Grey nomads find they’ve got company on the road

Published: May 8, 2021

With overseas holidays effectively banned, it is no surprise that domestic tourism has absolutely boomed … with the caravanning and camping sector leading the way.

And while it would be churlish to be anything other than delighted that a whole host of new travellers are discovering the joys of Australia’s open roads, the upsurge is having an undeniable impact on the grey nomad lifestyle … and not always for the better.

The big thing, of course, is the sheer number of extra adventurers. For a long time, grey nomads have become used to – other than during school holidays – being pretty much the only game in town. But times they are a-changin’ … and quickly!

The Zip Weekly Spending Index shows caravan sales are up as much as 242%, with waiting times for new caravans blowing out to up to a year.

So, who are all these new travellers?

Research by professional services company, KPMG, shows that, over the next 12-24 months, recreational travel will be driven by: young Australians unable to travel overseas ticking off the backyard bucket list; professionals liberated by more flexible working arrangements becoming digital nomads; and those abruptly looking for different holiday experiences being lured by the romance of a road trip.

The impact on the ground is palpable. Even ‘adventurous’ destinations such as Queensland’s Cape York look set to become positively crowded over the next few months.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Cape York manager Brett Stallbaum said many national park campsites were already fully booked.

And he urged campers not to turn up without a booking.

“You will be very disappointed,” he said. “There is a system in place and there are limitations … we don’t want people camping shoulder to shoulder.”

It’s the same story at places Not home alone like Bramwell Station Tourist Park, two hours’ drive north of Weipa, where the phone has been ‘ringing off the hook’.

“We will host at least 500 people a night during June, July and August, from all over Australia — that’s a 50% increase on 2019,” said the station’s Ken Godfrey. “We normally close up around mid-October, but we have bookings until the end of November this year, which is completely out of the ordinary.”

Of course, it is not just the inability to travel overseas that has driven interest in Cape York. Over the years, more and more of the Peninsula Development Road has been bitumenised leaving just 200 kilometres of the 527-kilomtre route unsealed.

It all means a trip to the Tip might be a different experience this year. Retirees Len and Barb Sorrell did the trip quite a few years ago in a LandCruiser towing a brand new 13’ Coromal Silhouette off-road campervan when they would have had a lot less company on the ‘road’.

They remember dodging around deep pot holes in the riverbed at Cockatoo Creek, and having to drive upstream for about 30 metres in order to cross the Delahunty River.

“We did find that the endless corrugations continually shook the van’s cutlery draw out of its mounting and the camper was continually filled with red dust,” said Len. “But we wouldn’t have had it any other way … what an incredible trip!”

  • Are you happy to share the road with more travellers? Comment below.
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3 Comments
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Andy
8 months ago

FNQ Absolutely chockas with visitors. Great to see

Andrew Mc
8 months ago

Guess we will see plenty going across the nullarbor. Overnight camp spots may be crowded. Leave Wednesday.

Kennedy Lynley
3 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Mc

Can’t. Get into WA. So you won’t get far

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