Guide to Australia’s Great Southern Region

Experience the great southern on a budget

Our first week of travel has been filled with adventure, hiking, and, unfortunately, a lot of rain. It’s currently the height of summer in Australia but as I write this I’m hiding in the car from the rain and wind. We’ve been trying to make the best of our time in the Great Southern region because, despite the weather, this really is a beautiful part of Western Australia. With a stunning coastline, hikes of all assortment and dozens of four wheel drive tracks, this region truly caters towards the adventurous spirit. We’ve kept this article as a list of free attractions in the Great Southern-perfect for the budget backpacker- but some of the national parks do have entry fees. I thought I’d include them anyway because so many travelers buy national park passes.

 

Walpole

Our first stop on our big adventure was D’entrecastreux national park near the town of Walpole. The majority of this park is accessible by four wheel drive only, and the few two wheel drive roads are unsealed, which may be something to consider when driving a rental car! However, when you do get into the park you’ll be greeted by a seriously beautiful and almost untouched coastline. The park is actually quite big and has several entrances. We saw a small portion of it, but we loved it all.

Mandalay beach was a highlight of our time here. From the soft white sand to the visible remains of a shipwreck it definitely scores highly on our list of favourite beaches. There are some cool rock formations here and an island off the shore. We even found a small animal skull! The beach is two wheel drive accessible but it is a gravel road, and quite a corrugated one. We were surprised to find that our beer hadn’t shattered.

Great Southern

Beautiful Mandalay Beach

We also took a four wheel track drive to long point. This was actually a much longer track than we had anticipated, but it did offer great views of the surrounding beaches. There also seemed to be some hiking trails, and there were some other driving tracks branching off from the main “road.”

Great Southern

Enjoying the view

I think our favourite spot in the walpole area was the Conspicuous Cliffs. They might sound like something from a Lemony Snickett novel, but these cliffs are a spectacular coastal feature. There are multiple look out points as well as beach access. It was incredibly windy at the look out points! You can also hike part of the bibbulmun track here, so it’s a really good spot for a day trip.

Great Southern

A blustery day at the cliffs!

Denmark

 

Denmark is only about an hour South of Walpole and it’s a really awesome town. There are tonnes of great attractions around here, including a meadery, “chocolate lounge”, and wineries. I have to admit, one of the highlights of Denmark for us was the bakery. It has a whole host of awards to its name and some very interesting options. Alex had a curried kangaroo pie- dubbed the “vindaroo”. It’s a great spot for a budget lunch!

Great Southern

Fishing in Parry beach

The other great thing about Denmark is Parry’s beach campground. For $15 per site per night this place offers showers, flush toilets, huge sites, and you can have camp fires even in Summer! Best of all it’s right by the beach and it’s part of the bibulmun track. We spent a few days here and we really enjoyed it. One day we walked all the way to Elephant rocks from here. It was about an 18 kilometre round trip and took us a little under three hours each way, but it was such a cool hike. We had miles of beach entirely to ourselves, saw some wildlife, and we felt pretty accomplished when we reached the pristine beach of Green’s pool and Elephant rocks. We also accidentally fell asleep on the beach on the way home, but that‚Äôs not important ūüėČ

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Elephant rocks-worth the walk!

Denmark itself is larger than I expected and is situated very prettily on the Denmark river. It seems to be quite geared towards tourists and has lots of interesting shops worth wandering around. My favourites were the Australian Alpaca Centre- a alpaca wool clothing store- and Third Stone Traders, a fair trade and local craft store. The town is definitely worth exploring even if you’re just window shopping.

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Street Art in Denmark

Albany

 

If you’re like me you probably had no idea that Albany was once destined to become the capital of Western Australia. It’s the oldest city is the state and has the rich history to prove it. There’s quite a few museums here but I’ll just focus on the free things for now.

Great Southern

Albany was beautiful once the sun came out!

First of all there’s cosy corner campground- a totally free campground with drop toilets and beach access. It’s about fifteen minutes outside of Albany and, while basic, it’s pretty awesome for a free spot! We stayed there for a few nights and while the weather wasn’t good enough to really enjoy its proximity to the beach, it was still great to have somewhere free to spend some time.

 

Albany itself has a free museum which offers a pretty comprehensive overview of Albany’s history. I have to admit I had no idea there was so much learn about the city’s past. We really only visited the museum because we both wanted to use the public toilets there, but it has great colourful exhibits and the friendly staff gave us great ideas for how to spend the rest of our time.

