This could be Australia’s best $25 stay
With all the luxury hotels and resorts in the world, you'd be forgiven for thinking you need to max out your credit card just to go on holidays. Thankfully, this simply isn't the case.
Caravan parks continue to provide some of Australia's most economical accommodation - and, in many cases, you don't even need a caravan or a tent. Most have on-site cabins or villas, often with an ensuite, and others offer a glamping experience via permanent safari tents. They usually include plenty of features to amuse kids, you can do your own cooking (thus saving $$ on dining out), and they can be wonderfully close to headlands, beaches, rivers, or lakes.
Here are five impressive Australian caravan parks to help inspire your next affordable getaway.
HOW'S THE SERENITY?
Tannum Sands, Qld
If you want to get a sense of caravan parks as they used to be, Discovery Parks - Tannum Sands might fit the bill.
A half-hour southeast of Gladstone, in a quiet bushland setting near Tannum Beach, this low-key park has all the important features - a laundry, camp kitchen, free BBQs - plus there's a kiosk, swimming pool, and tennis court.
First, settle into your accommodation - your choices include a deluxe two-bedroom cabin (from $169), self-contained standard studio unit (from $119), or budget ensuite cabin with kitchenette (from $99 - if you split that four ways that's only $25 per night. Not bad when you're only moments from the stunning Tannum Beach).
Then relax in whatever way you see fit. Take a dip in the ocean; walk into town; read a book; go fishing; walk across Wild Cattle Creek (at low tide) and visit Wild Cattle Island National Park, a habitat for nesting sea turtles and migratory birds; or set out on the Turtle Way, a 15km walking and biking track that winds beside the Boyne River and along the coastline. Or drive 20 minutes southwest to Lake Awoonga, where you can fish, swim, and hire kayaks or paddleboards.
Embrace the mighty Murray by heading three hours north of Melbourne to Discovery Parks - Maidens Inn Moama. On the NSW side of Echuca Moama and fronting the river, the park has a boat launching ramp and marina as well as waterfront cabins and waterview sites, which provide scenic bases for whiling away lazy afternoons.
To feel like proper river royalty, opt for a deluxe three-bedroom cabin (from $179 per night) and enjoy Murray views from your outdoor balcony. Or, if you have a caravan, motorhome, or tent, powered, dog-friendly waterview sites start at $45.
The park's swimming pool, playground, games room, waterpark, and bouncing pillow will keep kids busy; even if you're just travelling with adults, use the latter to embrace your inner Tigger. Then explore the Murray at dramatically different speeds by signing up for an onside waterskiing lesson and hiring a paddleboard.
Beyond the park, check out the Port of Echuca, which has the world's largest operating fleet of paddle steamers; join an eco river tour and travel through river red gum forest; or peruse vintage vehicles at the National Holden Motor Museum.
CHEAP DIGS IN A PRICEY SPOT
Byron Bay, NSW
With sublime beaches, renowned music festivals, scuba diving, kayaking, surfing, and spectacular winter whale watching from the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay is an understandably attractive holiday spot. However, one thing you won't find here is an abundance of inexpensive traditional accommodation - particularly if you're looking for something other than a hostel. Thankfully, caravan and holiday parks offer some (generally) cheaper options.
About 2km northwest of town, on the western side of Belongil Creek, Discovery Parks - Byron Bay has choices that include budget non-ensuite cabins (from $69 per night), a three-bedroom house (from $169), and new, deluxe two-bedroom cabins (from $201).
With all the typical Discovery Park features (a bouncing pillow, pool, etc.) plus free WI-FI, a waterpark, tennis court, and cafe, there's really only one drawback (or benefit, depending on your attitude towards exercise): the 1km amble to the closest beach, Belongil, or the 2km walk to Main Beach. Though you can always drive there.
WATER VIEWS IN THE KIMBERLEY
If you're up for an East Kimberley road trip, Discovery Parks - Lake Kununurra is picturesque base to include in your itinerary - and it's only 6km south of Kununurra ('big water'), the largest town north of Broome.
Set on 10 acres of bushland, on the Ord River (also known as Lake Kununurra) in Western Australia's remote East Kimberley, the park has a boat ramp, boat hire, and a swimming pool to help keep you cool. Here, the least expensive cabins - the standard one-bedroom - boast waterfront views and start at $115 per night.
The park is a long (827km) drive from Darwin; however, roads are sealed, so you won't need a 4WD to get here or visit most area attractions - for example, Lake Argyle, home to 30,000 freshwater crocodiles, and the Five Rivers lookout. And for those attractions that do require a 4WD (for example, the Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park, about 300km south), you can join a tour.
You can also fly to East Kimberley Regional Airport, just west of Kununurra.
Coffs Coast, NSW
Twenty minutes north of Coffs Harbour and a few steps from a popular surfing and swimming spot, award-winning Discovery Parks - Emerald Beach charms with its beachside location and accommodation choices.
At the top of the range are deluxe two-bedroom cabins (from $148 per night), with full kitchens, washer/dryer, television, and a king bed. Superior two-bedroom duplex cabins (from $138) are also popular, while standard Boronia cabins (from $105) are even easier on the bank account.
After a quick perusal of park facilities (a waterpark, heated pool, pedal kart hire, and more), grab a towel and immerse yourself in the waters off Emerald Beach. Then, amble a few paces south to Moonee Beach Nature Reserve and set out on the 1.6km Look at Me Now headland walk, and, later, explore its 3km one-way estuary canoe route.
All prices are per night, in low season. G'DAY Rewards members receive 10 per cent off all Discovery Parks' and Top Parks' site and cabin bookings up to $40.