Where Is The Best Free Camping in Thredbo?

There’s something magical about alpine ranges. And camping in Thredbo encompasses the wildest and largest in Australia.

Humans are creatures of habit. We feel the most comfortable in a certain surrounding. Some of us are city slickers, some beach bums and others mountain warriors. 

Our innate sense is to flock to the mountains.

And who can disagree when the air is so crisp, the sound of birds carry for miles through the distant valleys and flowing rivers complete the perfect landscape…

Here’s but a taste of what I’m talking about…

Kosciuszko National Park holds the highest mountain in Australia. In fact, the national park boasts of the 10 highest peaks in the nation – all within walking distance…

Well, walking distance if you have at least four days to spare!

Our love for the Snowy Mountains runs deep for greater reasons than an epic hiking destination. Within its borders are two of the best snowfields in Australia, Thredbo and Perisher. To make matters sensational, Thredbo also holds the title of the only chair lift accessible mountain bike park in all of Aus. 

Can you guess which resort we like best?

Thredbo has it all. Mountain biking, ski fields, the closest access to Mt Kosciuszko, a thriving village at the base of the mountain… but the best part?

FREE CAMPING!

Winter camping in thredbo at Island Bend campground with our camper van

Ok, there is a catch… You do need to purchase a Kosciuszko parks pass to enter these campsites, though this is necessary for any of the above activities in any case.

So I guess we should say, practically free!

If that’s enough to get your stoke levels bubbling, check out our crazy adventure camping in the snow and keep reading about the marvellous time you could have camping in Thredbo.

The Best Free Camping Near Thredbo

You’re gifted with choice when it comes to camping in Thredbo. The surrounding forest is home to five campsites, four within a 35-minute radius of Thredbo Village and the last just 50 minutes away. All of the Kosciuszko campsites provide toilets and reside along the banks of fresh and flowing creeks and rivers, the water coming straight off the mountains. 

What more could you want!?

None of these campgrounds supplies bins or drinking water. But the water running down from the mountains is of the purest quality, making for a satisfying refreshment – just remember to boil first if you’re not used to drinking water straight from the source. 

This method may come in handy more often than you think… the water lines in our camper van have frozen on several occasions while camping in Thredbo during winter! 

Due to COVID restrictions and social distancing, a $6 booking fee is required for any Kosciuszko camping during the pandemic. We recommend booking as far in advance as you can, especially on weekends.

Ngarigo Campground

Let’s start with our go to.

Driving 10 minutes east of Thredbo along Alpine Way, you’ll find Ngarigo Campground hidden under the giant alpine ash forest flanking the Thredbo River, with a wide-open grassy field perfect for groups and tent dwellers. 

Enjoying a beautiful afternoon in Ngarigo Campground while free camping in Thredbo

Ngarigo Campground is set up with beautiful grassy patches on the river side for tents and a flat open section on the other for camper vans and trailers. 

Easy access into Thredbo river allows for a refreshing bath, though we don’t recommend this during winter! While soaking in the cool clear water, keep a sharp eye out for wild deer that like to wander along the river banks.

The wide-open nature of Ngarigo Campground allows for breathtaking sunsets over Thredbo’s mountains and the surrounding national park. You may even be lucky enough to witness an alpenglow shimmering magically off the snowy mountains in winter. The uninterrupted stars lighting up the inky sky, making the milky way feel as if you could reach out and grab it, is yet another reason Ngarigo campground is our favourite.

Sitting next to the beautiful Thredbo River at Ngarigo Campground while camping in Thredbo

Quick Facts

Picnic tables: Yes

Barbecue facilities: Yes – basic iron plates above a fire circle

Toilets: Yes – drop toilets

Water: No

Mobile reception: Limited – mainly Telstra

Free: Yes – with a Kosciuszko Parks Pass

Accessibility: 2WD – with the exception of snow chains during extreme winter conditions

Suitable for all types of camping: Yes

The Thredbo Diggings Campground

Five minutes further east from Ngarigo campground is Thredbo Diggings campground, the largest of the two.

The Thredbo Diggings campground is tucked between twisted snow gums and winds its way alongside Thredbo River. Diggings has a heightened forest feel, with the sites enclosed cosily by the trees and river.

Due to the abundance of trees within Thredbo Diggings Campground, finding dead branches for a fire is effortless. And the protected nature of the sites makes starting one an easier feat.

Thank god!

While the mountains are slightly hidden from view at Thredbo Diggings Campground, this has no effect on the peaceful and magical sense of the campsite. You can while away an afternoon on the banks of the river, looking out for the elusive Platypus that are sometimes spotted splashing downstream.

