‘There is another side to the caravan park story’

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Are caravan parks perfect for grey nomads?
Grassy, secure and all facilities to boot ... some prefer van parks

While some long-term travellers are not shy in expressing negative views about the services and pricing structures offered by  caravan parks, grey nomad Sandra Sampson argues that it’s about time we showed these businesses a bit more love and understanding 

We travelled around for four years and, during that time, we only free camped twice. The experience was not to our liking as during peak season to find availability in these free areas one needed to be off the road by 2.30pm.

We checked out these parks while passing and many were not more than dust bowls and, of course, first in best dressed. There seemed to be no orderly manner in which to park, and the van next to ours had their generator adjacent to their van. No respect for anyone else and, on the other occasion, loud music blasted not long after we set up camp.

They may have been isolated incidents but, in the end, we preferred to pay the extra and have the security of staying in a caravan park. Staying safe is my priority, and my husband agrees ‘happy wife, happy life’.

When one considers the value of the rig, being a caravan and vehicle – possibly not much change out of $130,000 – why would you not be prepared to pay the extra that caravan parks offer?

We could always recognise the arrival in the caravan park of those people who free camp. They would arrive early morning. Then:

1. Off to do the laundry.
2. Fill up the water tanks.
3. Put on the air conditioner, whether in the van or not, and on many occasions the van windows would be left open, and charge all accessories too.
4. Next morning … hit the road and back to free camping, until the need arises again!

No thought given to the owner of the caravan park and the overheads that need to be built into the tariff, and as we all know too well the rising cost of essentials, like power, water, maintenance, council rates.

Once the expenses are taken into account who in their right mind would want to be an independent caravan park owner? No wonder they are disappearing, and the big conglomerates are buying into the caravan park industry.

It is this type of owner which has introduced, jumping pillows, water parks, bike or cart hire, and more luxurious swimming pools, which of course is included in the tariff irrespective of whether you are a grey nomad or a young family who love the availability of the extras!

Let us grey nomads support those smaller caravan parks, whose rates are realistic.

• Do you think some grey nomads are unfairly critical of caravan parks? comment below.

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51 Responses to ‘There is another side to the caravan park story’

  1. I always support Caravan Parks when realonably priced.. but refuse to pay r ridiculous prices.

    • When reasonably priced !! On a recent quick trip I stayed in 3 parks. I’m fully independent with my tent. One park where I had a shower $ 15, unpowered extremely fair. Next park $ 30 unpowered,no water but grass,too expensive . The next park unpowered and stuck on gravel a huge walk from amenities $30,as they had very draconian water restrictions I used nothing. For one person I feel $ 30 was inappropriate. So next stay left the tent in the 4wd,spend $69 on a hotel room in Dubbo ,wonderfull airconditioning , great bed and shower,while it was raining and cold outside. ???

      • We recently returned from a holiday to Perth and the south west. We found the dearest place we stayed was a caravan park $150 per night for a cabin, while motels were around $100 per night. At those prices we could not continue to support the parks.

    • Like most motel, caravan park businesses they operate on high, medium, low seasons and they charge accordingly. Just think of how you would be if you owned such a business. We try to stay with KUI PARKS where possible, as their rates are fair

    • Yes we try to surport small parks, we use a bit of old fashion manners to. We love staying at station stays. But saying that there are some parks where the owners should of got out years ago and just let everything run down to where the park is a sorry sight.. And yes we have met people who free camp all the time and complain all the time but they don’t respect the area they are camping in.

  2. I too find free camps a tad daunting albeit we can be fully self sufficient
    We stay in the very occasional one ( usually one night between longwr stays) but prefer the smaller no frills CPs and the Showgrounds
    I like the “some control” that these offer

  3. So Sandra when you see me pull in to a CP and judge me as a free camper come on over for a chat! Yes there are whingers out there but that wont change anytime soon. People will always choose what type of camp they want and what facilities they value. Some parks tick all the boxes and some fall well short and dont forget not everyone has your budget. And if you are only staying in parks you are missing out on a lot, but that is your choice as is ours to free camp and use Parks when it suits us.

    • Great response!!! 100% agree

    • Perfectly put Pete and Jules
      ‘It’s all about choice’

    • Agree people should not judge if that’s what you prefer

    • I totally agree with this comment, we do free camping, show grounds, country pubs and caravan parks. We like all the different types of people we meet and chat with.

