Sydney's a fantastic city - it's global and diverse, has great weather and is surrounded by national parks that are close enough to explore for a weekend. For the outdoors addict, you've got the option of camping, hiking, climbing, kayaking and cycling year round.
Although there are plenty of popular campgrounds that you need to book weeks or months in advance, there are also a heap of campsites within a 90 minute drive of Sydney that are free and don't take bookings. Check out our faves below. If you're not sure which region is for you, there's a quick guide at the base of this article.
Our fave free campgrounds
Gentlemans Halt is a remote campsite on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in Marramarra National Park, accessible on foot (a 10km hike) or by boat.
Black Range Campsite is on the Six Foot Track, 10km from the Jenolan Caves. The campground is a flat, grassy area, surrounded by gum trees, with no defined tent sites. Bookings aren't required - it's a large campground with space for 30+ tents.
The Coxs River Campsite is a popular campground in the Blue Mountains. The Six Foot Track passes through it and it is also 4X4 accessible.
The Six Foot Track is widely regarded as one of the best multi-day bushwalks in the greater Sydney / Blue Mountains areas. Over 44km (27 miles) the track winds from Katoomba down into the beautiful Megalong Valley before heading up to the Jenolan Caves.
Acacia Flats is a walk-in campsite with no vehicle access, so it's perfect for active folks after a more remote backpacking experience. In addition to carrying in your gear, you'll need to be prepared for a good hike - there's several routes to Acacia Flats but all involve steep walks down into the valley from the cliffs above. It's well worth the effort though - you'll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views in the Blue Mountains, plus you can have a dip in the Grose River.
Sydney's national park regions
In addition to the national parks within greater Sydney, you've got the Blue Mountains to the west, the Hawkesbury River and Central Coast to the north and the Southern Sydney, well, to the south. Each area has its own appeal.
The Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury River areas both have numerous free campsites that don't require bookings, particularly for backpackers who are happy hiking in to more remote locations. Southern Sydney has campgrounds starting from $12/night.
Blue Mountains - The greater Blue Mountains was world heritage listed in 2000 for good reason - it's spectacular. Packed with rugged scenery made up of towering cliffs and deep gorges, it's a favourite for climbers and bushwalkers. Quaint towns like Leura and Blackheath dot the Great Western Highway and make for perfect lunch stops. The Blue Mountains gets pretty cold (by Sydney standards) in winter, with occasional snow. In summer the temperature will regularly pass 30 degrees. The Blue Mountains is well connected by train to Sydney too.
Hawkesbury River - To the north of Sydney, the Hawkesbury River is a salt water river lined with mangroves and full of fish. It's a great area of boating, fishing or kayaking. Areas like Marramarra National Park feature some good day bushwalks and remove overnight campsites. You'll need to carry your own drinking water in to most campsites though, which could be a turn off for some.
Northern Beaches and Central Coast - Beautiful beaches and family-friendly campsites make the northern beaches and central coast popular parts of greater Sydney for camping. We haven't found any free campsites in this area.
Southern Sydney - Past Sydney's Sutherland Shire you'll find Royal National Park and Heathcote National Park. Neither contains free campgrounds, but you can pitch your tent from only $12/night.
Dried mango and mango fruit leather is a delicious snack, either for hiking or just to eat anytime. This recipe runs you through how to make dried mango, with no added sugar or preservatives.
Mushroom risotto is a staple vegetarian dinner dish for good reason - it's filling, flavoursome and an all-round crowd pleaser. We've made a few tweaks to this recipe to make it suitable for camping.
This shakshuka recipe's perfect for camping - it cooks in one pot, is full of flavour and is easy to cook. Shakshuka is a traditional Israeli breakfast dish made by cooking eggs in a spicy tomato-based sauce.