Oz by Caravan -- without a hitch

Vacation

1741 words

Title: Oz by Caravan -- without a hitch

by Paul and Lorie Bennett

For those who want to take it easy while exploring the Sunburned Country,
we suggest "Oz by Caravan -- without a hitch!"

It's the ideal way to travel independently, hassle-free and in comfort. And
you'll save a lot of money to boot.

As seasoned travellers in Australia, we offer this tip: Rent a mid-size car
at the airport, pack some food staples in the trunk and connect with one of
Australia's chains of tourist parks.

You'll save hundreds of dollars compared to renting a campervan or staying
in motels/hotels, and be independent. And with the Australian dollar
trading at a 30 per cent discount on Canada's loonie, your money will go
even farther.

Three caravan park chains - Top Tourist Parks, the slightly more expensive
Big 4 Holiday Park chain and the budget Family Parks of Australia - offer a
range of cabins, from budget to super deluxe.

The best deal is the medium-priced ensuite cabin. Top Tourist parks
operators charge around $49 a night in the off season and $69 in peak
season for this type of accommodation, if you bring your own sheets and
towels. (Doing this will save you about $20 a night).

A fully-equipped super deluxe spa unit might cost around $100 AUD, with
linen provided.

The cabins, modern mobile homes or purpose-built mini-villas, are
permanently sited in the parks away from tents, vans and trailers. They
give the traveller the informality of camping without the need to wrestle
trailer hitches or tent flaps. In short, you travel "without a hitch."

With free book-ahead service to the next park, you can enjoy a carefree
day, check in and pull up to your cabin, unload groceries and head for the
beach or the pool while your drinks chill in the fridge.

You can cook and eat in the privacy of your villa or perhaps you'll be
invited to join other tourist park folks around a communal "barbie." Relax
on your porch and chat with fellow travellers from all parts of Australia
and the world.  And while doing this, those dirty clothes are getting clean
at at the on-site laundry.

The parks are in excellent locations, convenient to major cities or popular
tourist destinations such as Queensland's Gold and Sunshine Coasts, the
picturesque coastline of New South Wales, the capital, Canberra, and even
such desert resorts as Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. Coastal parks usually
have access to magnificent beaches.

Cabins are fully equipped - even luxurious - with regular and microwave
ovens, TV, and ensuite bathrooms. Sometimes they boast spa tubs.  There is
usually one double or queen-size bed and accommodation to sleep up to eight
children and/or grandchildren.

Evocative of the unique environment and laid-back culture for which Oz is
famous, the park names - Boomerang Way Tourist Park, Heavitree Gap Outback
Resort, Opal Inn Caravan Park, Matilda Country Caravan Park, or Flame Tree
Tourist Village - hint at adventure.

Our favourite spots were Ballina Headlands Leisure Park, a short scenic
drive from upscale Byron Bay on the easternmost point of Australia, and
Lorikeet Tourist Park, 33 kilometres north of Coff's Harbour.  There we
walked the broad, sandy beach, relaxed in the heated spa pool and enjoyed
the chatter of brightly-plumed lorikeets. Cabins in both four-star
locations were luxurious, yet in the $50 range (off-peak) - an absolute
bargain.

A leisurely day's drive north of Brisbane, either through the canefields or
along the scenic Hinterland-Ranges route, is the peaceful Bougainvilla
Caravan Park.  Just 10 minutes from the tourist hustle of Noosa, our
ensuite cabin cost $50 a night.

We made forays to the colourful sands of nearby Rainbow Beach, to World
Heritage Fraser Island, and into nearby bush parks, but it was always a
delight to return to the beautiful swimming pool and barbeque area.  One
resident had abandoned Vancouver for a permanent caravan in this park.

Member parks are ranked, with five stars being tops. Owner-operators are
required to meet high standards for their facilities and service to
travellers.  Friendly and helpful staff provide information about local
attractions and will advise you on your next stop, then book it at no
charge.

A $20 membership in the Top Tourist Club, which can be purchased at the
first stopover, entitles one to a 10 per cent discount up to $20 per stay
off future bookings for two years. A similar deal is offered by Big 4,
which is linked with KOA in North America.

Travelling in Australia over the years, sleep has come to us in a swag
under the Southern Cross, in tents, in the back of a converted 1965 Valiant
ambulance, in a rented camper van, on various couches, and in modern motels
or grungy outback pubs.

Now we've discovered the magic combination of informality and deluxe
accommodation at an affordable price, we'll look for Top Tourist caravan
parks every time. We've recommended the system to Canadian friends visiting
Australia and they've all come back "happy campers!"

All prices quoted are in Australian Dollars.

Although Paul and Lorie Bennett venture to many corners of the world
from their home in Victoria, B.C., they return regularly to Paul's native
Australia and look forward to spending retirement time there during
Canada's winters.



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