Will more bypassed towns mean more free camps?

Published: December 28, 2016
Bulahdelah for grey nomads

The holidays are well and truly here, and for those who choose to travel at this time of the year that can only mean one thing … traffic jams!

However, times they are ’a changin’ along many highways, particularly along the east coast, where town after town is being bypassed. While longstanding traffic bottlenecks are being removed, the side effect on bypassed communities can be catastrophic with businesses closing and a ‘ghost town’ atmosphere developing.

It is no wonder then that some in Macksville on the New South Wales mid north coast are approaching 2017 with a degree of trepidation. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a new $830 million highway duplication of the Pacific Highway between Warrell Creek and Nambucca Heads will open late next year … making Macksville a far quieter place.

The Commonwealth Bank has already left town and other small businesses await an uncertain future.

However, Bob Higgins, general manager, Pacific Highway, Roads and Maritime Services, told the Sydney Morning Herald that  bypassed towns had a golden opportunity for a new lifestyle. The trick, he says, is finding new business.

The shining example of post-bypass success is the small community of Bulahdelah, not too far away from Kemspey, which was bypassed in 2013. There, free camping was encouraged and welcomed, and the cafes and stores in towns found a new clientele and a lifeline.

“We’ve got a boom in grey nomads … they stay an average 72 hours and on any night about 30 park their caravans and Winnebagos in the park across the Myall River,” said one resident, Max Burrows. “We lost much of the truck business but the town has always attracted Sydney people who wanted a cuppa and many still head here on their way north or when returning south … they remember the place and they still come.”

The grey-nomad friendly approach was the brainchild of Arthur Baker, a former caravan park owner and president of the Bulahdelah Lions Club, which says  the camping area has co co-existed success­fully with the town’s van park.

“Many travellers stay for a few nights at the free camp and then move into the van park for the shower or the laundry,” he said. “And, of course, there are many others who would never use a van park, anyway … better they stay here than by the side of the highway.”

  • Have you stayed at Bulahdelah? Do you make an effort to turn off the highway to visit bypassed communities? Comment below.
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Carolyn McLeod
5 years ago

Most definitely if they offer free camping; even better if it has toilets and water; some like Gayndah in Qld also offer showers which is a special treat. Always spend my $ in free camping towns as am a widow travelling alone and van parks are not possible for me – just couldn’t travel if forced to stay in parks. Thank you Bulahdelah, I will be heading your way for sure.

5 years ago

I have used Buladelah several times as a stop off point before heading homeward. Great location and nice and quiet. Always fuel up there and leave a donation. Best to get in early as it fills quickly.

5 years ago

We have stayed at Buladelah, and after our usual Christmas trip Southern Riverina to Brisbane we decided we cannot wait for the bypasses to be completed so we can enjoy our favourite towns along the way. Bypasses don’t encourage us to hasten our journey.

Wes Grady
1 year ago

Love the spot. Great o/night stay and fuel up .


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