  4. I don’t understand why the writer is so critical of free campers coming to a park and doing whatever it is they do. Unless they are there without paying they have every right to do it. If you spend that much on your rig I guess you can afford to stay in parks but not every one can.

    • Well said Faye. It is a very judgemental opening story and regardless of how much money you have no one wants to pay for something they neither need nor want. Those who only ever go to caravan parks are missing out on so much our great country has to offer. Small mindedness is not determined by your wealth or your rig size and has been appropriately displayed here.

  5. Horses for courses. I’ve been on the road for two years and have visited caravan parks on several occasions. There is a definite difference between those who only stay in caravan parks and those who chose not to. My experience in the parks has not been good. Seems lots of people are ego driven and need to have the biggest and best everything to show off. The parks themselves did not offer value for money as far as I’m concerned as I rarely use the A/C and do not have a mind set which dictates that I must get everything I can. I appreciate that the caravan park operators are wanting to make a living but they need to cater for a changing market. I will avoid caravan parks regardless of what rig I drive because I much prefer the type of nomad on the road who frequents the free camps. We all have little time for the whizbangs and others who are just out for what they can get. Unfortunately they are a part of society but for me. I will avoid caravan parks because they do not provide what I desire. Why go on a holiday to be sardined into a spot and have noisy kids running around without respect. I had unpleasant experiences at caravan parks at the hands of the operators and other campers so I’ll not be paying for repeat experiences again if at all possible.

    • Such a shame I am put into a “box”, of being only able to afford a “wiz-bang”. Didn’t know what this was until I was on the road. And sadly I find I am ignored, looked down on before anyone even knows who I am. Love my van and have travelled all over Aus, staying free camps and parks, which I don’t always enjoy. Find them unfriendly and don’t take into consideration that I am on my own, and in a small rig. Still charged as per two people!!

      • Flottes, I didn’t know what a wiz-bang was either until one night in Tassie I was kept awake by a group of backpackers with the sliding door opening and slamming, wiz bang, wiz bang………. as they wandered to the toilet block and back. I’ll add that most of the females walked to the toilets while the males just stood outside. This was a very unpleasant introduction to an understanding of “wiz-bangs”. It is a broad brush but unfortunately the vast majority of wiz bangs are driven by the back packers or similar. They are a nuisance in caravan parks and in free camps because they generally leave a mess and show zero respect for their fellow travellers. I know it sounds harsh and judgemental but the times I free camp or go to a caravan park I will steer clear of them. It is unfortunate the CP operator just ignored the problem. They had their money and my concerns were ignored. At least in a free camp I can move if I want to and unfortunately, wiz bangs have a poor reputation despite the fact that I know quite a few single ladies who travel in them.

        • We caravan and both free camp and do van parks and showgrounds and any other that offers a reasonable spot off the road. Mostly go to van parks when we want to unhook the van to explore as we dont unhook in free camps.
          Now have a few acres in a Qld city suitable to offer for self contained camping, fenced for security (own risk still) and town water to top up tanks. Its level with rough grass – bit dry now. So who would pay $10 a night for this?

    • Peta…I have to ask…but what on earth is a “whiz-bang ”
      As for the rest…I think people have a right to free camp or utilize a caravan park if that is their wish…sometimes it’s reasonably priced…sometimes you pay a bit extra…all depends on what you are looking for…you have the choice of paying the cost or not….I think the whole idea should just be to enjoy your trip/weekend camping sojourn or just hitting the road for months at a time. I for one don’t worry what other people think of my little setup…which by the way is nothing fancy ….certainly not to the tune of $130,000 dollars…we have a converted and very comfortable, converted Toyota Tarago van with our own onboard power via solar and alternator charged 150 amphour deep cycle battery, built in kitchenette 12/240 Waeco fridge/freezer etc…and a very comfy double bed…side awning..popup cubicle tent for shower and portapottie…what more do you need. Am happy to use the occasional caravan park…but not if it is unreasonably priced…we do go to one park at Eden in NSW that is a little bit more than I like to pay…but…it gives us access to a FANTASTIC little beach that is just a complete little paradise in its own right…so I guess comes down to personal choice…horses for courses. Hope you enjoy yr tripping around this great country of ours…and stay safe. Cya.
      Oh…must ask again….what on earth is a ” whiz-bang “…Lol.

