Can you tent camp in a roadside rest area?

Can you tent camp in a roadside rest area?


While traveling around Australia I always noticed the signed posted on the side of the road. Signs like Drowsy Drivers Die etc.. These signs always made me wonder if we were allowed to camp in these roadside rest areas. So the question is can you tent camp in a roadside rest area?

The Answer Is No, sadly your not allowed to tent camp in these locations. However, in most of the roadside rest areas, you are allowed to sleep in your car for 20 hours or so.

Keep Reading For More Information and a better understanding of why these rules are in place.

The Rules/Laws Of Roadside Rest Areas

Each state of Australia has its own governing rules on Roadside rest areas and while they all kinda say similar things the main thing they are trying to say is rest areas are for trucks and fatigued drivers.

Roadside rest areas are just that they are for short term rest up to 20 hours and in some cases 8 hours within a 24 hour period.

NTC (National Transport Commission) has a handy .pdf file with some helpful info relating to rest areas and the rules surrounding their use – (source)

The Queensland government website states that Rest areas are a place where you can stop and rest, making your journey safer and more enjoyable. (source)

They also mention no camping in the WA roads government website (source)

In line with this policy, Main Roads rest areas are therefore not intended to provide either a camping place or a place for extended stays (more than 24 hours). Where considered necessary to achieve the required positive fatigue outcomes for users on a route

Sadly from the research I’ve done, I can’t find clear laws regarding rest areas, and maybe that’s because the name says it all, they are for rest, not tent camping.

Besides the basic signage laws regarding the type of rest area and some basic vague information, there’s not much else written about roadside rest areas in regards to the law.

I believe that the reason for this is because it’s pretty self-explanatory. if your tired you rest, freshen up, use the toilet and then you continue on your journey.

I should add and I say this without judgment, a campsite is about 30$ a night and comes with a bunch of great features. There are much better free and paid options for camping than a roadside rest stop.

What Are Roadside Rest Areas For

roadside rest area
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

The main purpose of a roadside rest stop is purely to reduce fatigued drivers being on the road by providing them with a place to rest.

You will find rest stops for truck drivers on main freight routes. while there are 3 types of rest stops they will all share the same reason for their existence and that’s to provide a rest stop for fatigued drivers along long stretches of road where there is otherwise no other place for those drivers to pull over safely and rest.

Simply put Roadside Rest Areas are for Rest.

Can You Stay Overnight At A Rest Area

Your allowed to stay overnight at some rest stops and you will just need to read the signs posted. Normally a stay of up to 20 hours is permitted in most states in Australia.

A thing to note is your not allowed to pitch a tent and camp in a rest area, however, you are allowed to sleep in your car and in a caravan or camper.

If it’s rest you need feel free to get some shut eye in your driver’s seat with the seat reclined all the way back

Why Do You Want To Tent Camp In a Rest Area?

I think an important question you should ask yourself is, why would you want to tent camp is a roadside rest area?.

If it’s to save money on accommodation then there are plenty of free campsites out there that are 100% more breathtaking than any roadside rest stop.

Maybe it’s because you’re tired and you want to sleep and the only place before you crash the car is a rest stop.

If your answer is the latter and you just need to rest well don’t worry you can stay in your car and in some cases a caravan/camper for in most cases up to 20 hours.

while sleeping in your car is not comfortable especially when you have a mattress and tent in the car, sorry you will have to refrain from pitching the tent.

Some Facts About Rest Areas

Did you know that Queensland has 3 types of rest areas.

  • motorist rest areas—for motor vehicle and caravan stopping only.
  • heavy vehicle rest areas—for heavy vehicle stopping only.
  • combined motorist and heavy vehicle rest areas—where trucks, motorists, and caravans can stop and take a break.

Western Australia has 3 rest areas as well, though they are called something else.

  • Minor Rest Area – shortstops and minor facilities such as a toilet and water.
  • Major Rest Area – Designed for longer stops, provides much more facilities.
  • Heavy Vehicle Rest Area – only for trucks to stop and use.

Another cool thing to know about rest areas is some of the facilities they offer. Some Roadside rest areas have:

  • picnic tables
  • BBQs
  • water
  • toilets
  • bins
  • parking areas
  • shelter
  • tourist and route information.

Some rest areas even have playgrounds.

Here’s a little fun fact Queensland has just over 450 roadside rest areas spaced out along Queensland roads.


I think an important thing to take away from this is, no, while you can’t tent camp at a roadside rest area you can rest in your car or caravan for upto 20 hours.

So if it’s rest you need just rest save your energy setting up the tent.

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Hi, my name is Becca I'm a mum and wife and I love camping with my family. I started this blog to share great information about tents and camping.

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