Back in the day, Aussie caravan parks only offered a few basic facilities: an amenities block, barbie area and in-ground pool – if you were lucky. Sure, they were fun places to relax, especially for families, but they were far from luxurious.
Happily, that’s changed at many holiday locations around the country. Think free, fast internet access, fully equipped indoor/outdoor kitchens and even the option of turning up sans van to instead spend the night in a comfy cabin or a plush safari-style tent that’s all set up for you! Yes, “glamping” has arrived at caravan parks in a big way.
In 2016 alone, Australians took a total of 11.7 million caravan and camping overnight trips – a 9 per cent increase on the previous year. Van registrations are also up, with the Caravan Industry Association of Australia noting a 30 per cent spike nationally since 2011.
“Australian caravan parks are in the best locations, so it makes sense that the accommodation and facilities now match up to the surroundings,” says Karl Plunkett, managing director of luxury tent manufacturer Eco Structures Australia.
Caravan Parks Association of Queensland spokeswoman Michelle Weston says caravan parks have kept moving with the times. “One of the fantastic things about parks now is the diversity – there really is something for everybody, from a simple site and quality amenities to resort-style parks with a huge range of accommodation options and facilities,” she says.
Standard facilities at most sites now include wi-fi, a communal camp kitchen, laundry area, a swimming pool and tourist information desk. “Some parks also have fully licensed cafes, mini golf and tennis courts,” Michelle says.
Caravan parks are also becoming more popular for multi-generational holidays. “Whether it’s grandparents taking their grandchildren away because Mum and Dad can’t get time off work or even three or four generations going away to spend time together, the range of accommodation options make this type of holiday easier,” Michelle says. “All members of the family can take advantage of the facilities that suit them, so we see the younger family members camping while grandparents enjoy a comfy cabin.”
“Most cabins now come with all the comforts of home, including full kitchens, cable television, heating and aircon, as well as proper bedding,” Michelle says.
“Cabins are great options for older guests who want to enjoy the caravan park experience with a few more creature comforts. Cabins can range from simple studio-style accommodation or bunk houses right through to three-bedroom, two-storey cabins designed for the whole extended family.”
Tents aren’t what they used to be either – as the glamping trend goes mainstream, there’s no need to worry about sleeping on the ground or hammering in pegs.
“Almost all caravan parks are upgrading and glamping is hugely on the increase,” Karl says. “A site featuring Eco Structure accommodation – like Sierra Escape in Mudgee, for example – has tents made of a strong steel frame clad in canvas, so you get that tent feel but in solid accommodation. They can then be fitted with proper floors, bathrooms, lighting, refrigeration – call it luxe camping without the hassle.”
For great glamping locations, visit glampinghub.com/australia
Many modern holiday spots have also introduced resort-style activities which add to the classic community feel of staying at a caravan park.
“At many sites you can now enjoy happy hour, a sausage sizzle or movie night with other guests,” Michelle explains. “Entertainers, including bush poets, performers or musicians, tend to drop in, too. Everything you need for a great break is onsite.”
Caravan parks are also generally well set up for people with mobility issues. “Many parks offer accessible cabins featuring door handles rather than knobs, larger bathrooms and ramps rather than stairs for less mobile guests,” she adds.
Still find the idea of caravanning or camping a bit too much like work?
Book an ensuite site if you’re not up for shower blocks. And ask if your park offers a “marriage saver” service with staff on hand to back your caravan into that tricky spot or put up the palatial two-room tent you bought online – at no extra charge. They’ve really thought of pretty much everything!