Find good spots on Google Maps
When starting the vanlife Google Maps is going to be one of your new hobbies. As you’re cruising around every destination will have the challenge of finding a silent, calm, beautiful, isolated, green, practical, save, spacious, light/dark, accessible, secret spot with good phone signal, or at least one of these. Google Maps will be a great help in finding spots like this if you know how to search for them.
I will start this article explaining how to best use Google Maps, followed by some tips of places that potentially could be good spots.
Google Maps is a website/application that shows roads, a illustrated map and satellite images across the whole world. It also has the feature that you can have a 360 degree view(street view) on a lot of places. All these features together makes it really easy for you to find great spots!
Using the Illustrated & satellite map
These 2 options are the most important functions of the app.
With the Illustrated map you can easily find landmarks like small roads in nature or close to water. If you find something interesting you can then switch to satellite view to see if the road is easily accessible by looking at what the condition of the road is (concrete, gravel, sand?).
Does it look promising? Then try to find a place to park, by using Streetview.
Click the icon with the yellow man once to see all roads that have the Street view option(blue line). Click the blue line at the spot that you’ve found and look around if it is possible to park. Seems good? Then check around more with Street view to search for traffic signs that might disallow you to park there.
If there is nothing to see you are good to go check it out!
Street view end points
A good tip to find good spots with the Street view feature is to look for roads where the Street view blue line ends. These are often in nature areas where the road is getting too difficult for the Google car to continue(rocky or narrow road, a lot of trees), or it could be that it’s a dead end road. In both cases these are great spots to have a nice relaxing day in nature.
Using a computer instead of a phone is most definitely the best way to search on Google maps. Especially if you want to use the Street view tip above. And it’s obvious that you have more overview of the map on a bigger screen.
Tips to find certain good spots on google
In this list i will start with hard spots to find, and end with the more easier spots.
When seeing vanlife pictures on social medias you might have come across pictures of vanlivers sitting lonesome next to their van with a beautiful beach behind them. If this picture has been taken in Europe the chance is quite big that they just parked the van for 5 minutes to take this picture. It’s almost impossible to find a spot close to a beach that isn’t crowded with other cars/people. And with a camper you can’t even get close to a beach parking seeing there are 2 meter height barriers everywhere.
So how do you find spots close to the beach without leaving Europe? Well in our experience you can best check around little villages across the coast. The benefits of small villages is that it’s not crowded with people who might be annoyed by your presence. There is also less police around, so you can be more creative with your parking. In the little villages you can expect that there is no paid parking, so if you don’t find a nice spot around you can also just park next to the beach inside the village itself.
To be sure that you can enter the village with your vehicle, Google streetview around the village first before driving to it.
River side roads
A higher chance of finding a nice spot next to the water are rivers next to roads. There is nothing better than being parked next to shallow water and have a nice foot bath with your breakfast and dinner!
It’s quite easy to find ‘parking’ right next to river side roads, first of all you need to find a river on Google maps, for this you can best use the illustrated map. When you find a river near, you go to satellite view and you start to search roads that come close to the river. Found something? Great! Now check if you are allowed to enter this road by using Google Streetview.
Water in general
Any type of roads that go around water is most likely a good spot, if there is a parking possibility of course! Check around every little bit of water on Google Maps, no matter how small the water is. We ourself have found such beautiful lonesome spots from the smallest little water spots we could find.
Fisher areas are waters easier to find on Google maps because you can just enter the term ‘fishing area’ in the search bar of Google Maps, and it will show you all the fishers areas near you.
Fisher areas are great to stay at, it’s easily accessible, there is enough parking possibilities and at night there is nobody around. The only possible downside is that you can wake up in the middle of a fishing contest.
Wishing for a silent place in nature? Then farmer roads are ideal! These are not always shown on the illustrated map of Google Maps, nevertheless they’re accessible if there is not a ‘Private property’ sign. Check the road with satellite view if there is any parking possibility, and if you have a light van you could park in the grass!
Not ideal when having sun panels but excellent if you want to have a chill hiking day. Forrests are easy to be found on Google Maps, and sometimes have a accessible gravel road going trough it.
It’s a logical spot, maybe it shouldn’t even be on this list, but yeah, just incase you didn’t come up with it yourself.
Bunkers are not really populair tourist attractions. nevertheless they often have their own parking made. These are easy to find by using the term ‘Bunker’ in the search bar of Google Maps.
It’s shower day! You start your boiler, shower for 5 minutes, and oh.. your water tank is now empty.. Luckily you’re parked at a public water source; a cemetery. Cemeteries are placed just on the edge of villages, and often have a lot of parking possibilities near it. This is more a functional spot to have a temporary infinite water source, so don’t expect a beautiful view(obviously) with no traffic around.
For more info read this article: Find free public water spots.
Entering the search term ‘Parking’ in Google maps shows all the parkings near you, this is the most easiest way to find a spot, not only for you.
Parkings can be located on beautiful spots in nature, near water or a beach, but as it is a parking there will be a lot of other people around. There is also a big chance that you will not be alone at night, travelers in campers tend to sleep here one night aswel as they’re driving to their vacation destination.
Clearly not ideal, but sometimes necessary if there is no other option!