 

One of the coolest attractions in Albany is The Gap. This is area of rugged coastline where a viewing platform has been built over a gap in the cliffs. From here you can watch the waves wooshing beneath you. It’s pretty wild and might be one to avoid if you’re afraid of heights! The view is great though and the water is a gorgeous colour as it splashes against the rocks. It’s also right by the natural bridge and the blowholes- we brought a picnic and made an afternoon of seeing the sights!

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The Wild Waters of The Gap

About an hour outside Albany you’ll find the Stirling Ranges which contain the biggest mountain in the Southern half of WA- Bluff Knoll. We climbed the mountain one blustery day and it was a great experience. It was definitely tough, especially with the wild weather near the summit, but we got some great views, got some good fresh air and exercise, and enjoyed our first real physical challenge of the trip!

Great Southern

Bluff Knoll-doesn’t it look like something from a fantasy film?

As a result of the crazy rain we’ve had over the past week some sections of the trail were pretty water logged. It was cool to be able to fill our water bottles at the waterfalls though!

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The freshest water imaginable!

So that’s our guide to the free attractions of the Great Southern! Our plan was to move on to Esperance after a few days in Albany, but due to some crazy flooding and road closures we’re not sure when we’ll make it there. For now we’re hanging out at Shelley’s beach campground, just down the road from Cosy Corner. This site isn’t free-it’s 7.50 per person per night- but we love the crystal clear water here and it’s quite sheltered from the wind. We’re not quite sure what we’ll do next, so be sure to follow us on facebook, instagram and twitter to keep up to date. You can also sign up to our newsletter in the sidebar. Happy travelling!

our migration patterns

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Buying a car in Australia

If you’re planning on traveling in Australia for anymore than a month or two it might be most cost effective for you to buy a vehicle instead of renting. Camper van rental prices in Australia are very high, particularly if you’re travelling one way. When we started to look at the cost of renting a campervan for a few months we quickly realized it would make more sense to just buy one. So that’s what we did!
There’s a whole host of backpacker vehicles out there, from vans to four wheel drives to sedans. But the process of buying a car in a new country can be a bit daunting! So here are our top tips for buying a car in Australia.


Gumtree is your best friend

Gumtree is a nationwide buy and sell website. Just search for backpacker cars and you’ll find a huge amount of cars kitted out for travel. People often sell their cars with stoves, tents, camping chairs and lots of other travel accessories included. Our four wheel drive came with a roof rack, Jerry cans, a stove, camping chairs and lots of cooking equipment. The price of backpacker cars varies, with vans and 4x4s costing a fair bit more than station wagons. Our 1997 Pajero cost us $3,500.

Buying a car in Australia

Our 4×4 already had a bed in the back!

Registration is important

Registration (or rego as it’s unaffectionately called) is what legally allows you drive on the road. It’s a fee you pay every 3,6, or 12 months that includes third party insurance. If a car’s rego expires and isn’t renewed within a certain frame of time it needs to undergo a safety inspection to be re-registered. These safety inspections tend to be very strict and for this reason buying an unregistered car is a pretty big risk-you have no idea how many things you’ll need to fix! Because of this unregistered cars sell for just a few hundred dollars.

Buying a car in Australia

There’s nothing like the open road!

Registration varies from state to state

Unfortunately, registration is not a nationwide program. Each state has its own rules and regulations about registration. This can be annoying for travellers driving one way-trying to sell a car that’s been registered in a different state can be difficult! That’s because if someone wants to re-register if in that state they will usually need to get it inspected.

When we bought our Mitsubishi Pajero it was registered in the state of Victoria. We could have transferred the Victorian rego into our names but we would need to have a Victorian license number to put on the forms. The other option was to visit a Victorian department of transport in person and register it there. Because we weren’t travelling for a while we decided to just re-register it to the state of Western Australia.

Buying a car in Australia

To register the car in our state we needed to undergo a safety inspection. This didn’t bother us much as we’ll be travelling for a year and we don’t want to have any major problems with the car anyway! It is a bit expensive though, as each inspection costs around $80. We failed the first inspection because of a few small issues but passed the second one with flying colours ūüėČ we then got new license plates and paid the registration fee for 12 months. The cost of registration varies based on your car and state-WA is apparently the cheapest state and has the added bonus of being able to renew your rego online. Some states require you to undergo yearly safety inspections. Read more about each state’s requirements in the links below.

