Caravanning is an under-recognised tradition in Australia. We’ve all got a caravanning story to tell. There’s something elemental about living in a caravan, even for a few days. A delicious sense of being in the wilderness, if the wilderness had an insulated roof, flat screen TV and duck-down doona.
Choosing a caravan
If you’ve checked out recent caravan and motorhome shows, you’ll know there’s a caravan to suit every traveller and every budget, from a small pop-top caravans to a fully appointed motorised home.
When looking to buy a caravan, functionality, features and overall condition are the key. Caravans are constructed either of metal, fibreglass or timber (or a combination), with foam insulation and a timber or metal lining.
Buying a used caravan
No matter the material, if you are looking at buying secondhand caravans, thoroughly inspect for leaks as the timbers, glue, rivets and fasteners get a work out that isn’t obvious without close inspection. Bumpy terrain is hard on all caravans so check the door, both inside and out, window and panel sealing. If the caravan leaks when you park it somewhere, you’ll be in a world of pain at 2am when it’s bucketing down. Check the axles and undercarriage, looking for signs of obvious stress, buckling, rust or wear. Tyres can be replaced, but the rims should be strong and rust-free. Damp can also be a problem with a used caravan, so be on the lookout for mildew, mould or that familiar ‘dirty socks’ smell.
A caravan toilet – now that’s a personal choice. If you’re planning a long haul trip, or just don’t feel comfy perched on a public dunny, then it may be a good idea to have one on-board. Remember though, you’ll have to clean it – regularly!
Unless you plan to live on take-away food, a clean and reliable stove in your caravan will give you good foodie mileage, particularly if cooking your hard earned catch of the day. A portable gas stove is also great as there are times when it would be an absolute crime to cook indoors with the Southern Cross gleaming overhead.
All caravans must be road registered and there are a number of rules you need to be aware of. No one is allowed to ride in a caravan while it is being towed. Learner drivers are not allowed to tow, and P1 licence holders may only tow small trailers.
When it comes to parking your caravan, each state has its own laws, but as a general rule you should only park a van at a council approved caravan park, land licensed for caravan accomodation or private land – like your mate’s backyard, next to his jacuzzi. That lovely rolling hill over yonder may get you slapped with a hefty fine, so resist the temptation to set down your caravan unless you know it’s legally legit.
Caravan parks in Australia
Just like every caravan, and caravan owner, every caravan park in Australia has its own charm. There’s big and fully appointed caravan parks, or out of the way and basic. Discovering and experiencing different parks is part of the joy, but here’s a little peek at which sites really stand out, state by state.
Caravan parks in New South Wales
Merry Beach Caravan Park, just South of Ulladulla on South Coast is rather special. Right on the water and backed by National Park, there are caravan sites, camping, cabins and deluxe suites available. The local baker, milk and fresh seafood man come through the park every day so you’ll eat like a king without blowing your budget. Tel: 02 4457 1065
Austin Tourist Park at Tamworth is a great inland caravan destination. Surrounded by nine acres of lush gardens, it’s only 4km from the center of town. This caravan park is quiet and relaxed, though the Country Music Festival every January revs things up a bit! If you plan to stay in Feb, book your site well in advance. Tel: 02 6766 2380
Caravan Parks in Victoria
Anglesea Beachfront Caravan Park couldn’t be any closer to the Great Ocean Road – it’s on it! Only 90 minutes drive from Melbourne, you can have brekky in the city and fish and chips on the beach for lunch. With both beach and river access, this is a gorgeous place to park a caravan. It’s only a short walk to shops, cafes and other town amenities. Tel: 03 5263 1583
Caravan Parks in Western Australia
Beachlands Holiday Park, Busselton is at the gateway to the Margaret River region. A 100m stroll to the beach, and 500m to the boat ramp make this place a wonderful ocean experience. There’s also a solar heated swimming pool, TV Room, camper’s kitchen, amazing BBQ areas and laundry facilities. Tel: 1800 622 107
If you’re into something basic and out of the way, Barn Hill Station, Broome is idyllic if you can tolerate a 9km drive along a red dirt road. You’ll find a sparkling white sand beach and excellent fishing at the end, so it’s well worth the effort. Tel: 08 9192 4975
Caravan Parks in South Australia
Adelaide Shores Caravan Park in West Beach is just that; right on the beach. There’s a games room, tennis courts, two swimming pools and a playground. A boardwalk along the beach leads in to Glenelg if you feel like mixing with the locals. Tel: 08 8355 7320
The Flinders Ranges Caravan Park is the perfect place to park if you want to spend a decent amount of time exploring the area. You’ll find hot showers, clean amenities and friendly staff. There’s also a kennel so your dog will be looked after while you’re out roaming the ranges. Tel: 08 8648 4266.
Caravan Parks in Tasmania
Port Arthur Caravan and Cabin Park, Garden Point, is only an hour’s drive from Hobart. Great for history buffs, bushwalkers and nature lovers as there’s rainforests, beaches, spectacular views and excellent fishing. A truly spectacular park. Tel: 03 6250 2340
Caravan Parks in Queensland
Cairns Coconut Resort is ideal if you’re after somewhere the kids can wear themselves out. Two pools, a waterslide, adventure playground, day/night tennis, giant chess and outdoor movie nights mean you’ll never hear them utter those dreaded words “I’m bored” while parked here. If venturing out, the Great Barrier Reef is only a 10 minute drive away. Tel: 07 4054 7591
Noosa North Shore Caravan Park is a basic park with toilets, hot showers and a kiosk but if you want absolute beachfront camping/caravanning, this is the place for you. At low tide you can drive along the beach from Noosa North Shore all the way to Rainbow Beach and Tin Can Bay. Tel: 07 5447 1225
Caravan Parks in the Northern Territory
Litchfield Safari Camp, on the edge of Litchfield National Park is only 4km from Wangi Falls – one of the most spectacular water falls in Australia. Base yourself here and explore this amazing area. The caravan park has powered and non-powered sites, or cabin accommodation for up to four adults. Surrounded by natural bush and with excellent facilities, including a spa, this place is a winner. Tel: 08 8978 2185