"Free camping is permitted for travellers in many places around Australia."
It is indeed a privilege to be able to camp in designated areas for free or at very low cost when tourists are trying to stretch their hard earned dollars as far and for as long as they can.
You can't just pull up and camp anywhere, especially in towns and cities, unless specifically signposted. There aren't many free camps within major town and city limits but you will find the select few which are defiinitely an advantage when you come across them.
One example worthy of mention is the Gordonvale rest area, just 25km south of popular Cairns in Queensland, beside the Mulgrave River. The grassy camp area is huge and all types of rigs are permitted and better yet pets are allowed. It's the perfect freebie, where you can set up camp and explore the Cairns region. There is running water and basic toilets and it is an ideal camp to enjoy for free in a popular tourist area.
You will however, generally find many roadside overnight rest areas and bush camps close to many towns along highways and roads throughout Australia, particularly in less populated areas and in the outback. Rivers and creeks usually allow camping nearby.
Do not assume that if there are no signs stating "no camping permitted here" that you can, especially in towns and cities, as you'll be infringing council laws if you do and can be faced with a fine. They can't have signs up everywhere.
Many town councils and surf clubs along the east coast operate low cost camping grounds overlooking the beach with facilities and views. We were very impressed with the amount of waterfront cheap stays over east. Most have powered and unpowered sites, amenities with hot showers and camp kitchens too.
Our national parks throughout Australia also offer very cheap bush camping sites and most have toilet facilities and many offer great views and are close to the main point of interests you are wanting to explore.
The best guide to travel with to help you determine where free camping is permitted all around Australia is the Camps Australia Wide travel companion (available with a cardboard spine and spiral spine for a little extra money for easy page flipping). This book has comprehensive Australia-wide road maps, featuring designated free and cheap camp grounds marked throughout the country. The numbered symbols on the maps correspond to a section for each state with descriptions about the facilities at each camp site and accurate directions for off-road camp sites. This book is the free camper's travel bible and will honestly save you a bundle of money in camp fees along your travels. We promise!
Camps Australia Wide is also available in an edition including camp snaps or photos of free sites, however this is a little more pricey but worth purchasing if you'd like to plan ahead and get a look at how the camp site looks, particularly for larger set-ups. These books all feature maps with travel distances from the nearest towns, facility indicators such as pet friendly, free or not (most are), amenities, power, barbeques, water, mobile phone reception, shade, fireplaces and views. The prices vary according to the edition, however will save you camp fees at the average Australian caravan park of 2-3 nights. Now if you're travelling around Australia for weeks, months or even longer this is a reference book worth investing in. We've had ours for years and it has saved us a fortune in camping fees and it is great to be able to look up where you are headed towards the end of each day on the road and plan your next free camp.
Happy camping...happy campers!