Find­ing plea­sure at your leisure

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News Caravans -

CAR­A­VANS have mir­rored the growth of the four-wheel-drive and soft­roader mar­kets, mak­ing it one of the most pop­u­lar forms of re­cre­ation in Aus­tralia.

That pop­u­lar­ity stems from car­a­van­ning en­com­pass­ing a variety of tow­ing ve­hi­cles and leisure pur­suits. But the com­mon theme is a de­sire to re­lax away from the stress of ev­ery­day life and be­ing able to pack up and move quickly should the need, or in­cli­na­tion, arise.

A cou­ple of mates who load up the ute with a slide-on camper and go to the river for a week­end of fish­ing are just as much car­a­van­ners as the re­tired cou­ple who pull the mo­torhome into a ser­viced car­a­van site each night on their trek around Aus­tralia.

Car­a­van sizes range from 2.8m tent-trail­ers to 7m homes on wheels, so de­cid­ing what you want the car­a­van for — then get­ting a ve­hi­cle to match it — are the two is­sues you need to deal with.

It’s bet­ter to have some power in re­serve rather than the ve­hi­cle strain­ing up ev­ery slope, which is why big 4WDs such as the Jeep Com­man­der are pop­u­lar.

The Com­man­der’s tow­ing ca­pac­ity can be up­graded to 3.5 tonnes, mean­ing it can cope with any­thing short of a semi. If you’re us­ing all of the seven seats, you’ll prob­a­bly come close to need­ing a car­a­van that size.

Most peo­ple don’t, the av­er­age length of a mod­ern car­a­van be­ing about 5.5m, ac­cord­ing to Car­a­van Recre­ational Ve­hi­cle and Ac­com­mo­da­tion In­dus­try of Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ben Yates.

Car­a­van con­struc­tion has ben­e­fited from mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, with light­weight ma­te­ri­als and im­proved use of space.

Com­pa­nies such as Con­cept Car­a­vans are ca­pa­ble of in­clud­ing a vast range of ameni­ties, from show­ers to satel­lite TV sys­tems in what are self-con­tained mo­bile homes.

As a re­sult, car­a­van parks have had to im­prove their fa­cil­i­ties to draw pa­trons.

Venues such as the award-win­ning Bal­larat Gold­fields Car­a­van Park don’t just of­fer a pow­ered site, but coin-op­er­ated laun­dro­mat, in­ter­net ac­cess, play ar­eas for chil­dren, games room and com­mon ar­eas in­clud­ing the cov­ered camp kitchen and bar­be­cue area.

Yates says the im­proved stan­dard of car­a­van parks has helped en­tice cor­po­rate peo­ple and up­mar­ket trav­ellers to take up car­a­van­ning.

‘‘As a re­sult of the im­proved fa­cil­i­ties and range of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer, our in­dus­try busi­nesses are see­ing more and more cor­po­rate heavy­weights in their car­a­van parks,’’ he says.

Road to ad­ven­ture: from a week­end of fish­ing to a tour around Aus­tralia, a car­a­van caters for a range of pur­suits.

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