David Thorndike discovers there’s plenty to do around Wellington while attending Australia’s biggest camper trailer meet!
We join over 100 couples and families at Australia’s biggest camper trailer gathering.
It was about six years ago that my wife and I splashed out on our first camper trailer. We picked it up for $ 3000 on eBay, but at the time didn’t know enough about camper trailers to be sure if it was worth the money. We reached our decision on the basis that every other registered wind-up camper we found for sale seemed to start at $ 5000 and go up from there, so it seemed like a bargain. Six years and countless trips later, it is still going strong and now sheltering five of us every time we venture out, so it has certainly paid off for us.
If you are in the same boat we were, wondering if a camper trailer may be the best option for your family, but not sure which is the right one, where can you go for help? There are literally hundreds of different makes and models available, from soft floor canvas tents to hard floor flip over, to the more caravan style wind-up models like ours. Each has their own features and benefits, and we found it really comes down to three considerations; how comfortable you like to be, are you going seriously off-road or keeping mostly to the bitumen and coastal caravan parks, and do you want a hard floor model that sits off the ground (great idea but less room for the family) or a soft floor model with a huge annex able to house the whole family comfortably.
If you’re stuck, there is somewhere you can go and ask the opinions of those who have already been there and done that. Its Australia’s oldest online camper trailer group; campertrailers.org.
I joined four years ago for all the reasons mentioned above plus one more, we were the only people we knew with a camper trailer and wanted to get out with other like-minded families on trips.
That brings us to the present where we have just returned home from our third national meet. Yes, they have national meets, held every year at a different location (though always in NSW as it is central to most of the group members) and attracting over 100 camper trailers, caravans, motorhomes and tents every year. Even though they started as a camper trailer group, like any good organisation, they have evolved over time and now, ten years later they welcome everyone regardless of how you like to camp. They have also seen existing members start with a camper trailer and update along the way to either a caravan or motorhome
depending on what suited them, but wanting to stay members as they didn’t want to let go of the friendships and camaraderie they had found. Speaks well for the people involved, doesn’t it! As well as national meets, there are also state and local meets organised a number of times of year where everyone is welcome to book in and take part.
This trip found my two boys Ryan (5yrs) and Noah (4yrs), and I at Wellington in the NSW central west. My wife had stayed at home with our 18 month old, allowing us to have a boys’ only weekend in the bush. We left home at about 9am and pulled into Bathurst after an easy drive over the mountains just after midday. It was actually the weekend of the Bathurst 1000 and I was pleasantly surprised we weren’t stuck in traffic either in the mountains or in Bathurst itself, but it seems that everyone who comes for the Great Race, does so a few days before to stake their spot early on the mountain, so we managed to sneak through with no trouble at all. I even allowed myself to cave in to the boy’s demands for a lunch stop at Hungry Jacks.
It was another two hours from Bathurst to Wellington which we did without a stop and pulled into the Wellington Racetrack, (base for the 9th annual campertrailers.org meet) around 4pm. A racetrack, I hear you say; well there aren’t many places that have room for over 100 camper trailers, let alone the 250 to 300 people that come with them plus the basic facilities required for such a big group such as toilets, showers, and the opportunity to have open camp fires. Wellington Racetrack though was perfect, and with help from the local Lions Club and Mayor of Wellington, we were given a very warm welcome.
The next couple of days were spent exploring Wellington and surrounding districts, interspersed with relaxing at the showground and catching up with friends while the kids rode their bikes and played with anyone they could find. Wellington is actually the second oldest settlement west of the Blue Mountains, originally settled in 1823 as a convict town. Now it is primarily sheep and beef cattle grazing country, but also popular for wheat and vegetables. Local attractions include the beautiful Wellington Caves, Lake Burrendong (which holds about three and a half times as much water as Sydney Harbour) and Westerns Plains Zoo at Dubbo, only 40 minutes’ drive west.
We visited each, spending a whole day out at the Lake which is popular for swimming, boating and water skiing and has a large caravan park and campground on its southern shores. Well worth a
visit is the beautiful arboretum just a few minutes’ drive from the lake, which has an amazing man-made rainforest named Fern Gully. The boys and I spent an amazing hour walking around the arboretum after I initially thought I would be lucky to keep them amused for more than ten minutes.
Wellington Caves and Western Plains Zoo are the highlights of the areas though, and you can easily spend a full day at the zoo exploring its entire three square kilometres of open area exhibits with more than 700 animals. Unfortunately, as with all trips, time beat us again and we were soon heading home. And while it was a lonely six hour drive back home with both boys asleep in the back, the smiles on their tired faces tell me it won’t be long until we head out on the next boys’ trip.
Wellington is approximately 350km (or five hours drive) from both Sydney and Canberra, and approximately 50km (or 40 minutes drive) west of Dubbo. It’s highway the whole journey and is an easy drive with plenty of great towns to stop and explore or have something to eat along the way.
Our meet was held at the local Racetrack but this won’t be an option unless you’re part of a large organised group and have arranged it with council. Your best bets for camping would be one of the four caravan parks, two of which are in town, one out at Lake Burrendong and one at Wellington Caves. Lake Burrendong would be our pick.
01 Getting some shade after a swim 02 Camper trailer set-up at the national meet 03 Wellington Caves 04 Western Plains Zoo 05 Fern Gully at the Arboretum 06 Views from the point picnic area at Lake Burrendong 01