You’re planning a road trip. The kind of road trip that is only seen in a “National Lampoon” movie. Travelling from one side of Australia to the other, you predict that you may have to camp roadside in your car for a night or two. But is it legal?

Is there a Federal Law?

Currently, there are no federal Australian laws that make it illegal for an individual to sleep in their car. Like most things, the absence of federal laws means that states and local governments have the power to decide on whether they will allow nomads to sleep in their cars. As a result, the laws differ from state to state, and perhaps even from city to city. Make sure you research before you hit the sack, or in your case, the car seat.

New South Wales

In New South Wales, sleeping in your car is perfectly legal. The NSW Local Government Act concludes that it is legal for someone to sleep or live in a vehicle on a street, so long as parking is permitted on that road. In fact, the NSW Roads and Maritime Services encourages those driving long distances to stop and sleep. For this reason, many rest areas have been established within NSW. Recently, when the City of Sydney received complaints from the Marrickville residents about backpackers camping in parking lots, the council acknowledged that what was occurring was legal. However, in response, the council introduced new parking laws within Marrickville to prevent people from parking long term.


On a state level, sleeping in your car is legal in Victoria. However, many councils are attempting to introduce by-laws to make it illegal. Local laws prohibiting such conduct already exist in Victorian municipalities, such as Hobsons Bay, Greater Geelong, or Manningham. A trend that appears to be catching on.


Queensland has the strictest laws concerning the legality of sleeping in a car. The City of Brisbane Act 2010 concludes that camping is strictly prohibited unless it is carried out in a designated campground.This includes sleeping in your vehicle on any road or park. If you’re making a pit stop in Brisbane, make sure to get some overnight accommodation.

At this point, you’re half way across Australia. With another 1,070 kilometres before you arrive at your destination, it’s time to crash roadside. Do some homework. Contact the local city council and ask about the legality of camping in your vehicle. That way you can rest easy.

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Anthony Guerrieri

Anthony is a Paralegal working in our content team, which writes free legal guides aimed at improving public awareness of legal and business issues. Anthony has an interest in simplifying complex legal problems in order to allow people to understand their legal dilemmas.