If sitting all day bores you to tears – as it does us – you’re in luck. Running parallel to Thredbo River is a network of mountain bike and hiking trails, leading from Lake Crackenback a few kilometres east, all the way to the centre of Thredbo village. Access to these trails is found at both Ngarigo and Thredbo Diggings Campground.

a beautiful sunrise from diggings campground during a winter camping in thredbo

Quick Facts

Picnic tables: Yes

Barbecue facilities: Yes – basic iron plates above a fire circle

Toilets: Yes – drop toilets

Water: No

Mobile reception: Limited – mainly Telstra

Free: Yes – with a Kosciuszko Parks Pass

Accessibility: 2WD – with the exception of snow chains during extreme winter conditions

Suitable for all types of camping: Yes

Leatherbarrel Creek Campground

Note: The Leatherbarrel Creek campground is closed due to heavy flood damage. Stay updated on the progress and reopening date on the Parks Website.

Now we begin to venture a little further from Thredbo, but don’t let that stop you from considering Leatherbarrel Campground. Located 25 minutes west along Alpine Way from Thredbo village, Leatherbarrel is mainly used as a picnic area but doubles as a peaceful campsite. 

The winding drive down to the valley in which Leatherbarrel Campground sits is worth the extra time. Hidden amongst the steep mountainside, Leatherbarrel Creek flows alongside the tall forest trees with the calm and quiet campsite sitting on its banks.

The grass flats are only good for tent camping, with poles hindering cars from driving into the picnic area. However, sleeping inside your van is accepted with picnic benches close by for your convenience. 

Camping at Leatherbarrel Campground in winter when heavy snow is on the forecast is not recommended. The steep nature of the road and the limited reception causes a dangerous situation. The road may also be closed due to ice and snow if the weather is nasty.

Camping in Thredbo in the open grass area at Leatherbarrel Campsite

Quick Facts

Picnic tables: Yes

Barbecue facilities: Yes – basic iron plates above a fire circle

Toilets: Yes – drop toilets

Water: No

Mobile reception: No

Free: Yes – with a Kosciuszko Parks Pass

Accessibility: 2WD – required to carry snow chains in winter for 2WD vehicles

Suitable for all types of camping: Tents and small camper vans.

Tom Groggin Campground

Add another 10 minutes drive west on the twisting Alpine Way to reach Tom Groggin Campground. Tom Groggin is situated on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, alongside the upper Murray River in a flowing valley with dwarfing mountains surrounding. 

Tom Groggin Campground is found along a dirt track that leads to beautiful campsites offering stellar real estate right next to the Murray. Courtesy of the small trees, flat valley and healthily flowing river, Tom Groggin is blessed with lush grass and perfect camping conditions.

The campsite sits close to the famous Bicentennial Trail and the beautiful Scammells and Olsens lookouts. The valley is known to be home to many animals, including emu’s if you’re lucky enough!

Camping at Tom Groggin Campground in winter when heavy snow is on the forecast is not recommended. The steep nature of the road and the limited reception causes a dangerous situation. The road may also be closed due to ice and snow if the weather is nasty.

Winter camping in thredbo at Tom Groggin campground with our camper van

Quick Facts

Picnic tables: Yes

Barbecue facilities: Yes – basic iron plates above a fire circle

Toilets: Yes – drop toilets

Water: No

Mobile reception: No

Free: Yes – with a Kosciuszko Parks Pass

Accessibility: 2WD – required to carry snow chains in winter for 2WD vehicles

Suitable for all types of camping: Yes

Island Bend Campground

This one is for our Perisher fans. We couldn’t leave you guys hanging…

Located on Guthega Road, off Kosciuszko Road, Island Bend Campground is 15 minutes from Perisher valley and 50 minutes from Thredbo village. 

There are two parts to Island Bend, you can veer left for flat car or caravan camping with views of the snowcapped mountains in the distance. Or turning right – our pick of the campsites – will deliver you to a beautiful secluded section nestled into the snow gums. 

Island Bend Campground to the right is divided into three levels, giving you the opportunity to set up alongside the Snowy River or atop the hill on flatter ground. The top section is best for tents, while I would recommend the middle section for camper vans. 

The Snowy River is perfect for a fun little canoe or a relaxing float down its gentle rapids. Island Bend Campground hasn’t been left out in the hiking and biking department either. Trails for both are located close by, winding through the other side of the Kosciuszko National Park.

Quick Facts

Picnic tables: Yes

Barbecue facilities: Yes – basic iron plates above a fire circle

Toilets: Yes – drop toilets

Water: No

Mobile reception: Limited – mainly Telstra

Free: Yes – with a Kosciuszko Parks Pass

Accessibility: 2WD – with the exception of snow chains during extreme winter conditions. 4WD required to access lower camp in extreme wet weather.