Western Australia

Victoria

New South Wales

South Australia

Tasmania

Northern Territory

ACT

Ask the right questions

Obviously no matter where you are in the world it’s important to ask the right questions when you buy a car. Ask to see the service history, ask what issues the previous owners had, ask what the fuel economy is like. Check what kind of thread the tyres have-especially if you’re travelling for a short time, tyres are an expensive thing to replace! If you’ll be travelling to hot desert areas it’s important to ask if the engine has issues with overheating. When you test drive the car check the windscreen wipers, cruise control, and listen for any unusual noises.

What to do once you’ve bought your car!

Once you’ve bought your car you have two weeks to transfer the registration from the previous owner’s name to yours. You can download the registration transfer forms from the relevant state’s website or visit the department of transport and register there. Once you’ve registered you have nothing else to worry about! Just be sure to renew your rego before it expires!

Be aware of the local driving laws- speed limits can differ from state to state! Try not to drive late at night in rural areas as you run a serious risk of hitting a kangaroo or other wildlife, which can seriously damage your car. Remember that by taking care of your car you increase your chance of selling it. I’ve heard of travelers reselling their cars for a profit at the end of their trips!

Have you ever bought a car in a foreign country? What was your experience? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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I Didn’t Choose The Van life, The Van Life Chose Me

Long before the van life movement began, long before Instagram’s obsession with “tiny homes”, and very long before the creation of this blog, a much younger version of me was spending her summers in a little caravan. At the beginning there were four of us traveling around Ireland for weeks at a time. Then we grew to five and our explorations extended across Europe, as far as Croatia. I didn’t know it at the time but these annual adventures were planting a deeply rooted love of travel within me. A love for temporary homes, for meeting new friends, for roadtrip music. A love for spending a week somewhere new, falling head over heels for it, and then moving on to the next wonderful destination.

Van Life

Back When I was Cute

Rediscovering The Van Life

Those trips are some of my best child hood memories. But, as childhood memories do, they faded over time. In all honesty I forgot how much I loved to camp, how much I loved the open road, how much I loved “tiny homes” until our road trip in California earlier this year, when we spend 16 nights in an Escape Camper Van. On our first night in Joshua Tree national park I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. As much as we loved travelling by rail and staying in hostels in Europe, it was this type of travel, this “van life”, that I really loved. I love the closeness to nature, the simplicity, the peace. And when we started to plan our next trip I knew this was the only way we wanted to travel.

Van life

So excited to start living in Jerry the Pajero!

Looking Forward

And from there the idea just evolved. We started off wanting to rent a camper for six weeks and travel as far as Broome. From there we realised it would be more cost-effective to just buy a camper. And from there we decided to extend our trip, and spend six months travelling around Australia. And now we are planning a trip with no definite end point, travelling all around the country and living off the grid while working on farms along the way. We’re not really certain what this trip will hold for us, but we know this is the kind of travel that best suits us. And, unlike in California, we have no deadlines, no schedule, and no return planes to catch! And that’s a really great feeling.

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Why we’ve Chosen Domestic Travel

As we look forward to our year long trip around Australia I thought we’d share some of the reasons we decided to travel domestically. Domestic travel can seem unappealing for a host of reasons. People often travel to experience other cultures, and we can understand why so many people choose to avoid domestic travel. But we really believe everyone should do some domestic travel at some point in their lives! There’s a whole beautiful world out there and we want to see it all, but there’s a number of reasons for why we decided to stay in Australia.

 

No expensive flights

On most international trips your biggest singular  expense will be your international flights! Our flights from Perth to Dublin cost us $1600AUD each, and our flights to America cost even more. When you travel domestically any flights you take will be much cheaper, and you don’t necessarily need to fly at all. We’ll be doing our trip around Australia in our four wheel drive. This cost us $3,500 and will be our transportation and our accommodation for our entire trip! That’s a pretty big saving!

Domestic Travel

Jerry the Four Wheel Drive!

We’ve also got the added bonus of not having to worry about the weight of our luggage, extra airline fees, or any liquid or food restrictions. We want to travel lightly but we have a lot more room for any extra things we might need.

 

No visas

Visa applications can get complicated, costly, and stressful. I’m lucky to have a  European passport which gives me greater access to other countries, but not everyone is as lucky. If you’ve got a passport that restricts your travel in foreign countries then domestic travel is a great option! You’ll save yourself time and money.

