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Caravan Parks Revisited
'Everybody is having a ball! Happiness and exhilaration are everywhere! It’s electric, it’s enthusiastic, it’s contagious, you cannot escape it... it’s fantastic!'
Words and Images by: Richard Schmidt Q61476

Unpowered lakeside site

“I don’t want to stay in any caravan parks; I had enough of them as a kid.” I made this bold declaration a few years ago, when Lyn and I were first setting out on our wonderful motorhome journey.

Previously, we had many adventurous off-road camping trips to iconic locations; Fraser Island, Cape York, Kakadu, the Kimberley, etc., so staying in a caravan park would, to me, be quite a letdown.

Now here I am, as happy as a ‘sandboy’, pulling onto a grassy site in the Lake Ainsworth Holiday Village, Lennox Head in northern NSW. We are on a shakedown cruise on board our new Winnebago Diversion and eagerly finding out how to work this and that, where to pack things, and to convince ourselves that we have done the right thing in changing from our beloved and faithful KEA Freedom, the ‘Tin Tent’.

So what am I doing in a caravan park, and in the middle of the summer high season, except eating humble pie?

Great Oz summer camping holidays

Well, err, yes, but... Things have changed a lot from the shabby old 1950s camping grounds that I remembered, which were the forerunners of today’s caravan parks. Nearly every town had one - a few acres on the edge of town, part of the town common, with a toilet, fireplace and a tap, for the use of travellers to rest up or stay a while. Some were well maintained, others more canvas tent slums. Some were also the ‘home of last resort’ for many unfortunate folk who were destitute or had to live there because there was no permanent housing. Mt Isa and Gladstone had whole canvas tent suburbs  to house the influx of workers while houses were being built for them. Those at the beach were always popular for summer and Easter camping holidays.

However the tradition of the great Oz family beach holiday is alive and well today, except the camping equipment used is now found on exclusive African safaris! Today, the grounds have morphed into attractive caravan parks, similar to this one here at Lennox. The people themselves are of a very different type; everyone is staying here because they want to, and not because they have to.

Excitement is in the air; littlies are thrilled to be living under canvas, eating and playing outdoors. Oldies are all smiles knowing they can still do it, young families are excited with their new camper trailers  or Expanda caravans, the grey nomads in their flash caravans and motorhomes are just happy to be here, and young Europeans with their hired campervans – or bought for a few thousand dollars on the street at King’s Cross - are starting off on their great Australian adventure. Everybody is having a ball! Happiness and exhilaration are everywhere! It’s electric, it’s enthusiastic, it’s contagious, you cannot escape it... it’s fantastic!

The Park itself is exceptionally pleasant to stay in as well; the sites are well spaced with lush lawns, roads are sealed with low smooth kerbing, the new bathroom block, with continental tiles and modern fittings is four star hotel quality, the laundry equipment is up to date, and it is all managed by BIG4, a far cry from the old council camping ground.

Lake Ainsworth Holiday Village

The village, with its ‘up and jumping’ shops, cafés, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. is but a stroll down the street or along the beach. The location is five star too, adjoining the lake and on the beachfront. Houses in the same street sell for $2 million plus and some holiday homes let from $2,000 per week, so to be able to stay next door, on board our Winnebago, for $50 a night (high season) seems a privilege.

Even I have to admit that although we are not camping on some picturesque deserted beach or by a Kakadu tropical billabong, it’s an enjoyable stay and we are still having fun on an outdoor adventure. We are amongst friends, folk who have similar interests, ideas and values; it’s reassuring and comforting.

Caravan parks can be made comfortable by simply choosing a more suitable site. We often stay on nonpowered sites where they are away from the ‘mob’ or have views, and we have marked our preferred sites on the plans of all the parks where we have stayed, allowing pre bookings for return visits.

The big picture of all this camping business was summed up nicely by Toad, to his friends Rat and Mole, at the launching of his colourful gipsy caravan.

‘There’s the real life for you. The open road, the dusty highway, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!’

My apologies to Kenneth Grahame for paraphrasing The Wind in the Willows (1908).

Tags: Caravan Parks Holidays Cabin Campervan Motorhome Caravan RV Children Pets Lennox Head Camping Cafe Food Beach Ocean Holiday Cabins Family
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Written: Fri 01 Mar 2013
Printed: March, 2013
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Richard Schmidt Q61476