Creature comforts a growing priority for van parks

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Heritage Caravan Park in Alice Springs welcomes dogs
The Heritage Carvaan Park is very fog friendly

As caravan parks evolve to better cater to the varying demands of a range of customers, a new breed of ‘super pet friendly’ parks appears to be emerging.

With thousands of grey nomads refusing to take the Big Lap without their beloved pooches, there is a growing realisation in some quarters that catering to the needs of these travellers simply makes good business sense.

Whereas a pet-friendly park might once have meant little more than you were actually allowed to stay there with your dog … things are changing. Enlightened caravan park owners like Mark and Lisa Newman at the Heritage Caravan Park in Alice Springs are making dog friendliness their point of difference … and pet owning grey nomads are voting with their wheels.

“We are just getting busier and busier each year as word spreads and we do more to make pets more welcome,” Mark told the Grey Nomads website. “We always say we are the most dog friendly park in the Northern Territory and 90% of the grey nomads we get here are dog owners … and they are ecstatic.”

The park already boasts a large off-leash area, a coin-operated self-serve dog wash, a pet-loving ambience, and it has just been awarded a $9,500 grant from the NT’s Tourism Infrastructure Development Fund to build a doggy daycare facility.

“We’ve got two dogs ourselves and we know from our own experiences that it can be incredibly difficult travelling with a pet,” said Mark. “We just wanted to make it easier for people who wanted to visit national parks or other no-dog attractions to have a place where they could know their dog was safe and happy for the day.”

The Newmans – who live at their park with their two young children – are now in the process of building seven dog cages which will have a shared 12meter-run which each day-guest canine can enjoy in turn.

They will charge about $20 a day for the service “It seems such a shame that so many grey nomads currently have to miss out on national parks because of their dogs … they don’t want to leave them stuck in a caravan all day,” said Mark. “With this, they will have their own key to their dog’s cage so they can come and collect him or her again whenever they like.”

And, unlike some caravan parks, the Newmans are happy to greet all creatures great and small. “We will take any breed of dog, we don’t mind,” said Mark, “It is more about the owner than the dog, and we can tell a lot by the way people speak to us and what they say about their dog.”

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