Welling­ton Wan­der

David Thorndike dis­cov­ers there’s plenty to do around Welling­ton while at­tend­ing Aus­tralia’s big­gest camper trailer meet!

Caravan, Camping and Holiday Parks with Kids - - From The Editor -

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.

Get­ting there

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.

Stay

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.

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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

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