 

No travel insurance

Travel insurance is one of those costs that people often overlook when planning a trip. Paying for something that you hope you never need can suck, but it would be awful to be in a bad situation and regret not buying it. Many countries now require you to have travel insurance upon entering. The great thing about travelling domestically is that you don’t need to get travel insurance! Your regular health insurance should cover you for any potential accidents. In Australia we have good public health care and we know that if any problems do arise we won’t find ourselves paying an insane medical bill, like we would have in America.

 

No roaming charges

Another thing you can cross off your to-do list- roaming plans. You won’t need to pay extra for a roaming plan, unlock your phone, or buy a cheap phone at your destination; because your current plan will work just fine! Now you’re obviously not going to plan your holiday around your phone plan (or maybe you do, I’m not judging!) but it’s a nice bonus that saves you money and takes one less stress off your plate.

 

Environmentally friendly

Unfortunately flying to the other side of the world has a big impact on the environment. All those miles in the air equal lots of burning fuel, and lots of burning fuel equals lots of carbon emissions! By opting to travel closer to home your travels can be that little bit greener!

 

No foreign languages

It’s great to be able to visit new countries, pick up parts of other languages and muddle your way through interacting with others. But sometimes it can be exhausting! If you’re bilingually challenged like myself the idea of learning a new language is not only daunting but potentially impossible. When you travel your own country it’s a nice break from struggling to read menus and trying to remember if “sortie” means entrance or exit!

 

 

No currency exchange/bank card issues

This is a cool one because it’s one less thing to put on your pre-travel to do list! When travelling internally you won’t need to exchange currency, get a travel card, or organise anything extra with your bank. And when you arrive at your destination you won’t spend an embarrassingly long time trying to count your cash out at the check out!

Domestic Travel

Australia is so beautiful!

See your own backyard!

We have been in Australia for a fair chunk of our lives now and we’ve still seen the tiniest portion of it! How many times have you met someone while traveling who’s seen more of your native country than you have? How many times has someone asked you for recommendations on what to see and you’ve been clueless? It’s a great thing to be able to experience and explore your own country. It can enrich your understanding of your own culture and your own environment, and it helps you to appreciate your own unique place in the world. That’s why we’ve chosen to experience domestic travel together before we add any new countries to our list!

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How to Pick your Travel Destination 

Picking your travel destination can be really hard! The world is full of dream destinations and when you’ve only got a few weeks of travel time a year and when you spend all year saving for it, you definitely don’t want to regret your choice! Here are a few factors to consider when making that all important decision.

Budget

When it comes to budget travel not all countries are created equal. Work out what the budget for your trip will be and then ask yourself these questions.

How much will it cost to get there?

If your destination is on the other side of the world it will cost more to get there than it would to visit somewhere a train ride away. I could fly to Bali for a third of the cost of flying to Europe, or I could take a bus down South for even less. For most trips the cost of getting to your travel destination will be your biggest singular expense and it’s important to factor that in when researching destinations.

How much to stay there?

The cost of accommodation can vary greatly from country to country, and even from city to city. Switzerland and Germany border each other but it’s still infinitely cheaper to stay in Germany. Look at the available accommodation options in each location. Will you stay in a hostel? Are there highly rated hostels available? Will you have the option of staying in an Air BnB? If you’re the kind of traveler that leaves their accommodation first thing in the morning and doesn’t return until that night you don’t want to visit somewhere where expensive resorts are your only option.

What’s the cost of living?

If you’re on a budget you probably don’t want to visit somewhere where a glass of wine is going to make a dent in your retirement fund. Look at the cost of eating out, the cost of alcohol, the cost of attractions like museums and theme parks. You don’t want to arrive at your travel destination and find that you can’t afford to do anything!

Interests

Obviously you want to visit somewhere with activities that interest you!

What does your dream holiday involve?

Do you want a city break or would you rather explore the great outdoors? Do you like hiking mountains or would you rather relax on the beach? Does a day looking at old architecture sound fascinating or boring to you? The fact is my dream destination might be completely different to yours, and just because trip advisor highly recommends somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it! Ask yourself what it is you want from a holiday, whether it’s a relaxing retreat or a challenging adventure trip.

Mobility

How will you get around?

This is another one that will affect your budget! Some areas have better public transport than others, in some hitchhiking is the norm, and in others it’s impossible to get around without your own vehicle. Check the minimum age for renting a car, look at rail pass options, and research the rules of the road in your potential holiday location. If you’re staying in a city check if parking will be an issue, or if you’re doing a road trip look at hiring a camper to combine the cost of travel and accommodation. You could even rent a bike and cycle around, particularly in European countries!

