Free and low cost camping in Australia is fantastic, but it does mean finding your own water to fill up the caravan or camper tanks while travelling.
You can definitely fill up your water and leave with full tanks when staying in a caravan park, but when you’re hopping between Free, Low Cost Camps and National Parks you need to source water from elsewhere.
Filling caravan water tanks while Free Camping is easy with the WikiCamps app, plus Visitor Information Centres will almost always have water available.
MYTH: You need to back up a Free Camp with a Caravan Park to top up the water tanks.
FACT: There are plenty of potable water taps around Australia, you don’t ever need to go to a Caravan Park if you don’t want to.
So, where and how exactly do you find water to fill your tanks every few days while on the road travelling Australia? Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to source out water to fill up your tanks. Once you get used to finding water, it’s actually quite simple.
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Filling Caravan Water Tanks While Free Camping
The first place we always look when finding water while travelling around Australia is our WikiCamps App.
You can download WikiCamps from Google Play or the App Store for $7.99. It will show you not only where all of the drinking water taps are but also camps, points of interest, dump points and more. I cannot recommend it enough!
Once you’ve downloaded the App, set up all of your filters to show the specific things that you need to see while travelling, such as Drinking Water taps.
If you’re not sure how to use WikiCamps, click below for the full guide on how to set up the App and use it to find all of your camping and road tripping resources.
Travel Apps Planner
The Planner will take you through over 70 of the most commonly used Australian travel apps.
- 31 pages
- 70+ Aussie Travel Apps (13 categories)
- Select your own Apps
- Notes sections to help you plan
- Tick off your choices as you download them
- DIGITAL & PRINTABLE
Visitor Information Centres
Visitor Information Centres quite often (but not always) have drinking water taps suitable for filling up caravan and camper water tanks. Just go inside and check with the staff if you can’t see a sign saying, ‘Drinking Water.’
Info Centres commonly have Dump Points for black water waste (from caravan toilets), but don’t be tempted to fill up your water tanks from the tap at the Dump Point. They’re definitely not sanitary!
We have been known to fill up our fresh water tanks at Petrol Stations occasionally while travelling. Make sure you always ask first though as it’s not always cool to do so.
Some Petrol Stations don’t actually have potable water anyway, so you don’t want to tarnish your tanks with water that’s not of good quality.
We’ve only ever filled up with water when we’ve filled up our fuel tanks, so after having just spent nearly $300, the staff are a bit more inclined to say ‘yes.’ Having said that, if you’re going to be blocking the bowser for another 15 minutes, they might be a bit hesitant.
Another place to find water in towns is at a local park. Sometimes the tap handle will have been removed by the council as they don’t want people taking the water for whatever reason. Be respectful of the local community.
If you desperately need water and it’s the only place you can find, it pays to ask at the local Information Centre or a local business first. You may need a Tap Key to turn the water on if the handle is missing (see the point below on Tap Keys).
Water Filling Stations
Some towns have water available for travellers in the form of coin-operated water stations. Two towns that we’ve been to with water stations are Bingara, NSW and Sapphire, Central QLD. Apparently, Coober Pedy does as well, among others.
The prices vary from 20c per 40L to $4 per 100L and even $1 per 1000L!
It’s definitely a good idea to carry spare change as you’re travelling, just in case you need to fill your tanks at a water station.
You can generally find water at Showgrounds when travelling, but it’s not always free. Check out your WikiCamps App to see if they have an available water tap or if you need to camp there to have access to the water.
Free & Low Cost Camps
Yep, many Free and Low Cost Camps (including Donation Camps) have water taps on site where you can hook up and fill your tanks. Even if you’re not staying at the camp, you’re still welcome to top up the tanks.
Now while this will not provide you with potable drinking water, many campers find water from nearby creeks for washing clothes, dishes and showering. Be mindful of how clean the water is and make sure it’s fresh running water that isn’t sitting stagnant.
We personally would never put creek water into our tanks as all three of ours are allocated for drinking water, so creek water would forever taint them. Some people have one dedicated drinking water tank and the other/s are for washing and cleaning. Another option is to have a jerry can for creek water so as to keep it separate. Whatever works for you.
