‘Appy Trails

Cathy Anderson — 19 November 2021
These top apps put all the information you need to plan your trip, and stay informed on the road, at your fingertips

Having information at your fingertips about campsites, fuel locations, dump sites and great bushwalks is immeasurably convenient. Need a bush camp? No worries. Low on fuel? An app can help you out. Feel like an Elton John playlist on a long and boring stretch of road? Got you covered.

Of course, many apps require data to work, or at least regular Wi-Fi (there’s an app to find that!), and phone memory to store downloaded information when offline, so before you download 100 apps and expect them all to work, check your phone’s memory capacity (might be a good excuse to upgrade) and check in with your telco provider to see what your data allowance is.


(iOS and Android, $7.99)

Most caravanners will tell you that the WikiCamps Australia app is just like the old American Express ads — you wouldn’t leave home without it. Its database is crammed full of crowd-sourced information about campgrounds across Australia, holiday parks, tourist sites, dump points and so much more. Because it can be updated by users, the information is usually quite up-to-date. It has a camping checklist, so you won’t leave without all the essentials. Its Trip Planner feature is pretty neat, too. You can create unlimited road trips and add multiple locations, notes, and custom map pins.


(iOS and Android, free or $49.99 for Pro version))

Full disclosure, the Hema brand is part of the Caravan World stable of products, but it also happens to be one of the best navigation apps on the market. This is partly because the Hema cartographers are actually out there mapping every bitumen road and dirt track across the country, and what a job that is!

The basic version of the app offers access to 40,000 points of interest, a log function top save your off-grid track recordings with geotagged photos, waypoints and trip notes, the ability to back up all your trip data to your free Hema Explorer Cloud account. Plus, you can navigate offline with Australia’s best multi-scale topographic mapping. Upgrade to the Pro version to unlock uber-detailed map layers and download state government topographic maps for New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.


(iOS and Android, free)

Don’t get caught short on your next road trip. Funded by the Australian Government Department of Health as part of the National Continence Program, this app details the location of more than 19,000 public and publicly available amenities across Australia. These include toilets, adult change and baby care for families on the go. You can access all manner of details about each pit stop, including their location, accessibility details, opening hours and other features like hoists, sharps disposal and the availability of showers.


(iOS and Android, free)

Now, here’s an app that caravanners can really get behind!

The Happiest Hour is pretty self-explanatory; it’s an app to help find the watering holes across Australia with great deals on food and drinks. You’ll find everything here from two for one cocktail nights, pots and parma deals and mid-week pizza nights with a house red or two. It’s easy, convenient and makes a night out easy on the wallet. It’s win-win too, as small hospitality businesses that have been doing it tough thanks to border closures and lockdowns are welcoming patrons back.


(iOS & Android, free)

Google’s Waze is the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app, and a great addition to your app repertoire. It offers up real-time traffic information and also receives reported alerts including accidents, hazards, mobile speed camera locations and road closures along the way. It can’t make the traffic go away, but it can help you to find a way through it safely. Waze also has other cool functions including automatic rerouting, cheap petrol alerts and the ability to send your ETA to anyone who may be waiting at your destination.


(iOS and Android, free)

This is a super useful app produced by Surf Life Saving Australia. Doing some coastal cruising and keen to find a stretch of sand where you can take a dip or make sandcastles with the kids? Would you feel better if you could check the weather, surf conditions, hazards, tides, patrol status and nearby facilities? Beachsafe can help.


(iOS and Android, free)

Developed by WikiCamps, Fuel Map is a similarly crowd-sourced database of petrol stations and fuel prices from across Australia. You’ll never run dry again! All station information is added and edited by users, all travellers can add current fuel prices at service stations as you pass through towns and cities on your travels, which is then shared with others who use the app. The app can also find the location of toilets, showers and opening hours for petrol stations and also has a fuel log so you can keep track of your fuel purchases (for on-road budgeting and counting the damage when you get home), as well as your vehicle's fuel economy.


(iOS and Android, free)

Another in the WikiCamps’ stable, Gas Finder allows you to find the nearest refill or bottle swap point with the cheapest price, along with handy distances to the outlet. Prices listed for 4.5kg and 9kg bottle refill, and 3.75kg and 8.5kg bottle swap. Prices have dates to check if they are recent, and you can update them within the app. New outlets can be added to the database, which is still evolving as more people use it.