      • I’m from one of those independent caravan parks. It is expected from my experience regardless of whether pour guest’s ever free camp or not they expect the facilities to be A grade. Not everyone needs the pools and jumping pillows but some expectations are unrealistic. We offer free laundry facilities and I know people come back purely to do the washing. I don’t believe our rates are unfair. You want the best customer service , the best location and a well kept park? That’s what you pay for. Your choice.

    • You may be supporting the free camp lifestyle as opposed to caravan parks, but I’m afraid that you too are being judgemental!! My partner & and I travelled for many years & stayed mostly in free camps because we personally preferred it. We choose to live simply & this means that we didn’t need the facilities that caravan parks offer (many of very low standards I might add), so why would we pay for it? We were ‘whizzbangers’ & we were referred to as that many times, to our faces, by the the ‘upper-classes’. We were immediately judged as undesirable which, to those that took the time to actually speak to us, found to be an unfair assumption! We are good people. We are kind, caring, polite, considerate, quiet & we always cleaned up the rubbish left by previous campers & never left any of our own. We have upgraded to a coaster bus now but find that the class system is still there. None of this is anything to do with whether people are decent humans as opposed to not, it is all completely about snobbery! I might add that we do not judge & have made many friends along the way from people sleeping in their cars, right up to the most expensive rig you could imagine.

  6. I think each to his own. It’s great to have the luxury of choice. I have to admit that we mainly stay in small parks if possible, and free camp when we want to. My main objection to caravan parks is price gouging because they can. Of course I’m not putting every caravan park into this category but a particular one in Bright, Victoria, belonging to a big organisation has put its prices up to $115 per night for a powered site over the Easter period and want a $300 deposit–then advise you to take out cancellation insurance! Our family group has been meeting at this place for just on 30 years, but not any more!

  7. Keep promoting the caravan parks so folks like us can have more room in the free camps. We tried both last year in the kimberleys and enroute. Results ,no thieves, excess noise or squashed in conditions in the free camps. Commment from park manager in kununurra was this is the new kimberleys when asked about the 4 parks getting robbed in 1 night. In broome they took 20k per night but said security was a waste of money. Again our neighbours were robbed. Try lighting a camp fire in a Cpark.

  8. We only stay in Caravan Parks when we have no other choice. When we do we use our own shower and toilet and washing machine as I have seen dogs beds washed on machines in parks and some have not been that clean. Our Family own a caravan park with their family and absolutely love the lifestyle at Barham Lakes on the mighty River Murray. After reading this article am I supposed to have a sigh that says free camper , I wonder if other people she watches need different signs . We prefer freedom camping as you can park where you like , not at all a fan of concrete slabs and all in rows and streets. And I can tell you we did not pay $130.00 for or rig and they were both new in the last 2 years . Caravanning , Camping is all about choice what ever floats your boat , just enjoy your choices and Happy and Safe Travels

  9. My problem with caravan parks is the size and often location of sites. My home is 27 ft long plus tug, so it’s mostly inconvenient to back in as there isn’t turning room. I too don’t like jumpy crap and unruly kids. Hence the boom in showground availability. Usually sensibly priced with the basic needs we appreciate.

    • Yep. We have a 25 foot secondhand van. Last time we stayed in a caravan park we could not get out. Had to unhitch and staff used a golf buggy type vehicle to attach to the van and bounced it onto the concrete so we could get out site So small. Sides and back of site had hedge shrubberies. When it next rained we had leaks. Never again. Not happy jan.

  10. Shire rates, water rates, land tax, electricity, all things that have to be paid out of the site fees plus loan repayments. Owners know how much each site costs before making a profit and don’t forget its over 365 days not just the busy times. Everybody seems to think that a park is making big dough all year round but that’s not true. $20,000 per night for the 12 busy weeks has to be spread over 52 weeks. Believe me its not all roses and chocolates. If you’re not making a quid why stay in business.

