Susanne Stjepanovic and her husband Michael’s first caravan was a 16 foot Millard bought about 30 years ago. They recall it looking far different to the glam vehicles of today.
The NSW couple were helping their daughter search for the perfect family abode at the Illawarra Caravan Camping 4WD and Fish Show at Kembla Grange, and admiring all the bells and whistles of the dozens of new models lined up.
“I didn’t have hot water in my first caravan, we didn’t have solar panels, we didn't have the battery packs it was very, very basic,” Mrs Stjepanovic, from Dapto, said.
“Right now it’s all your beautiful lights and even the comfort in the beds, like the mattress now, whereas before it was like a really hard rock to sleep on.”
The Illawarra Turf Club resembled a dream world for outdoor enthusiasts from top of the range campervans going for $140,000 with multiple televisions and a full en suite, to award-winning camper trailers with 15 storage compartments, mini-dog tents, catamarans, bull bars to anti-breakage egg holders for the kitchen.
“If you want to tour and see Australia [you need] all the off road facilities so you can keep the costs to a minimum, so you can pull up an be independent,” Mrs Stjepanovic said.
“As long as you’ve got water you can go anywhere and stay as long as you like.”
Robert Greenhill from Universal Caravans said there was a big demand for sustainability and off-road capabilities for vans while his buyers weren’t just grey nomads but people of all ages.
“Definitely people are free camping more, they’re not just going to caravan parks,” Mr Greenhill said.
The homegrown caravanning industry is on a roll, with more than 139,217 recreational vehicles registered in NSW, according to the Caravan and Camping State of the Industry report for 2017.
The report also found caravan and campers generated an estimated $1.8 billion of revenue for Australia from visits to parks with cabins, powered sites and unpowered sites. While people aged 30 to 54 made up for 47 per cent of the domestic caravan and camping economy.