Local Travel: How Has it Changed Our Favourite Spots?

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Western Australia is home to many stunning locations. Having grown up in Perth, I’ve spent a lot of my time enjoying the amazing camp sites, tearing up the 4WD tracks, and just enjoying local travel in general.

However, in the last couple of years, the approach to travelling locally has shifted more than I would have expected – and it’s affecting a lot of people. In this post, we look at what has changed across local travel, camping, and 4WDing – and how you can work around it.

Places Are Far Busier!

With the country beginning to open again, and so many Australians unable to travel overseas for their regular holidays, local travel has exploded like I’ve never seen before. Places that were “busy” are now completely insane in peak season – and you can expect locating a quiet camp site away from others to be far more difficult.

Two 4WDs each with a camper trailer are parked perpendicular to each other on the white sands of a northern Australian beach. The sky is a dusty pink topped with cool blue, reflected in the ocean. There are children small shapes suggestive of humans swimming in the water in the background. It seems to be either sunset or sunrise.

We headed up north when it was hot, and found there were far less people around.

This applies to attractions during the day, too. Almost everywhere you travel now is much like doing so during the school holidays. A busier location isn’t necessarily a terrible thing (as long as everyone does the right thing), but just be mentally prepared for more people! That said, doing so can put a lot of stress on those attempting to serve customers after their town has increased in population to five times its usual size – so be calm, kind, and flexible!

A birds-eye-view of Barn Hill Station shows rich, red land against vivid blue ocean, the white sand of the beach padded in between. On the land, there are three rows of cars, caravans, and camper trailer set-ups.

In peak season, Barn Hill Station was full by 2:00pm everyday.

Prices and Lead Times – For Everything!

With a higher interest in camping, caravanning, or RV-ing, the demand for accommodation on wheels has skyrocketed. This, in conjunction with significant shipping delays and a general surge in prices for virtually everything, has resulted in the price of caravans, camper trailers, and RVs rising rapidly – with lead times blowing out like you wouldn’t believe. A number of caravan manufacturers are quoting 18 – 24 months of lead time from the day you put in an order which, in this climate, is a long time.

This results in flow-on effects such as supply issues for parts to build vehicles, with similar wait-times for several new 4WDs (or a higher price for a second-hand unit). I’ve never seen 4WDs as expensive as what they are today, and it’s down to the demand sitting much higher than it used to.

What used to be a $20,000 4WD is now selling for between $30,000-$35,000, and even the vehicle’s market value by insurance companies has increased considerably. If you are thinking about selling, it’s a good time to do so – but your replacement will be significantly more expensive.

Book Further in Advance

We’ve been doing long weekend camping trips around Perth for longer than I can remember, and would normally manage to book a site about a month or two prior to our departure. These days though, if you haven’t booked a spot at least three or four months out, you’ll struggle to land one.

This can present a challenging situation, as a lot of sites don’t allow bookings. That means it’s often a race to beat the rest of Perth there, prior to the long weekend. Ensure you have a Plan B – because there’s nothing worse than driving a couple of hours to a camp site to find no room, and nowhere else to go.

A 4WD and camper trailer are set up alongside each other in a campsite. The sun is peaking through the trees, and the sky is a light, dusty blue. The ground is flat with fine white gravel, and the trees nearby are a vivid yellow-green.

Book in advance, and enjoy some amazing locations.

We spent several hours scouring the internet about a month before the last long weekend, and seriously struggled to find anywhere to book. Eventually, we found a lovely HipCamp – much further away from Perth than we wanted, but our only alternative. Gone are the days where you could book a weekend away in a National Park just a few weeks out – everywhere surrounding Perth is booked out now, for months on end!

A 4WD and camper trailer are set up alongside each other in the countryside. The sun is melting over the horizon and the sky is a light, dusty blue, padded with clouds and tinged with pink from the sunset/sunrise. The ground is flat and dusty with stubbly, dry grass.

Pemberton Hipcamp

The competition for booking camp sites has skyrocketed too, and this particularly relates to the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) sites. These sites become available 180 days prior to your arrival date, and open at one second past midnight each day. We’ve literally woken up at midnight to secure a spot multiple times over the last couple of years – and even then have missed out a number of times, with other family members or friends experiencing the same outcome.

A birds-eye-view of Exmouth DCBA campsite shows the grooves and gullies of the soft, pink sand and shorelines meeting the vivid blue water. It seems to be either sunset or sunrise, where warm light casts long shadows off the short shrubbery, and the patch of maintained vegetation behind the beach is peppered with vehicles and camper vans.

If you want to stay at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation, and Attractions (DBCA) site in Exmouth, be prepared to book at midnight!

Booking caravan parks in popular areas should realistically be done at least 8-12 months in advance. Any later, and you’ll miss that annual trip away.