    • In the end we vote with our feet. Most grey nomads are perceptive enough to know which CP operators are genuinely in it for the lifestyle and a love of travellers. Those who are more interested in milking the traveller will perish. We all have bills to pay and try to generate an income in whatever way we can. I’ll not be propping up a CP because they have a violin, I’ll patronise a well run fairly priced park and the others will determine their own destiny.

  11. There are some good comfy reasonably priced c.p out there and they will stay there as they are suitable for the customer.
    There are a lot of c.p that killed themselves. No one to blame but themselves. And good riddance, no sorry for them

    Too high prices, would refuse to adapt to changing customer Requirements, ie many are self sufficient too many cabins
    Those C.p that don’t adapt become extint

    • Cabins, kids and noise. Tell me about it.

  12. I Respect you like to stay in caravan parks. Respecting others choices would be nice. You are the people caravan parks want and cater to and thats good. Most freedom campers will never be their clients because they do not have what they want. Even if they closed down all the free camps they still would not be their clients. Do not often see a rig for over $130,000 but then i do not use caravan parks. Class is still rearing its ugly head. Whatever your choice be happy. Enjoy everyone.

  13. A lot of caravan parks are becoming residential so they are going to be harder to find so people will be free camping as there will not be enough tourist sites available.

  14. I totally agree, the freeloaders hog the free camping sites for days on end and don’t give any other campers a fair go.

  15. I hear what you say but sadly I cant agree with you. My wife and I try and spend at least 4 to 5 months on the road each year. We have a pretty good setup but not as good as I would like. If we are tavelling to a destination, we will freecamp wherever we can to try and save a few bucks. But once we get to that dedtination we usually end up in a caravan park or showground. It is a very social experience to freecamp and sit around the campfire and exchange stories with other like minded folk. I dont mind paying 30-40 dollars if the place has the facilities we require. But you shouldnt knock us for staying away from c/p’s to try and save a few bucks. And I really dont think freecampers abuse air conditioning. In fact we generally survive a hell of a lot better than most considering we dont turn them on when freecamping. And these days, most of us use solar so the genie justs sits in the box and laps Aus without getting turned on (such a waste….). So, absolutely no offence, but I cant agree with your comment.

  16. Do what ever floats your boat. Enjoy yourselves no matter where you decide to park up. Not everyone is the same nor do we have the same requirements. Pitty some people just can’t do their own thing and leave others alone to do theirs. Smile and enjoy your travels. 🙂

  17. We have a “whizbang” which is all we can afford. We are a retired, responsible and considerate couple. On our travels we usually try to free camp and c/park alternate nights. Yes, we do use the laundry, electricity to recharge but considering the size of our vehicle and our minimal gadgets, we feel justified. Quite often we are given tight, awkward sites while bigger vehicles have sites to suit the requirements of their rig, annexe and towing vehicle. That would be fine if we were not paying exactly the same fee as them. Freemantle caravan park have a desinated area for small/medium campervans/motorhomes and charge accordingly. We have also experienced the looks of horror/panic as some big rig owners see a “whizbang ” approaching.

  18. Caravan parks are going out of business or selling to developers for many of the reasons your all expecting to pay next to nothing for a 5 star service. Like Rob Jones said, there are many over heads you have to remember caravan parks have to pay and ongoing daily maintenance and daily running of the park like toilet paper, soap, hand towels etc. Parks are branching out and catering to what their majority clientele want. You would rather whinge they aren’t catering to grey nomads, but a lot of you free camp but then expect parks to be hanging in the wind for your one night stay to fill up, leave air cons going, charge batteries, catch up on your washing etc. for 1 night!? They wouldn’t make a dime from you! When a family will generally stay longer if they have things for kids to do, (jumping castles, kids playground, pools, activities etc)is it so hard to understand? Did you forget when you were all kids or had kids and what you needed and you would spend a week or more at a park? 1night vs 7nights+ ….let that sink in. Yes, it’s your choice what you do, but they aren’t in business to be a charity, they are there to try make a life for themselves and put bread and butter on the table for their family. If you ever owned a business, and not just “looked” after one, you would know and understand what is determined to make up the tariff charged, yes some are far out there and ridiculous, but don’t put them all in the same basket.

    • I ran my business for 30+ years, had so many repeat customers because I offered a service they wanted and I didn’t expect them to come back if they found a better alternative. Getting on a soapbox Amy trying to imply that grey nomads have some obligation to support the CP’s is rubbish.
      As clearly evidenced by the comments on this topic there is a clear gap in the thinking and attitudes of the travelling community. Give me the free campers any day.

