There’s nothing quite like the freedom of camping – packing up a home away from 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 the wild world.
If you are 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 favorite 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).
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. Hike, swim or fish for rainbow trout in the Mohaka River to cook on the campsite barbecue.
Lake Pearson (Moana Rua), Waimakariri Basin, Canterbury
Twenty-two miles 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, this is a site where glampers need not apply. Like most free campsites, this minimalist camp has no showers, your water source is the stream and toilets are of the long-drop variety.
Swim, fish, kayak, bird watch or relax and take in the impressive views. Dogs and fires are not allowed on the site, so remember to pack extra layers for the chilly nights. Also, don’t forget insect repellent to keep those pesky mosquitoes at bay.
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 that make up Ninety Mile Beach.
As you’d imagine, water sports are a main draw with boating, fishing and surfing filling your days.
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 motor homes. There’s a pit toilet on site, but you’ll have to bring your own water and take all your trash 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.
Breathe 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-colored sandstone cliffs, a slot canyon, and a variety of plant life and animals.
Open June to October, Lava Point is a one hour and 20 minutes’ drive to the camp from the South Entrance of Zion Canyon.
These are basic campsites with pit toilets and garbage 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
Watch the sun rise and set over Badlands’ rugged landscape and explore the impressive geology and colorful flora.
Open year round, Saga Creek can be your outdoor home for up to 14 nights. 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 more than 3,000 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 five-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, the tradition of pitching a tent for the night free of charge is alive and well at several of the U.K.’s national parks 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 as long as they respect the natural environment and remove everything they bring 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 United Kingdom’s highest mountains, in Cairngorms National Park.
The Estate lies three miles west of Braemar and welcomes wild campers for short stays. 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