If you’ve been a fan of caravanning for a long time like me you’ve probably had the odd upgrade of vans or definitely have things on the wish list of what “the next van will have…” In the early days it was tenting which was fantastic for spontaneous weekends away, throw a bit of camping gear in the car and a tent and off you go. In 2003 we progressed to a camper trailer, ahh that’s better, a proper mattress up off the floor and a more permanent way to store camping equipment underneath the camper. This was a brilliant set up with 2 small kids, still very easy to take wherever we wanted to go, on and off road, and easy to make camp. It was exactly what we needed for a 6 week holiday through the centre of Australia from top to bottom. Helping hands would pitch in to set up what they were capable of and we all had a big, dry and relatively comfy setup. The camper trailer did many more off road holidays including some memorable fishing trips to the Coorong in South Australia.
As kids got bigger and more ‘stuff’ came with us the idea of a small caravan seemed like a good idea. It also meant that whatever the weather was doing we could still get away and not have to worry about packing up wet canvas. So in 2006 along came our first caravan, an 18 foot 1973 vintage Franklin. It had single beds at the rear and a drop down table at the front which made a double bed. Wow we didn’t know ourselves! A kitchen and cupboards for food, clothes, games etc….and luxury of all luxuries, an airconditioner.
That van went very well but eventually the children grew and frankly we got sick of putting the table up and down every evening. So on to the next van which was a 1975 Avondale bought around 2008. At least we were coming forward in time and this van had the bonus of a huge annexe where kids could sleep on fold out beds and we would have a dedicated bed and separate eating/lounge area and a front kitchen. The layout we loved and the annexe was huge enough to store even more gear, (body boards, snorkeling equipment, fishing rods etc…) This van still had the drawback of an east/west bed though which everyone knows is great unless you’re the one cramped up against a cold caravan wall. Still it had many plusses including a huge lounge/dining space which we became accustomed to. It was however, a bright orange patterned material number which we decided to go with and ended up buying accessories to match our gaudy retro van. And believe me there is still plenty around in second hand shops to outfit an old van!
Yet another van came to our attention around 2013 when browsing second hand ads and it was to be our next purchase, a 1976 Franklin Arrow. A little more tasteful in décor but the bonus in this one was the North/South bed at the rear of the van, while still having the centre lounge/dining area and front kitchen. Yes, perfection for us at the right price. We did love our retro vans.
This van had everything going for it and we were happy……….until a friend planted the seed of going on a long touring holiday around Australia. Great idea! It did make us wonder then how the old chassis, frame etc…would take to thousands of kilometres of travel, admittedly mostly on good roads but that thought combined with the idea of free camping in future led us to once again keep our eyes on the market again.
Success! We made a huge leap forward and now own a 2007 Jayco Sterling complete with shower and toilet, island bed, side kitchen with full size fridge and large front table and sitting area. And a much easier annexe setup, roll out, Velcro on the walls and bobs your uncle!
So there we have it, the procession of caravans has been a great learning experience and all the past vans have served their purpose well. Each one of them we look back on fondly for the adventures we had in them and the family holidays we took at the different stages of our kids’ lives. So as much as I miss the old vans for their nostalgia and character I do love the luxury and convenience of the new vans. If only someone could build them with a bit more personality, warmth and character!