NEW PERKS OF PARKS

The mod­est fam­ily hol­i­day has evolved, with com­fort, in­no­va­tion and en­ter­tain­ment now part of the deal

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - AUSTRALIA | HOLIDAY PARKS - KARA MURPHY

When some­one men­tions a car­a­van park, what do you imag­ine? In the 1970s, when my hus­band was grow­ing up, his fam­ily of­ten stayed at a beach­side park in north­ern NSW. He re­mem­bers a mod­est place, with tent/car­a­van sites, a cou­ple of ameni­ties blocks, a small re­cep­tion of­fice, and an on­site fish and chip shop. To­day, while still rel­a­tively low-key com­pared to some parks, it also has lux­ury cab­ins, vil­las and sa­fari tents, fully ac­ces­si­ble ameni­ties, a play­ground and Wi-Fi.

With so many car­a­van parks in Aus­tralia (1638, ac­cord­ing to 2010 ABS cen­sus data), you can still find parks that re­sem­ble the one of my hus­band’s youth. (We re­cently stayed in one that was even more ba­sic – which had its pros and cons.) How­ever, those pos­sess­ing a broader and more so­phis­ti­cated range of ameni­ties and ac­com­mo­da­tion are in­creas­ingly com­mon.

TRA­DI­TIONAL TO CUT­TING EDGE

Dis­cov­ery Parks, for ex­am­ple, has parks in more than 60 lo­ca­tions around the coun­try. Most have a camp kitchen, laun­dry, swim­ming pool and cab­ins/vil­las, and some also boast a restau­rant, water park, play­ground, bounc­ing pil­low, mini golf, ten­nis court, pedal cart hire, Wi-Fi, and ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing school hol­i­days.

A few of its parks re­tain a more tra­di­tional struc­ture. But even th­ese have ameni­ties de­signed to make the ex­pe­ri­ence more com­fort­able. Dis­cov­ery Parks – Bal­moral, Kar­ratha, for ex­am­ple, in Western Aus­tralia’s Pil­bara re­gion, has no on-site cab­ins – just tent and car­a­van sites. But some of th­ese sites come with their own en­suite, plus there’s a camp kitchen, laun­dry, TV/games room, Wi-Fi and a re­fur­bished swim­ming pool.

“We’re con­stantly putting new fa­cil­i­ties, cab­ins and up­graded camp­ing ar­eas into many of our parks,” says Jane Ford, Dis­cov­ery Parks’ public re­la­tions and con­tent man­ager. Some that have re­cently un­der­gone (or are un­der­go­ing) a re­furb in­clude Robe (South Aus­tralia), which has a new na­ture­based ad­ven­ture play­ground, with new cab­ins on the way; the Barossa Val­ley (SA), which has a new la­goon pool and five new cab­ins; and Ger­roa (NSW) which has an up­graded camp kitchen and 10 new su­pe­rior cab­ins.

“We’re al­ways work­ing on de­vel­op­ing cut­ting-edge hol­i­day parks, while de­liv­er­ing the old­fash­ioned cus­tomer ser­vice that has made our car­a­van parks the prod­uct/ lo­ca­tion of choice,” Jane says.

Sus­tain­abil­ity in­vest­ments in some parks have in­cluded so­lar power, rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing, and pool fil­tra­tion tech­nol­ogy that re­duces water and chem­i­cal con­sump­tion. Planned water park en­hance­ments in­clude wave rid­ers, il­lu­mi­na­tion for evening use, and in­door water parks. And the com­pany hopes to in­tro­duce tech­nol­ogy in cab­ins where guests can con­trol air­con­di­tion­ing via an app, ad­just lights and cur­tains with their voices, use/link their own Net­flix ac­count, and mon­i­tor their power and water us­age.

SA­FARI AND BELL TENTS, VIN­TAGE CARAVANS

Other Aus­tralian parks have in­trigu­ing fea­tures too. Ac­cord­ing to the Car­a­van In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia’s re­search team, one trend is an in­crease in al­ter­na­tive on-site “glamp­ing” stays, such as sa­fari tents and bell tents, and vin­tage caravans.