(iOS and Android, free)

Developed with the assistance of professional hikers, this app has some great features for campers and caravanners. Download free and detailed topo maps for Australia and New Zealand (and several other countries if you’re planning an overseas adventure at some point) which include elevation contours, trails, huts and parks. You can also record your very own trail by simply hitting record when you set off, then share it together with all the photos taken along in one single file to Facebook or email. Free to download, but functions you’ll need to purchase in-app.


(iOS and Android, free)

Love the idea of a travel journal but can’t find the patience to write longhand and stick pictures or beer labels in a scrapbook? This micro-journaling app could be the answer. Try tapping out a few lines each day or once a week to preserve your memories. It doesn’t need to be a blow-by-blow description of everything you did. It could be your funniest moments, descriptions of the interesting people you met or a food diary of your best camp cooking recipes. Make it sing with photos or videos recorded on your smartphone. Optional in-app purchases to take your journaling skills up a notch.


(iOS and Android, free)

Yes, this desktop site and travel app is the darling of those travellers who do like to fly to destinations and stay in hotel rooms (the horror of it!) but it’s also fantastic for scoping restaurants, tourist attractions and sometimes really offbeat things to see and do in a new town. In June this year, Tripadvisor released a new version of the app which offers a trips planning tool to save and organise traveller-recommended places and then see your saves on a map, and highlighting the latest COVID-19 health and safety information for restaurants, tours, and attractions. Use it to post reviews of your own to help fellow travellers in on your experience, or to keep as an online travel diary of sorts.


(iOS and Android, free)

Picture this. You’re on a spring road trip through the blooming wildflower season in Western Australia and you simply have to know what the names of all these fabulous flower plants are. You could have a couple of heavy wildflower identification tomes back in the van, or you could open up this app, photograph the flower and BLOOM! It has identified the plant, told you if it’s poisonous to you, the kids or your dog, and even given you advice on whether it could grow in your own backyard. Nice. Some in-app purchases with this one.


(iOS and Android, free)

CamperMate is, quite literally, a little mate. A know-it-all one. Not the annoying kind, but rather the mate who’s been there, done it and can point you in the right direction. Use it to find your nearest campsite, caravan park, petrol station, supermarket, public toilet or rubbish dump. With more than 100,000 points of interest in its database, it is pretty comprehensive, and its maps can be used offline to find a pot to set up for the night, too. The app’s reviews section allows you to tap into fellow travellers’ experiences, and share your own as well.


(iOS and Android, free)

NSW has 225 incredible national parks to explore. That’s a lot of leaflets (and trees to make them). This app allows you to download information on selected parks before you leave home or an area with mobile reception so you can access park maps, guides and important info when you’re actually onsite but away from telco towers. Use the maps to find walking trails, things to do within each park you visit and locate campgrounds, caravan sites, cabins, homesteads and cottages as well.


(iOS and Android, free)

Travelling with your furbaby? Sometimes you’ll want to visit a national park or attractions that don't allow pets, or perhaps you’re keen on a day tour of the local wineries and Fluffy can’t get a ticket. What to do? Book in a pet sitter for the day. Mad Paws allows you to search for local sitters, book via the app and organise payment easily. If you need to leave Fido at home, use the app to organise a long-term sitter before you go.


(iOS and Android, free)

The new kid on the campsite-booking block offers up sites you’ll most likely find on other apps plus a little something extra — unique camping and vanning spots on private land for short stay accommodation. Touted as the ‘Airbnb of camping apps’ anyone with some space on their property can list it via the app for campers to book. Choose from powered and unpowered sites on working farms, remote outback areas and beachfront spots across Australia. A great search function and reviews space.


(iOS and Android, free)

Using data from the king of weather resources, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (which also has its own great free app), Willy Weather keeps you updated on weather forecasts including wind, rain and temperature but also swells of all coastal regions and tide forecast — I hear all the anglers nodding out there in anticipation of that feature. Amateur photographers can also use its moon phase and sunrise/ sunset calendars to plan moody photography sessions.


(iOS and Android, free)

The great thing about this app is that it offers excellent guided tutorials about potential emergency situations that you can check out (and should do before you leave) so you don’t panic in the heat of the moment. Everything from insect bites to broken limbs and CPR, this app is not a replacement for a first aid course, but offers some of the basics while you are on the road. It’s very easy to use, and comes with step-by-step instructions for all common first-aid situations.


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