Move over grey nomads, young people have discovered caravanning – and they’re putting a uniquely hipster twist on it.
When persuaded to spend a weekend camping in Seal Rocks, I pictured collapsing tents, dwindling camp fires and clusters of mozzies attacking my arms and legs.
Instead, I was welcomed to the campsite by the proud owners of a stunning 1965 renovated Sunliner caravan.
New to the Airbnb scene, Adrienne and Walter were overwhelmed with excitement to show off their freshly yellow coated “Pearl” plonked no further than a brief stroll from Treachery Beach.
Along with its well-equipped kitchen housing a fridge, oven and a kettle hugged by a colourfully knitted sweater, Pearl’s interior was lined with laminate benches and curtain-tied windows.
Each corner pocketed secret compartments that hid away board game treasures, flannelette blankets and everything essential for a picnic.
Adrienne’s passion for restoring vintage caravans was inevitable having grown up surrounded by vans and caravans her entire life.
“Walter and I restored a viscount 30 years ago and travelled around Australia with our daughter when she was a baby,” Adrienne told AAP.
“So when Walter spotted a round baked bean sitting forlornly in a cattle yard, the seed was sown.”
It was from here the couple’s daughter suggested to rent Pearl out on Airbnb to pay for the restoration.
“All our friends were letting their houses out for holiday rental, so why not a caravan?
“It’s a smaller investment and way cooler.”
Caravan Industry Association CEO Stuart Lamont says the industry has been steadily climbing since the 1990s with 85 per cent of Australians having gone camping or caravanning at least once.
“Australians are known for the principle of mateship and a laid-back attitude,” Mr Lamont told AAP.
“Caravanning and camping provide campers with a deep connection to the land and to each other … you will always make new friends and a caravan park is like an in-built activities centre.”
He added that over the past six years caravans and campervans had been the fastest-growing vehicle registration in the country.
“We love to see Australians getting into the camping and caravanning spirit and research shows it’s one of the most valuable holidays on the market.
“Camping and caravanning promotes family cohesion, satisfaction, togetherness and fulfilment, creating memories.
“Over the past decade we have seen the industry diversify to offer something for everyone, whether that be five-star resort facilities in a relaxed and open environment, a motorhome that sleeps six and has all the home comforts, or a track trailer that can handle heavy-duty off-road holidays and exploring.”
Adrienne agrees – but she adds that today’s caravan enthusiast is after something a bit different.
“People want something a little different like playing cubby house, getting back to simpler times like our grandparents used to – they didn’t need iPods or TV, they went fishing and played games and had singalongs.
“We think that Pearl has a special feel about her. Something that you can’t get from a modern van with all its satellite dish wham bam technology and $50k plus price tag.
“We have the cheapest van on the lot but everyone has a comment or wants to have a look at a vintage van.”
Pixie Shmigel, who also stayed in Pearl, said she couldn’t resist the appeal of popping the kettle on, sipping on a fresh brew and catching up with her best friend.
“The idea of staying in a caravan stirred images of nostalgia,” Pixie said.
“Long hot days and starry nights, curling my bare feet around a crochet blanket to keep them warm, all the classic Australian dreams of camping minus the hassle.”
Having fond family camping memories, Pixie said she was always torn between time outdoors and her desire for a good night’s sleep.
“The appeal of faded yellow and blue interiors made my heart awaken, something typically a tent and its mildew smell does not achieve.”
“A restored caravan seemed the perfect in-between to fulfil my outdoorsy desires whilst sleeping in 60s style.”