cafes and shops. Unless you’re traveling during the busy summer holiday season, you don’t necessarily need to pre-book a site with plenty of room for all different camping setups most of the year.
Princetown Recreation Reserve
I stayed at this recreation area several times before and after hiking the Great Ocean Walk. It is conveniently located on the Great Ocean Road, just 7 kilometers from the Twelve Apostles. It’s also close to a popular fishing spot and a beautiful beach, both of which are within walking distance of the reserve. Princetown is a tiny settlement on a hill above the camping area, but shops are only open during the summer. The campground has plenty of space all year except for Christmas and New Year’s, which should be reserved in advance. It was very convenient for me to park my van here for a week while I completed the Great Ocean Walk.
Aire Crossing Campsite
This idyllic little campground is nestled among the trees on the banks of a river. Aire Crossing Campsite is a great free camp with a toilet and untreated water near many of the Otways’ most popular waterfalls. There is very limited phone reception (none with Optus), and it is quite a distance from the main road, but the peaceful bush setting is the real draw.
Sharps Camp Ground On Great Ocean Road
This is a fantastic free campground not far from Lorne. It’s ideal if you want to stay close to a popular beach town but in a peaceful bush setting. It’s also close to the Sheoak Picnic Area, which has some beautiful walks to waterfalls like Kalimna Falls. Sharps Campground, on the other hand, is small, with only six good-sized vehicle spots. This means that you should arrive early to secure a spot, especially on weekends.
I arrived at 4 pm and easily got a site with my van, but it started to fill up around 5 pm. It’s not uncommon for people who arrive late to park off the side of the dirt road before the campground, but there are signs prohibiting this. It is, without a doubt, the best free place to stay near Lorne.
Marengo Holiday Park: Best Camping Ground On Great Ocean Road
Marengo Holiday Park is one of the Great Ocean Road’s best caravan parks. It is located in Marengo, just down the road from Apollo Bay, and is right on the beach. They have unpowered and powered sites, as well as comfortable cabins. A few of the camping areas have ocean views, which I was fortunate to have on my second overnight stay.
It’s usually heavily booked in advance for Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter, and weekends in summer can sometimes be booked out if you want a powered site. However, I discovered that mid-week in November was nice and quiet, with plenty of options. They don’t have all of the fancy amenities that the Big 4 caravan parks do, but the location right on the water is the real draw here.
Jamieson Creek Campground
Jamieson Creek campground has recently been refurbished and rebuilt, providing a much-needed upgrade. It has 24 campsites, 10 of which are only for tents. Only two sites are suitable for caravans, while the rest are suitable for tents or vans. With each site right next to the other, there isn’t much privacy, but it’s a nice spot among the trees above the Great Ocean Road for the night.
It’s a steep dirt road off the Great Ocean Road, but it’s accessible to most vehicles. You can also explore the area on foot, as the Jamieson Creek Walking Track connects to the Wye River for 5.5 kilometers one way. Otherwise, you can simply walk over to the campground’s BBQ area and enjoy the beautiful ocean views over a drink in the evening.
Big Hill Campground
Big Hill Campground, located near Lorne, is one of the most popular Great Ocean Road campsites. The campground is located in a beautiful bush setting just 11 kilometers from the Great Ocean Road. There are 13 campsites available, with half reserved for tents and the other half for campervans, caravans, and other vehicles. Because it’s just a small clearing in the forest, it can be noisy when it’s full. I recommend booking in advance on weekends and public holidays during the summer, but I found that mid-week it was only half full, and I was able to book on the day.
Hammonds Road Campground
Only four of the 16 sites on Hammonds Road can accommodate campervans and caravans, with the rest reserved for tents only. It’s in a beautiful part of the Otways that kangaroos frequent all year. The campground is located 12 kilometers inland from Aireys Inlet on a dirt road, but it can get crowded on weekends and during school holidays. This is another free campground until November 2020, and rangers patrol most days to ensure people have paid.
Johanna Beach Camp Ground On Great Ocean Road
Johanna Beach is a popular surfing and camping destination. The drive-in public campground is 500m down the road to the left after arriving at the day visitor car park. There is also a hike-in-only Great Ocean Walk (GOW) campground 700m up the hill to the right of the day visitor area. With the beach only 100m from the campsites, this is one of my favorite places to camp on the Great Ocean Road. However, it is a popular spot that is frequently booked, even during the week. There is very little phone reception, but a signal can be found near the lookouts and the toilet.