Safety

What are the risks?

We’ve mentioned our thoughts on the dangers of traveling before. We really believe that travelling is generally safe if you’re prepared, but be aware of safety conditions is your chosen destination. For example, I would probably avoid visiting somewhere like Syria for the time being. Even in “safer” countries it’s important to be aware of potential dangers. If you’re in a city known for being a pick pocketing area you need to prepare and be aware of your belongings always. Travel insurance is also an important factor here, make sure you’re adequately covered for whatever activities you’ll be participating in, particularly if it’s a more extreme sport like skiing.

 

If you consider these factors you’re sure to pick a travel destination that best suits you!

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Travel Apps to help you along the way!

Our favourite travel apps

Technology can make life so much easier when you’re travelling! We use lots of apps to help us plan, get around, and safe money while we’re on the road. Here are some of our favourites! 

Gas Buddy-find the cheapest fuel in your area-this is great for road trips and saved us lots of $$$s in California!

Hostel world-this apps got a huge database of hostels around the world. It’s a great tool for backpacking on a budget! 

Rome to Rio-this is a really handy tool for finding different options for getting from A to B! It tells you the time and cost for using plane, train or car!



Rail Planner
-this is the eurail timetable app. It is one of the most useful apps you can have while travelling in Europe and we relied on it heavily! It’s a collaboration of each country’s rail timetable put together in a really functional easy to use app. 

Booking.com– a great way to find the best value deals at your destination! What I love about this app is that they have tonnes of reviews for each hotel so you can find out what kind of place you’re booking!

Air BnB-everyone’s heard about Air BnB! This app has brought the traditional bed and breakfast into the contemporary travel world with great results. Living with locals is a great way to get to know your destination, and usually you can get some bargain prices too!

Trip Advisor– I am an unashamed trip advisor addict. I love to search my dream destinations and find out about all the activities there. Trip advisor allows you to see the highest rated accommodation, eateries and activities in your destination of choice! It doesn’t get much more comprehensive than that. 

Apple Maps– I know Apple maps has been the subject of some criticism,particularly when compared to the more well established Google maps. But I find that often when travelling Apple maps can be the better option. The main reason for this is that Apple maps has a better public transport feature, with detailed directions between stations. And I’m all for not getting lost on my way to the airport!



Pinterest
– I only found out recently that Pinterest is such a hub for travel bloggers. I’ve learned so many new travel tips and found lots of great travel blogs to read by perusing the travel sections of this useful app! It’s definitely worth checking out when planning your next trip. 

Exploring Yosemite

The last national park on our California itinerary was perhaps our most anticipated. Yosemite is one of those magically beautiful places that adorns travel websites. It’s been immortalised in famed photographs by the late Ansell Adams and hiking bloggers always sing the praises of its many nature trails. Right before we arrived the rare phenomenon of the fire falls occurred, further exciting us for the beautiful sights we would soon be experiencing.  

Tunnel View-a serious site to behold

As soon as we emerged on the other side of the tunnel we knew exactly what all the hype was about. You can look at as many pictures of tunnel view as you want, but there’s nothing quite like exiting the darkness of the tunnel and seeing all the wonders of Yosemite laid out before you. The snowy peaks of El Capitain and the Half Dome, the tumbling water of Yosemite falls, and the forest covered plains of the valley floor; all stretched out as far as the eye can see. It is a genuinely grand entrance. We stopped for a while and watched the sun melt behind the granite structures. There were lots of disappointed visitors who had been hoping to catch another fire falls, and I was amazed that anyone could feel disappointed when surrounded by such beauty. 
In comparison to some of the other parks we’d visited it was clear that Yosemite is quite well funded and a bit more commercialised. The park has a shuttle system that allows you to easily get around the valley. It’s especially useful for one way hikes-you can get dropped off at one end and picked up at the other. The visitor centre here is very large and has lots of impressive displays. And there are many accommodation options-the usual campsites, curry villiage,and a hotel-as well as several restaurants. 

The view of Half Dome from Upper Pines Campground

One of the bad things about travelling in the Winter month is that the shorter days mean that you really have to prioritise your time in the park. This is made easier by the other bad thing about travelling in Winter-lots of the hikes are closed. With this in mind we decided to pick three hikes to do. We chose

-The bridal veil falls hike

-The hike to the base of lower Yosemite falls 

-The Vernal falls hike/mist trail
The Bridal Veil falls hike is a short half mile (0.8 km) return walk. The trail is paved and takes you to the base of the falls. I found the walk to be disappointing as it ended quite far away from the waterfall. It is a good walk if you want to take some photos or if you have a low fitness level. It isn’t the most spectacular trail Yosemite has to offer but it did get us warmed up for the rest of the day.

