Rest Areas or Free Camps? The Facts and the Fiction

Rest Areas or Free Camps? The Facts and the Fiction

In this, the first of a three part series, Keith Thompson, one of our FRC Ambassadors,  looks at how we, as travellers, should treat and respect the various type of roadside stops.

Yaamba Rest Area

Those of us who travel all the time, or those who make that annual journey, often need that roadside stop for the night; away from a traditional campground or Caravan Park.  Many of us use these areas to gradually “hop” along with greater distances without the need for the facilities of a formal Park. Unfortunately, there is much misinformation and misconception about the role and use of roadside Rest Areas (or whatever they are called in various States).

There are some common threads, but even though the rules vary state by state, we hope to clarify (at least in part) this situation here.  Let me start by saying that Free Range Camping, as well as other responsible web directories and the publishers of the most used, printed directories, all take great care that we all publish only legally approved, or allowed, camping locations**.  Unfortunately, the unchecked listing via some well used Apps and forums are further confusing the issue by not following the basic principle of “is this legal?”.

This brings us to the first and often confusing definition – “CAMPING”; here is a typically confusing sign, often seen in Queensland:

A common sign in Qld

“Maximum stay 20 hours” but “No Camping…” Clearly, at least at this location, sleeping in your RV is not camping, but the use of a tent is (is that obvious?) What about a camper trailer? Or a roof topper? I am afraid we don’t have the answer to that little conundrum,  but we at FRC do try to follow other information on a particular site if we find it, especially regarding camper trailers which we separately specify in our listings.

This broad definition would lead you to believe that a “No Camping” sign alone at a Rest Area only applies to Tents (and they’re like) but is that the truth? In later parts of this series we will look at the variations in this particular bit of terminology…but for now an overview:
There are several common designations used throughout the country and as a general observation, overnight stopping is not permitted in those which are termed “Stopping Bay” or “Parking Bay”. Those designated as “Rest Area” are the ones most likely to allow stopping for a specified maximum period.

Each state has its own regulations, or lack thereof, regarding the use of the various types of roadside areas.  There is one reasonably universal rule though relating to Truck Rest and Parking Areas. If marked with ONLY a truck sign, similar to this…

Truck Only Rest Area sign in Qld

….then it is prohibited to even enter the area in any other vehicle except in a genuine emergency (not fatigue management other than Trucks). This rule usually does not apply if the location is also signed in advance as a “Rest Area”. Also has other facilities (Toilets, tables, etc.) as well as the Truck sign, although this does vary by State.

This is a direct quote from NSWRMS:

Rest areas are used by heavy vehicle drivers to take long and short rest breaks. Also to use amenities and check loads and vehicles. Heavy vehicle drivers must conform to fatigue management legislation that specifies strict resting requirements. In order to fulfil these requirements, drivers require suitable rest area facilities that are regularly spaced along key freight routes.

These “Truck Only” areas are essential for our truck drivers to take these mandatory breaks from driving. Which the rest of us are not subjected. In some states both Police and Transport Inspectors can issue fines for just being in a Truck Bay – so beware! Note that this equally applies to other areas for trucks only. Which may be designated “Road Train Assembly Area” or “Truck Inspection Bay” etc.
You should note also that Free Rage Camping does not include Truck Only areas in our Rest Area category listings.

It is equally important for areas shared with trucks that we leave large open spaces in front (roadside) for the trucks to safely enter and exit. Please remember if you are in Road Train areas that these require a lot of room! The writer recently saw 2 caravans in a Road Train rest area both pulled up for a lunch break. Also had entered from the wrong end – PLEASE People!

This is a good example of a responsibly shared site. One that is not very big (near Winton) with the caravans keeping to the rear:

Shared rest area near Winton, Qld

In Part Two of this series, we will examine the variations between States; who has the clearest regulations, and where the rules are rather “Grey”. Until then, safe driving (and resting).

**Please note that at the date of writing this article (Nov. 2017) FRC is reviewing and updating our Rest Area/Free Camps listings.  We have completed QLD and NSW and are currently working on VIC. Please note that the locations we list as “Rest Area” do not allow overnight stays. They are for day use only (at the time of publication with information available). We always welcome submissions from members via the website or our App (for Premium members). Advising any changes in our listed information.

Disclaimer: Any information contained in this article that may imply a legal requirement is sourced from freely available published documentation from various relevant authorities.


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