A 4WD and camper trailer are set up alongside each other in a busy campsite, bordered by a dusty driveway. The sky is a vivid blue, suggestive of the mid-morning or mid-afternoon. The ground is flat with maintained, yellow-green lawn, and in the background are trees and shrubbery.

Booking into a caravan park is common to enable a sense of security.

Camps and Accommodation are More Expensive

Supply and Demand is a funny thing – and it can quickly spiral out of control. National Park sites are locked in, and some caravan parks have done the right thing – but I’ve seen a number of organisations considerably increase their prices because they know someone will pay it.  

It gets worse though – accommodation costs. We’d do a weekend away down south, once a year, and would usually find a place comfortable enough without it costing a fortune. Nowadays, not a lot down south is as cheap – prices have simply gone through the roof.

The pink-red plains of James Price Point is vivid against the cool indigo waters of the sea through a birds-eye-view lens. There are 4WDs peppered across the sand. It seems to be early morning, or late afternoon.

James Price Point is a free camp, always with lots of room.

So…How Has Local Travel Changed Our Favourite Spots?

For the most part – aside from everything camping-related getting much more of a workout – our favourite spots haven’t changed. Yes, they are busier – but we either accept it or find somewhere else that is further away, or more hidden.

Another option is to stay home and begin preparing for larger, longer trips…because sometimes, it’s just not worth the energy to find a campsite without a booking!

It saddens me to see more rubbish and damage done to places that were once quiet and well-looked after. Campers and visitors need to start taking greater care, or we’ll have a far greater problem in the future. Take your rubbish with you, leave an area pristine – and just do the right thing.

Dealing With the Changes

We can’t change what has happened – but we can learn to live with it and hope that things continue in the same trajectory, from overseas travel opening up to events and happenings returning to a previous normal.

That said, there are several things we can do to both enjoy the change and make it easier to embrace.

Consider the Fringe Seasons

Every location in Australia has its ‘peak’ season. Usually, it’s school holidays or when the weather is best. For example, Exmouth in Western Australia is hugely busy from June to September, as the weather is arguably more beautiful at this time than any other.

To avoid some of the crowds, consider travelling during a fringe season when it’s less popular. This may be more difficult if you have school-aged children, but it could even be wise to head in the opposite direction to others on weekends.

A overhead shot of Ballara Station shows rich, red land patched with various shades of green shrubbery. There are cars and camp vehicles peppered in the centre of the frame suggesting a busy campsite.

Places such as Bullara Station are often very busy.

We spent some of January around Horrocks and Kalbarri and, whilst we’d normally head south for the cooler weather, it was a better option to avoid some of the crowds.

A 4WD with a logo reading '4WDing Australia' is parked on the soft, white sands of a beach. The sky is a two-colour gradient of blue, reflected in the ocean. It appears to be the middle of the day.

On the main beach of Horrocks.

Be Prepared to Go More Remote

I like to think of this tip as an opportunity to find places that are both further away and more quiet. Instead of heading to locations that are hammered every year, try navigating further away to the smaller towns visited by less people.

We have a trip to the Pilbara coming up in a couple of weeks that we’ve not booked a single night for. This is because we know it will be quieter, and camping in the bush is far less competitive than amongst the caravan parks within bigger towns.

A birds-eye-view of Lake Preston Lime shows a dark, round, glistening lake in the middle of a dry patch of land, with white gravelled roads snaking their way around and numerous clusters of shrubbery. The warm sunlight dapples on the tree tops. There is a small white aeroplane parked to the right of the frame.

We love finding unique campsites, like Lake Preston Lime.

Appreciate the Amazing Places You Have

With all of this happening, and more and more people moving to local travel, camping, and 4WDing – it’s a good time to stand back and think about what we have access too. Appreciate it a little more!

We have some of the best camping opportunities in the world. The fact that we can jump in our car on a Friday afternoon and enjoy an incredible weekend away with friends and family, with such ease, is something we should all be very grateful for.

Appreciate the freedom we have. With everyone out and about, Australian businesses are also getting a good workout! We really do live in the lucky country – and it’s not until things change that we suddenly have a shift in perspective ourselves.

Be Flexible

Above all!

You will arrive at full car parks, miss out on amazing campsites after someone books half a second before you, and see more people out and about than ever before.

That aside – just go with the flow. We live in a huge country, home to plenty of places to explore. You may just need to venture off the beaten track a little…

A beachside carpark is packed with cars filling every space. The bitumen is dusted with white sand, the sky is a vivid blue, and green shrubbery is clustered amongst the sand.

Expect to see full carparks!

Two groups of 4WDs and camper vehicles are parked in a beach carpark, overlooking the shorelines. The sky is a dusty orange-pink topped with cool blue, reflected in the ocean. There are flat, sandy pathways snaking throughout, and patches of green shrubbery clustered off the tracks. It seems to be either sunset or sunrise.

It was amazing to camp at Coronation Beach!

How has local travel changed for you?

About the writer...

Joined back in July, 2016

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