Suitable for all types of camping: Yes

Camping in Thredbo During Summer

When you’re planning your trip for camping in Thredbo, I’m guessing your first instinct is to pick summer…

Am I right??

I don’t blame you. All these campsites are the perfect summer getaway. Not only is it a few degrees colder within the Kosciuszko National Park, but the rivers and creeks are almost always flowing healthily providing the perfect natural pool to wash away the day’s dirt.

Which you should be covered in after tackling Thredbo’s downhill mountain bike park. 

Though there are, as always, positives and negatives to choosing summer.

Riding through the beautiful colours of the All Mountain Trail at Thredbo Mountain Bike Park

The Positives of Camping in Thredbo During Summer

  • The natural swimming options
  • Thredbo Mountain Bike Park
  • Long days for exploring the hikes and cross country biking trails
  • Endless activities on the rivers

The Negatives of Camping in Thredbo During Summer

  • The flies
  • The mosquitos
  • THE SPIDERS (yes, I’m terrified of these little suckers… don’t judge me!)
  • The crowds
  • The potential for total fire bans

Camping in Thredbo During Winter

Ok, you may be thinking I’m crazy to even consider comparing the two seasons for camping in Thredbo but hear me out. 

Winter has its place in the camping world, all you need is to be a little better prepared. And by a little, I mean A LOT!

Imagine sitting by a roaring campfire – no worries about starting a bush fire – with flurries of snow falling all around you. Bliss. 

Or waking up to the entire world shimmering like crystals from the frost and the cold air filling your lungs, making you feel oh so alive. Bliss.

And do I even need to mention the ski fields close by? That should be reason enough. And with the prices to visit the snow inflating each year, Thredbo camping is much friendlier on the wallet. 

Positives of Camping in Thredbo During Winter 

  • No crowds, just peaceful bliss
  • Thredbo Ski Resort
  • NO BUGS, not even a damn spider!
  • Experiencing snow
  • The best campfires
  • The taste of red wine becomes even more delicious… if that’s even possible

Negatives of Camping in Thredbo During Winter

  • It’s damn cold
  • The days are short
  • Everything, and I mean everything, you own will potentially freeze
  • No swimming – well you probably shouldn’t anyway…

Thredbo Camping In Winter – 6 Lessons We Learnt The Hard Way

While we recommend camping in winter completely, there are a few things you should be wary of beforehand. We have learnt all of these lessons the hard way so you’re welcome!

Don’t leave anything outside that you don’t want to freeze. Our coldest night camping in Thredbo was a chilly -8 degrees. Everything we owned froze, but the worst things were the ones left outside. Our snowboard bag became as hard as a rock and provided us with a lovely puddle once it thawed inside the van.

frozen snowboard bag during a winter camping in thredbo

Roll the awning in before you go to bed. We were lazy and decided that leaving the awning till the morning was best due to the low winds and tremendous cold.

How silly we were.

The awning acquired a hearty, thick layering of ice come morning. Which in turn, left our awning impossible to roll up.

Our dustpan became our shovel as we carefully scraped away at the ice, resulting in frozen fingers and damp clothes to begin the day… not ideal. Not by a long shot.

If you’ve got any form of plumbing (water pump), drain the lines. We awoke to all our water lines not only frozen, but all of the plumbing fittings cracked and destroyed as a result. Luckily we could still have our morning coffee courtesy of the deliciously fresh Thredbo River. 

Bring layers and even more layers. Don’t underestimate the need for as many layers as you can fit on.

But make sure they’re the right ones.

Merino wool will be your best friend in times like these, while cotton could be your worst enemy… Take a look out our post How to Stay Warm Hiking in Cold Weather for every ounce of information you could possibly need on layering. 

Put your water bottles in the fridge or esky. Yep, you read correctly. The only things that weren’t frozen that one dreadful morning were in the fridge. A little ironic really. 

frozen water bottle from a winter camping in thredbo

Bring firewood. While I did say that Thredbo Diggings Campground is full of dead branches that are perfect for a fire, have you ever tried to keep one going in negative temperatures? With everything around you damp? You need A LOT OF WOOD. Especially when you want to start the fire as soon as you get to camp. 

You can buy firewood in Thredbo but you will pay exorbitant prices for it. Grab some before you make the trip, it’ll be the best decision you’ve ever made.

awesome afternoon in ngarigo campground with our van sitting around the fire during a winter camping at thredbo

Now that I’ve convinced you that any time of year is the perfect time to visit Thredbo, make that booking and get going.

Let us know in the comments below which campsite is your favourite. And any lessons you’ve learnt the hard way that we can add in! Happy Camping.

Free camping in Thredbo pinterest pin
Free camping in Thredbo pinterest pin
Free camping in Thredbo pinterest pin

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