Cara-vain? Kingscliff to get a make-over.
In this age of appearance and image editing, let’s not gloss over it.
Caravan parks with manicured, marked, often artificial lawns, box cabins, glamping structures on wooden platforms, non-communal bathrooms and tidy inner-park curbing are NOT caravan parks.
Upmarket holiday pens perhaps or vacation enclosures for the toffee-nose of trailer trash maybe, but NOT caravan parks.
Now branded as holiday parks or family vacation villages these filtered beachfront blocks have undergone an edit but are still trying to trade off the original image and reputation of the magical, care-free holiday that you can only have in a ‘real’ caravan park.
Where there are more tarps, canvas, ropes and pegs.
Where you meet new people in a line-up for a shower, dressed in your daggy pjs.
Where roads are ruled by gangs of pre-schoolers on three-wheelers and there are no neat edges to run into and the grass is a mish-mash of turf, weed and sand.
Where kids experience the only sort of freedom they will ever have in youth, roaming the streets within the park on scooters and skateboards and bikes and barefoot, playing cricket with a kid they met in the next row, climbing a pandanus tree, making friends and feeling empowered because they’ve left their parents line of sight for a bit.
Where teenagers can meet at the BBQ complex and hang, listen to music, attempt a stolen kiss, perhaps a holiday romance but still are part of a family break.
Where adults can sit outside their annexe and have a drink, chat to their neighbours who often end up year-on-year holiday friends, host a street BBQ and are greeted cheerfully when they walk under the ropes and tarps of another’s home.
Okay so clearly I like the un-airbrushed form of caravan park.
I have been going on caravan holidays since I was born, back when there was no powered sites and we played cards by kerosene lamp light and dug trenches for rain run-off. I met one of my best friends at Fingal Heads Caravan Park when I was 11. She was impressed with my surf-board carrying skills. We decorated a van with toilet paper for New Year’s Eve. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding.
My parents have been on a site there for over 30 years and the friends they meet up with every year is the reason they keep returning. That and the fact my father has the job as the xmas sausage sizzler.
I have squashed my family of seven into a small caravan for Christmas holidays for years and if you ask them for a stand-out childhood memory it is without fail a concert they gave at the caravan park, or an easter egg hunt between vans, or going to the showers and singing with their four sisters, or playing 500, or crab hunting on the beach at night or sneaking out of the van to meet a boy or the hot chip sandwiches I fed them way too much of.
And I get economics and progression (I did after all have no problem when power was available to plug into), so I was sad, but accepted the loss of our permanent caravan site at Kingscliff four years ago to make way for the drive-in holiday vans paying more for the coveted beachside position.
Since relinquishing our spot, we don’t camp there anymore but bought a beach shack up the road and in honour of our revered holidays named it, “The Karavan” but still spent much of our time in the park with friends. We could still walk around and know families and people that we have seen every year for a decade, including the boys, who were once the objects of teenage attention and the kids who were once annoying on the three wheelers, but are now hanging at the BBQ area.
However this summer has come the horrible news it is set to be demolished and redeveloped to the modern-age mode of holiday parks.
It actually hurts to know that my girls’ kids (eek-my grandchildren) and indeed future generations will never experience pretty much the only bastion of unfettered freedom that kids can experience in this era of heightened safety and hovering parenting.
There will be the argument you can still do all of this when they are holiday parks. I don’t think so.
Just up the road the Kingscliff North Park has already been revamped to a new-look holiday enclosure. Pristine, neat, uncluttered sure but sterile, unfriendly and uninviting. There’s no charm, no vibe, no sense of community. The cabins don’t inspire neighbourhood banter, rather a stick-to-ourselves summer shelter.
I’m sure there are people who have never been camping or caravanning that think they are fantastic, right on the beach, with in-cabin toilets and showers and still relatively affordable.
But for those who have been lucky enough to experience the ‘real’ caravan park holiday, they are just a selfie version with no soul.
With Kingscliff mooted to be reduced to 1/4 of its current size for tow-in vans, approximately 200 families will be forced out of this style of holiday or will have to find somewhere else and in turn misplace others, who are also trying to secure a spot in a shrinking pool of parks.
I know Fingal, where my parents camp, has been flooded with enquiries and some of their friends have lost the spots they have been setting up on for decades.
The Kingy van squeeze will no doubt affect the local economy, according to change.org $5000 per fortnight per family, (although I think that may be a bit over-estimated) but to me the true currency being king hit is the one true version of an Aussie holiday. It’s headed for extinction.
A petition has been started to save Kingscliff, and while people power can do wonders, I am not hopeful the tide can be turned.
I am just grateful I was raised on holidays in a caravan and my kids experienced an in-common, free-spirited, un-touched up childhood they can look back on #nofilter.