Is the grass greener on the other side of the van park fence?

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Grey nomad frienly caravan park Halls Gap
An idyllic place for a family ... and a van park!

Travel-loving family drop anchor … and build up a nomad-friendly business

While grey nomads are famed for their sense of adventure and fun, they’re not the only ones in the nation’s caravan parks and camping grounds on a ‘not-sure-where-it-will-end’ journey.

Many of the owners/managers of Australia’s 1,600 or so cara­van parks are battling to bal­ance the books as they struggle with power bills, maintenance costs … and high customer expectations.

Van park owners Rohan and Josephina McDonald, both 39, understand better than most what long-term travellers want. A year ago, the couple and their two children Paddy, 8, and Keira, 9, put their house on the market to go on the road them­selves. It was only when they stumbled upon a caravan park for sale near Victoria’s Gram­pians National Park that they decided to put down roots.

Short on funds, they borrowed heavily to realise their ‘own business’ dream.

“When Rohan and I purchased the park it was very run down … no grass, very old cabins, very old reception and ameni­ties,” says Josephina. “All I could see was a terrible mess.”

The couple, who had previ­ously managed a country club, threw themselves into the project, but it wasn’t easy … especially with young children. In those early months, the McDonalds had no office, an unreliable phone service … and it kept raining!

“In winter, I worked in a cold manager’s residence on a generator, with only incoming calls,” says Josephina. “I must admit, with the high attention this business requires, I feel blessed that our kids adapted so well … it has been an over­whelming year.”

The results of the hard work are that the 100-site Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park now boasts new amenities with individual bathrooms, the old cabins have been replaced, a dump point has been installed, the outdoor pool is heated, and there is a fully-equipped camp kitchen complete with fire­place. And a new fee structure means solo travellers get an automatic $5 site fee discount.

“Many grey nomads have done the hard yards and retired and it is time to be rewarded,” says Josephina. “We offer a bush camp experience with modern facilities and we overlook a val­ley where kangaroos, emus and deer roam freely.”

While it sounds idyllic, the McDonalds don’t plan to stay forever. Their travelling instincts are deeply ingrained and, when their children grow up, the open road beckons once more.

“I have some grey hair already and I love being a nomad,” laughs Josephina. “We work hard so we can enjoy ourselves, so you’ll definitely see us on the road!”

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