The great grey nomad dry season migration is upon us and convoys of caravans and motorhomes are heading north in seemingly ever greater numbers.
Towns like Winton in Outback Queensland say they are having an outstanding tourist season so far, and that’s despite the fact that the famed Waltzing Matilda tourist attraction recently burned down.
Paul Neilsen has been running Winton’s Tattersalls Hotel since 1995 and says it’s the best he has ever seen, with many return visitors.
“It’s the shortest direct route to get to the Gulf and into the Northern Territory and the top end of WA,” he said. “So we’ve got a natural flow of people driving through here anyway and we’re picking them up on the way through.”
It’s the same story over in the west with large numbers of grey nomads snaking their way up the North-West Coastal Highway in search of dry season heat. Long-term travellers say that with so many grey nomads heading north, many rest stops, national parks and caravans parks are more crowded than ever … and that’s changing the nature of the Big Lap experience.
With the travelling lifestyle likely to continue to grow in popularity, it’s an issue that planners in popular northern grey nomad hotspots will need to consider carefully. Obvious ways to relieve the pressure would be to build more van parks, offer more free camping, and encourage more off-season travel.
Veteran grey nomad Alan J says he has noticed more travellers. “I don’t want to be one of those selfish whingers because I know everyone has got as much right as me to enjoy this great country,” he said. “But the adventure has changed a lot since I first hit the road and I can only see it getting more crowded.”
Certainly, the latest data from the Caravan Industry Association of Australia suggests more, rather than fewer, travellers will soon be on the highways and byways. Australian Recreational Vehicle production statistics for April 2015 show an increase in production of 3.2% compared with April last year, and year-to-date production is 10.3% higher compared to 2014’s figures.
This is the fourth consecutive monthly increase in RV production, and 2015 is predicted to be a record year. It seems that caravanning and motorhoming is only going to get bigger.
“I can see that the grey nomads cat is well and truly out of the bag,” said Alan J ruefully. “But crowds or no crowds, I wouldn’t swap this lifestyle for anything.”