  19. If people are going into CPs to fill their water tanks, charge their accessories, do their laundry, and whatever else they choose, as long as the park manager accepts this, while the customer has PAYED to stay there, or payed for the services needed, then what is the problem.. Fill ya tanks, charge what needs to be charged, and get off the TAR & OUT OF THE CITIES, you’d be amazed what our country has got to offer.. Go feral & off the grid.

  20. We are at the end of 7500kms & over 9 weeks of camping. Very few free camps, used only way out west with long distances between towns. Powered sites from $25 in Guyra to over $40 in Victoria. Surely for the cost of a meal or a bottle of spirits……safety, a hot shower, decent loo & power in the camp is a bargain. Try staying in Sydney, 1 park n no free camps. Support the smaller parks or we will lose them.

  21. That’s it Marilyn….!

  22. As a solo traveller I never free camp on my own so use a combination of free camps and low priced family or council owned parks & showgrounds. I’d only use one of the big name parks in a dire emergency. My worst experiences have been in caravan parks – crammed in like sardines with unruly kids running amock while parents can’t be bothered parenting. My best nights have been “free camping” & I don’t mean free as in no money paid but free as in space with the only sound coming from a fast running creek & a crackling fire with a million stars overhead (Omeo). I do not travel with a gennie & have not had any problems with people using them. These days I’m told they’re super quiet anyway.

  23. I worked in the caravan industry for many years, the worst case of theft was when a camper was unwinding the toilet paper with a battery operated drill ,how low can you go

  24. Many valid comments above. In my opinion the best option is to do what suits each individual, and most importantly is to enjoy your travels. We are totally self contained so can enjoy either freedom (low fee) camping or a caravan park as we wish, determined by area we are in. Just enjoy your travelling without worrying how others choose to do their travelling.

  25. Disclaimer: We use both free and paid camping, with more of the letter. We are fully self-sufficient, so even at caravan parks we rarely use a powered site, except perhaps for those times when the sites available as unpowered are simply unacceptable, as very many are.

    The article is heavily biased, showing a clear dislike for and objection to those who free camp but occasionally use the facilities in a caravan park. Making out like it’s somehow unfair. The simple facts are that those facilities are there for the use by all paying customers, regardless of when they arrive or if they mostly free camp. While I also disapprove those running aircons with windows open, the price paid has far more than covered the expense of the the power used.

    Typically caravan parks charge between $5 and $10 per night for powered vs unpowered sites. It’s quite impossible, to use even a reasonable fraction of that cost in power in a single 24 hour period using the powerpoints available. So what else justifies the rather small price difference? This is only part of the disincentive to pay a caravan park when suitable free camps are available.

    • John, great to hear you mention 24 hour period , I have not found a CP yet that offers a one night stay of 24 hours, in at 1 or 2pm, out by 10 am, what the ??

  26. We too have traveled to sydney and back yes we stay at caravan parks only when have to and the price is right we are pensioners so cant afford to stay at caravan parks all the time we prefer to stay at free stops alo nll g the way had no trouble with the travellers they have all been very friendly not everyone have the money to stay at carVan parks if they lowed the price yes we would they more anyway free stay is great we have seen lovely places along the way met lovely people stop complaing enjoy life

  27. I have a different view, being a solo camper I have travelled for around 3 years and still going.
    Very rarely do I stay in caravan parks and when I do I power up, fill the water tanks before I leave
    As a solo traveller, I am charged for 2 people when at parks, totally unfair, keep in mind parks charge for a 3rd person so why not reduce the cost for a single.
    I am not saying that all parks do this but the majority do.
    Give me low cost or no cost camping any day

  28. This mantra is becoming boring.
    I think I have heard all these comments a thousand times over.
    Sorry.

  29. No wonder Caravan Parks are closing down. Wait until there are limited Caravan Parks and these free camping nomads cannot get in to do their washing etc. Listen to them bellow then!!! I remember when the small park closed in Mooloolaba on the beach, there was an outcry from Caravanners & I bet the free campers were the loudest.

    • Or us free campers could simply wash by hand like I do!

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