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Caravanning authors Ken and Maureen Hay tell GoSeeAustralia about their wish list for Australia's perfect Caravan Park

October 04, 2006
Caravanning authors Ken and Maureen Hay tell GoSeeAustralia about their wish list for Australia's perfect Caravan Park

Caravan Parks throughout Australia are challenged by their own success as they cater for the travelling public in the broadest sense, Ken and Maureen Hay told GoSeeAustralia.

They say many parks are booked out now at peak periods and as caravan parks turn caravan sites into cabin (chalet, villa) accommodation and provide service to those without caravans the essence of how caravan parks are structured and function changes.

Ken and Maureen Hay, authors of The Nitty Gritty of Caravanning say the need now and in the future is for caravan parks throughout Australia to cater for the short stay travellers. But a focus on short stay means a change to the traditional way caravan parks and sites are laid out. Drive through sites must become the standard, the caravanning couple from Western Australia say.

Ken and Maureen suggest that permanent caravans and chalet (cabin, villa) accommodation should not be included despite this being the bread and butter of most caravan parks. Facilities need significant improvement with individual, high standard en-suites a first essential and caravan park operators need to take their professionalism to the highest level.

This extends to significant improvement in the tourism information provided by parks. A heap of brochures on the counter does not cut it, Ken and Maureen say.

The challenge for caravan park owners is to become tourism professionals, not just caravan park operators.

Ken and Maureen say some caravan parks try to be all things to all travellers with camping areas, camp kitchens, cabins (chalets, villas), permanent and on-site rental caravans. Others, often euphemistically, describe themselves as resorts. They have bars, restaurants, supermarkets, swimming pools and convention facilities.

Nitty Gritty authors Ken and Maureen Hay at Uluru
Nitty Gritty authors Ken and Maureen Hay at Uluru

But is this really what is needed? The caravanning couple asked.

They argue that while many caravanners and motorhome owners say they need quality service and facilities they dont want all the trappings of a resort.

Here are some specific thoughts on a Perfect Caravan Park from Ken and Maureens book The Nitty Gritty of Caravanning

To plan ahead travellers need to know about their options. Strangely of more than 2700 caravan parks in Australia a significant number do not advertise their presence.

Caravan Park information must be easily found. It must include items like the number of powered and unpowered sites, hot showers, washing machines and dryers, pet policy, STD phone, dump station, facilities for children, swimming pool, kiosk, barbecue areas and disabled facilities.

Campers kitchen Howard Springs
Campers kitchen Howard Springs

Quality requires an industry standard against which caravan parks can be compared.

Caravan Park fees need to be set at a reasonable average against viable industry standards.

Editors note: GoSeeAustralia believes Australian Bureau of Statistic site night figures for caravan parks are not a guide to reality in terms of dollar yield.

Caravan Park chains are well worth joining with discounts for members. The cost is soon recovered on a long trip. There are also chain discounts with selected tour operators, attractions and businesses.

The chains guarantee high quality.

Each chain has a web site linked to its members with park information and pictures.

Powlett River campers Kerry Rob and Ty enjoy a  basic caravan park
Powlett River campers Kerry Rob and Ty enjoy a basic caravan park

Ring ahead to book. It gives a good first impression of the caravan parks staffs professionalism.

Communicating with many caravan parks on the web can be frustrating. Some parks do not read their emails or respond to communication via the Web.

Editors note: GoSeeAustralia raised this issue with one big caravan park which had an email address but did not respond to emails. GoSee Australia was told keeping track of emails from potential clients took up too much staff time.

Many caravan parks have a web site, but many do not. Some do not have a fax. Others have web sites which are out of date or difficult to use. Often these sites are not friendly to people who do not have the latest computer packages or are using dial up.

Some caravan park sites compound this problem with too many pictures which are slow to download.

Ken and Maureen say a high standard of professionalism should be offered by all caravan parks especially in major tourist centres.

For the traveller the ideal caravan park is the one which made contact before they left home.

Professional. Errol Morris and Lisa Anglesea Beachfront Family Caravan Park
Professional. Errol Morris and Lisa Anglesea Beachfront Family Caravan Park

The perfect caravan park has some form of advertising which allows it to be found and assessed.

The traveller knows what the caravan parks facilities and charges are.

The perfect caravan park responds professionally to bookings by email, phone or mail.

The perfect caravan park has a well-designed web site with photos which download quickly and caravan park and local information.

Location is not everything. A badly run and maintained beachside caravan park is not in the race with a spotless park with friendly professional staff even if that park is a few kilometres from the beach.

