‘I’m a grey nomad … and I make a positive difference!’

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Proud grey nomads
Desi and John enjoy a meal with a view

Caravanner John Sanderson explains why he is honoured to call himself a novice grey nomad … and is extremely  proud of the contribution he – and the thousands like him – make to the life and economy of rural Australia

On our very first road trip, my wife Desi and I were immediately proud of our new grey nomad status. We know there are plenty of cranky drivers annoyed at having to overtake dozens of vans each day … but we soon learned there is another side to this story.

Yes, our driving speed is 90-95 km/h as we seek to conserve diesel, but consider the hundreds of Outback towns in all states we are now helping to save from extinction.

For example, Bourke Shire Council told us “it would be difficult to sum up in one sentence the benefits that grey nomads bring to the region”.

And grey spending power is crucial to all of Australia’s Outback tourist industries. Steve and Narelle, who operate a van park at Winton, told us “the grey travellers start coming around Mother’s Day and the volume turns into many thousands, a real flood … maybe 30,000 before the season ends”.

Winton old-timer, Bernie Searle, has run a clothing and souvenir outlet in the town since 1954. “The grey travellers have saved Winton because we are into a six-year drought, and the locals stopped spending a while back,” he told us. “The retirees come and keep the Outback alive. Without them, we would be closed and every town needs a shop like mine.”

On our travels, we found some of the most proactive councils in Australia were in Queensland and they understood the value of grey nomads. The councils at Mareeba, Murweh and McKinlay provide the best free camping facilities in the country, and they do so in recognition of the positive effects that elderly travellers have.

The Shire of Murweh even provides electricity at the free camp spot at Morven with an honesty box there for you to make your $10 contribution for the power you consume, while McKinlay reaches out to grey nomads with excellent roadside facilities at regular intervals. We found this was a big contrast to Outback New South Wales, South Australia and Northern Territory free stops which rarely have quality toilets, water and picnic tables.

We soon learnt that information about roadside facilities and friendly shires quickly spreads through the grey grapevine. People like Dennis and Flo from Adelaide are unfailingly eager to pass on helpful information about free camps and other tips. We met the 75-year-olds – who have been vanning for the past 20 years – while we were at Uluru.

They told us their travels had improved both their health and relationship. After 50 years of marriage, they are still adventuring together. It’s no wonder that every year there is a major increase in the number of retirees taking to the roads. And, with it, a growing gratitude in Outback towns. Time for a National Grey Nomad Day, perhaps?

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2 Responses to ‘I’m a grey nomad … and I make a positive difference!’

  1. NSW is full of showgrounds and sporting fields at low fees.
    Been a while since being in QLD as i find the state to be very unfriendly towards us nomads, unless you stay at caravan parks.
    Qld has very few rest areas as compared to NSW as well.

  2. Yes not only do we support little towns that provide and cater for grey nomads we tell everyone.Been at some quiet big happy hours on my travels.Always discussing best route to take and which towns to stay in and the ones to avoid.I also plan my trip, should I be traveling north,south etc to support those towns again.Been back to some little outback places half a dozen times So councils should listen to just what us old farts have to say. Cheers Stevo.

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