Sa­fari tents, which of­ten have can­vas sides and wooden floors, can give a lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence – es­pe­cially when they in­clude an en­suite. Deluxe sa­fari tents at Dis­cov­ery Parks – Byron Bay, for ex­am­ple, have a queen bed, kitch­enette with a full-size fridge, en­suite bath­rooms, re­verse-cy­cle air­con­di­tion­ing/heat­ing, 40-inch TV with Blue Ray, and a deck with a pri­vate bar­be­cue.

A num­ber of BIG4 parks have sa­fari tents, too, with sim­i­lar fea­tures. Th­ese are, of course, more ex­pen­sive than a tent or car­a­van site (the ones at Dis­cov­ery Parks – Byron Bay start at $158 a night), but you’ll be more com­fort­able – and for a price that’s typ­i­cally cheaper than a ho­tel.

Bell tents are made of cot­ton can­vas and have a cen­tral metal pole. Those in car­a­van parks don’t typ­i­cally have an en­suite, but the de­sign of­ten al­lows for a de­cent amount of floor space and they’re some­times stylishly ap­pointed. Halls Gap Lake­side Tourist Park (Vic), for ex­am­ple, has four themed bell tents (such as Aussie Mediter­ranean Isles, French Riviera) which come with a queen bed, small fridge, mi­crowave and deck with a bar­be­cue and Ozpig wood­fire.

Fi­nally, some parks of­fer vin­tage caravans, which are ex­actly what they sound like: older caravans, some­times with a small kitchen, TV, air­con­di­tion­ing and out­door seat­ing. They of­ten lack an en­suite and can feel ei­ther cute or dated, de­pend­ing on their con­di­tion but, when thought­fully re­fur­bished, the retro am­bi­ence is en­dear­ing. For a few fetch­ing ex­am­ples, check out Kanasta Car­a­van Park on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula (Vic), where the lov­ingly re­stored 1950s-1980s glam­pers have names (Peggy Sue, Mary Jane), as well as Tathra Beach­side (NSW), which has vin­tage Franklin vans dat­ing from the ’60s-’80s. DISCOVERYHOLIDAYPARKS.COM.AU/NSW/ NORTH_COAST/BYRON_BAY HALLSGAPLAKESIDE.COM TATHRABEACHSIDE.COM.AU KANASTACARAVANPARK.COM.AU

FIND­ING THE PER­FECT PARK

While some parks are in­creas­ingly elab­o­rate, the Car­a­van In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion re­search team re­ports that the most im­por­tant fea­tures for park users are straight­for­ward. In or­der of im­por­tance, users look at lo­ca­tion (whether it’s a good place to visit), out­door space, ameni­ties such as bath­rooms and wash­ing fa­cil­i­ties, site size (large is pre­ferred), price, and park se­cu­rity. The three main mo­ti­va­tions for car­a­van­ning and camp­ing, the team says, are lifestyle, spend­ing time with fam­ily and friends, and es­cap­ing the daily grind – which you can pur­sue in any park, whether ba­sic or full of ameni­ties.

“The great thing about car­a­van­ning and camp­ing is the di­ver­sity of prod­uct avail­able – whether this be a great fa­cil­ity to base your­self in to ex­plore the sur­round­ing coun­try­side, or to stay in and im­merse your­self in the ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able within the park …. or a com­bi­na­tion of both,” says Stu­art La­mont, Car­a­van In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion CEO. “In se­lect­ing the best type of car­a­van park for your fam­ily, de­cide what sort of hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence you’re seek­ing and you’ll find a prod­uct to suit your needs.”

Choose from a broad range of car­a­van park ameni­ties and ac­com­mo­da­tion. There are on-site bounc­ing pil­lows (main pic­ture) at Dis­cov­ery Parks Pam­bula, NSW; lake­side cab­ins at Byron Bay, NSW, and a water park at Ta­nunda, SA.

LAKE­SIDE CAB­INS

WATER PARK

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