The first requirement for caravanners is quiet.

This followed by pleasant surroundings. Usually lawns, gardens and trees.

The perfect caravan park should be easily accessed.

A beach, river of lake location is great.

Typical good clean facilities SA transit caravan park
Typical good clean facilities SA transit caravan park

The Bush, mountains and rural outlooks are good too.

The perfect park has pleasant scenery. Australian caravan parks have some outstanding locations and scenery. For example in WA, Shark Bay, Broome and Onslow. In SA Streaky Bay and Robe.

The main entrance should be easily found night or day with big signs pointing the way and there must be room to park the rig during check-in.

First impressions last and professionalism wins every time.

A staff member should take caravanners to their site and get them settled.

Drive-through sites make for happiness. The site should be big enough to leave the tow vehicle hitched up. Check, not all drive-through sites allow this.

The site must be grassed, level, well drained and allow perfect positioning of the caravan. In some areas climate prevents grass, but a clean dry surface, for example shell grit, will do the job. Mud is a no-no.

Lake Hume Tourist Park pool and water slide GoSeeAustralia pic.
Lake Hume Tourist Park pool and water slide GoSeeAustralia pic.

There should be shade, but no dangerous overhanging branches.

The powerhead must be close to the caravan. It must work, and have a safety switch. Double adapters should not be used.

There should be a wastewater drain in reach of the caravans drain hose. (Check the drain trap is lower than the level of the caravans floor).

There should be a tap, with potable water, within easy reach of a hose.

The perfect caravan park site will have plenty of room for an awning or annex as well as enough room to park a vehicle alongside parallel to the caravan.

In the perfect park there are plenty of modern rubbish bins which are emptied daily. There are no battered smelly tin relics with ill-fitting lids.

In the perfect park with fishing nearby, fish cleaning and clean up will be completely catered for. There will be access to a freezer.

Room for the Biguns Swan Hill Riverside Top Tourist Caravan Park
Room for the Biguns Swan Hill Riverside Top Tourist Caravan Park

The ablution block should not be built in the traditional prison style. Private en-suites for every site would be perfection, but the reality is that there is no reason why some of Australias worst caravan park ablution blocks could not meet a bulldozer, Ken and Maureen say.

One WA caravan park at Shark Bay has installed a transportable building which houses 10 spacious ensuites Each ensuite has an exhaust fan, toilet, enclosed shower and vanity, plenty of clothes hooks, a shelf over the wash basin.

In the perfect caravan park of the future each ensuite will have a washing machine and dryer. They will be coin operated for cost recovery.

There will be a sluice and hot water tap in the ensuite so that caravan toilet holding tanks can be emptied and cleaned in hygienic privacy.

In perfect parks which attract anglers there will be a compound in which boats and motors can be secured under lock and key.

The perfect park of the future will have phone, TV (in-house movies) and broadband cabling to sites with (charged) access to an Internet Service Provider.

Caravans could have the necessary connections built-in.

These additional services should be optional for the caravanner with caravan parks charging if the services are required.

Shade is everything in NT caravanning
Shade is everything in NT caravanning

There is no reason why Recreational Vehicles cant head North in the wet season and South in winter. They are comfortable in all weathers.

Modern caravans and motorhomes have air conditioning and heating. This means they are all-season. Park owners are challenged to market this and break the season attitude cycle. Extending links with local industry and attractions can provide interesting, attractive experiences regardless of the time of year.

The perfect park operator will be a skilled communicator expert on local tourism attractions giving guest knowledgeable advice. Operators/buses will pick up clients at the caravan park. Travellers interested in an exceptional experience will enjoy near perfect sites in an environment which is a value for dollar home away from home.

Handy barbecue with shade SA transit caravan park
Handy barbecue with shade SA transit caravan park
Clean efficient laundry Anglesea Beachside Family Caravan Park
Clean efficient laundry Anglesea Beachside Family Caravan Park
Flat sites for vans and tents too SA transit  caravan park
Flat sites for vans and tents too SA transit caravan park
Graham Wallace Garth Morrison Michele Mowat at unique Dural Village near Sydney check owner Stephen Smith applies elbow grease to bbq cleaning
Graham Wallace Garth Morrison Michele Mowat at unique Dural Village near Sydney check owner Stephen Smith applies elbow grease to bbq cleaning
Bottom line basics. One of the small Nullarbor overnight camping stops. Pay at the pub.
Bottom line basics.
One of the small Nullarbor overnight camping stops.
Pay at the pub.
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