Two happy hikers!

Next we hiked to the base of Yosemite falls. There is a shuttle bus to the trail head and from there it’s a one mike (1.6km) loop. We found this walk much more enjoyable. It took us through the forest and we got so close to the waterfall that we were being sprayed by it. There were lots of pretty views of the waterfalls and Yosemite creek, and exhibits along the way explaining the history of the area. I’d definitely recommend this hike!

The breathtaking Yosemite falls

The final hike was to the Vernal falls footbridge. This is part of the longer mist trail which brings you to the Nevada falls. While fairly short (1.6 miles/2.6 km round trip from the happy isles shuttle stop) this hike can be really steep! 

The Mist trail is steep! nps.gov

However the views are beautiful. There’s a bit of everything along this trail-you can see walls of granite towering above you, forest surrounding you and-of course-gushing waterfalls! It’s my favourite of the hikes we did in Yosemite. California was our first experience with hiking so we did find this trail to be a bit challenging, but it was so worth it! Reaching the footbridge was wonderful- vernal falls is so beautiful and majestic-and we found that we weren’t ready for this hike to end just yet! So we decided to continue to the top of Vernal falls and the Emerald Pool. We felt excited and reenergised and couldn’t wait to reach the top…but then within 0.3 miles of Vernal falls we were met with a sign saying the trail was closed in Winter due to risk of ice and rock falling. So I guess it was a little silly of us to not be more prepared. But we still really enjoyed the hike despite this disappointment! And hopefully you can learn from our mistakes. 

Vernal Falls from the footbridge

In conclusion, Yosemite in Winter is beautiful. It’s less busy, it’s easy to get a campsite in the valley, and there are pretty blankets of snow everywhere. It does have it downsides (Tioga pass is closed, you can’t climb the half dome, lots of trails are closed and you must carry snow chains), but you can always visit again in Spring! And then maybe Summer and Autumn Too ūüėČ

 

One day we’ll hike the Half Dome!

Free camping on the Pacific Coast Highway 

The Pacific Coast Highway(also known as highway one, the Cabrillo highway, or Coast highway)is famous for its ocean views, its surfing opportunities, and its array of wildlife. It’s a road that attracts thousands of visitors, and we loved exploring it’s nooks and crannies. The hotels along this route can charge a premium for their location. But what if I told you you could stay along this road entirely for free?¬†Yup, free camping is possible all over this beautiful stretch of road.

Imagine waking up to this view for free!

We loved our time along highway one. We got to watch elephant seals basking, hike beautiful coastal trails, and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. But while this road stole our hearts, we didn’t let it steal our wallets! In fact, after leaving San Francisco, we didn’t spend anymore money on accommodation until we arrived in Los Angeles!¬†And we even did it legally.

How did we camp for free?

The wonderful thing about the pacific coast highway is that a huge portion of it is within the bounds of Los Padres national forest. And if you want to camp cheaply in the US, the most important thing to know is that in most national forests you can camp anywhere for free! Nation Forests are free camping central. There are a few exceptions to this rule (look our for signs that say “no overnight parking”) but generally once you hit national forest you’re in free territory!

Just some of the many Elephant Seals relaxing on the beach

There are definitely some down sides to free camping. I can’t promise you even basic facilities like running water. But what you will get are amazing views, and some extra money in your bank account to enjoy your travels. Any roadside rest stop along forest roads is fair game to free¬†camp in. You can park in the Big Sur visitor centre and hike into the forest to really camp in the wilderness (you need permits for some activities like lighting camp fires, and as always you should check in at the visitor centre and let them know when you’ll be returning). There are no bears around Big Sur so you won’t have that to worry about! The forest begins just south of Carmel and continues almost as far as San Simeon. And once you get passed San Luis Obispo it begins again, stretching passed Santa Barbara and almost as far as Los Angeles!

Point Lobos, one of our favourite spots along the road

If you like the idea of camping along the PCH but hate the idea of peeing behind a bush, there are still options for you! There are a few paid but still cheap campsites along the way. These include:

Andrew Molera State Park-$25 per night

Kirk Creek Campground-$25 per night

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park-$30 per night

For more information and to reserve a spot at these campsites visit reserveamerica.com


Then all that’s left to do is enjoy the view!