Bear in mind that you shouldn’t be taking water from local waterways in drought affected areas where water is scarce. Sometimes what little water is there is necessary to keep the local eco system alive.
A 12 volt pump is the best way to draw water from the creek into your water storage.
Extra Tips For Filling Up Your Water Tanks
Use a Filter
It’s a good idea to filter your water as it’s going into your tanks. Most town water in Australia is generally good, drinkable water. But you never know when something may end up in your tank that can give you an upset tummy.
An Inline Water Filter will do the trick. You just attach it to your hose as you’re filling up your tanks so that the water goes through the filter before hitting your tanks.
If you’ve ever had to deal with water tanks not filling up properly, or the taps spluttering from air locks, check out the troubleshooting guide below.
Use a ‘Stand At Ease Water Tank Filler’
To fill your tanks much easier and quicker, get yourself a Stand At Ease Water Tank Filler.
These little water tank fillers are great for not having to fuss around with different fittings on the caravan water tank inlet holes. They also give you the ability to not have to stand there holding the hose in the exact position the whole time.
‘Stand At Ease Water Tank Filler’ benefits:
- Helps prevent air locks
- Fills water tank quicker
- Holds hose in position
- Swivel connection
- Angled flexible pipe for seamless use
- Compatible with standard hoses
Here’s a great video showing how the Stand At Ease Water Tank Filler works.
Alternatively, you can make your own less fancy version using a simple piece of hose, with a tap fitting on the end (pictured below).
Carry Spare Hose & Tap Fittings
You definitely need to carry spare hose and tap fittings (eBay) for finding water while travelling. Most taps don’t have a connection on them (people steal them), so it’s BYO. Don’t forget to take yours with you when you’re finished filling up your water!
We always carried a bag with a variety of tap bits – you never know what you’re going to need.
Get a Tap Key
It’s handy to carry a Tap Key, which can be found on eBay or at Bunnings for about $16. They’re made from brass and have four different tap sizes in the one key.
Sometimes you’ll find that a public tap doesn’t have a handle on it – usually, it’s been taken off by the council to avoid vandalism.
Having this key will enable you to access water at parks and sports grounds etc. Be mindful to not steal water from places you’re not meant to, but it’s good to have in case of emergency.
Carry Spare Water Storage
If you plan on Free Camping for longer periods of time, chances are that you’ll run out of water and need to top up the tanks.
In this case you can hitch up the caravan/ camper and head into the nearest town to top up the water tanks. But, you run the risk of losing your perfectly selected camp spot, unless someone stays behind with the camp chairs to bar your turf.
Another option is to carry extra water storage. If we know that we’re staying at camp for a while, we’ll take our water jerry cans (or even the water bladder) with us every time we go for a drive and use it to top up the water tanks. This can easily buy us an extra few days without having to take the caravan to the water tap.
Collect Rainwater From Your Awning
Another way to stretch out your water supply is to collect rainwater from your awning. This can be used for washing feet, hands and can even be put into the washing machine to do a load of laundry.
How to collect rainwater from the awning:
- Lower one end of the awning down, directing the water run-off into a bucket
- Use a Rain Saver Gutter Kit (below)
Rain Saver Gutter Kit Inclusions:
- 10 Gutter Clips
- Bucket with pre-stamped hole and lid
- Bucket fitting with O-ring
- Snap on hose connector
- 3 Ball Bungees
- Leaf Guard
- Installation instructions
Grab yourself a Rain Saver Gutter Kit for a convenient way to gather and store rainwater on the road.
Something to be very mindful of is that some towns in Australia are in severe drought and are struggling to even service the local residents, let alone travellers that come through town.
If you know that you’ll be camping in a drought affected area, it’s common courtesy to fill up your tanks before you get there.
One such area that we visited was St Lawrence in Central Queensland. We detoured off the highway to fill up our water tanks and empty the toilet cassette but soon realised that there was no water available in town for travellers.
Towns with heavy water restrictions will generally have some signage as you drive in to make you aware. It also pays to research ahead of time if you’re not sure.
Now you’re all set for filling caravan water tanks while Free Camping so that your fresh water tanks are never empty for long.