Stealth Camping

Life on the road means that sometimes you are camping in a few unusual places. You may be at a magnificent picturesque location by the ocean miles from anywhere, or you may be in the city or suburbs among throngs of people.  Since most of my more recent travels have been in the troopy, I’m starting to appreciate the ease with which you can camp the night in places that you couldn’t hope to stay if you had a caravan or similar.

Camp spot

A few basic guidelines I’d give for free camping. Look for areas out of the way. Areas around beaches are great though in some places it can be windy, and if it’s an onshore wind and you’re close to the water you’ll get sea spray all over your car, especially if it’s rough. One place I recently stayed was very windy but the view was fantastic so I stayed at the exposed spot until dark, then moved a couple of hundred metres down the road to another car park further along the beach where it was more protected.

Sheltered spot by beach

Be discrete. Don’t string up washing or get out a table and chairs, this might attract unwanted attention.  I adopt the policy that if there’s no sign saying I can’t camp, then I’ll do it.  If there’s a no camping sign, keep driving, go to the next car park.


I’ve slept in many different places now, some spots have been quite built up and to date, I’ve never been questioned by anyone and I’ve never been told to move on. I’ve also never had any issues with other people or felt unsafe in any way. Once I was rudely awakened in the middle of the night by what I can only describe as sounding like a freight train blasting by within a few metres of my car.

It was a freight train. I’d parked 10 or 15 metres from a train track without realizing it.

View of Perth

If you have a pop top, don’t pop it until after dark, I’ve spent many an afternoon in the back of the troopy, sometimes in quite populated areas and no one bats an eyelid while the roofs down, once it’s dark, pop the top. Sometimes in very built up areas it may be best not popping your top at all if you can get away with not doing it. I’ve done this a few times now, you can sleep in the middle of the city and no one knows your there if you are discrete, in the picture below I slept right in Fremantle at the boat harbour opposite a hotel.

Stealth sleeping in Freo

Leave early in the morning, or at least pack up early. Often rangers and other council staff will do their rounds in the morning when they start work. This happened recently in a spot at a beach where I camped a few nights. At about 7.30 a guy in a council ute would arrive, he seemed to be targeting people coming down to walk dogs on the beach as it was a “no dog” area. I made sure that I was packed up with my top down before 7.30, no problems, he didn’t look twice at me sitting on the back tail gate drinking my coffee and checking emails.


Always, always, always take your rubbish with you. The last spot I was at had numerous bins yet fishermen tended to leave a mess most nights, I did a quick walk each morning to pick up the rubbish and chuck it in the bin.

Look for spots around industrial areas, rather than popular tourist places. The beach I was camped at near Perth was right beside an industrial area and so long as the wind was blowing in the right direction it wasn’t a problem.

Not stealth camping

This is not stealth camping. I’d spent many nights camped here on the edge of the water often by myself and perhaps one other person in the car park. If I ever came here and there were already 2 people camped, I’d move on and find another spot. This photo was taken on a Sunday morning at about 9.00, there are 4 camper vans taking up all except 2 of the car parking places and people are treating it like their own personal house, tables and chairs out, stoves, cooking breakfast. This is a public space, and it’s a boat ramp, there was no room left for people wanting to use the area for day use activities, and it was a beautiful Sunday morning, this leads to people getting upset and complaining to council.   “Bloody car park at the boat ramp is filled with campers, can’t launch my boat/go fishing etc.”

I imagine that next time I visit that spot there will be a “no camping” sign, and rightly so when people take advantage like this.


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