If you’re a veteran camper you’ll recognise these six campsites from every family-friendly camping ground in Australia. You might even recognise yourself. If not, you’ll at least know what to expect from your neighbours if you ever try holidaying a little closer to nature in the future.
They may appear by themselves, but this species is most comfortable travelling in packs. Probably for the best, as they seem blissfully unaware of their cars’ inability to handle the soft sand above the high water mark. They rarely have an accompanying pet, as the throng of children milling through their campsite wouldn’t leave any respite for a furry friend. Their days are filled with sunbaking, body boarding, begging for a post-lunch ice cream, and playing on their iAccessories which they charge during their regular trips up the beach to visit the flushing toilets.
The herd will largely have their pack-up routine oiled like a reliable machine, but there are frequently new additions to the team who will need instructions shouted across the campsite, and whose attempts at tent folding may need to be corrected. Perhaps the key to their success is the complete exclusion of the kids from the majority of the packing, preferring to have them concentrated in the central eating area, demolishing any food that may have made it through until this point. Despite their seeming efficiency, there will always be a variety of bits and pieces lying around after they leave, like a lone thong hanging from a tree or a clothesline someone forgot to bring in.
This is a loyal herd, and they will stay together when one family has lost their key, the tide inching inexorably close to the point that they won’t be able to make it through before it cuts them off from the ferry. But once the kids have been interrogated, and the tent unpacked and searched, the porta-cot will be pounced on, unpacked, and rummaged through, and relief is palpable. They’ll finally be ready to go, hours after having commenced packing, and minutes before the tide would stop them.
The Nature Lovers
This is the lone wolf or couple who distain the more advanced conveniences of shelter available to modern campers. Having set up halfway into the bushland bordering the campground to ensure a shady spot, they’ll opt for nothing more than a simple tent, and sometimes as little as a swag. A tree-friendly hammock will by hanging nearby for day-time lounging, but they will frequently leave for day trips to hike or swim their way around the local area. They don’t believe in technology, and rise and sleep with the sun, so you’ll see little and hear even less from these neighbors.
These guys have probably been taking their kids camping for the past twenty-five years, and the fact that the children are no longer children, and don’t have school holidays, is not going to stop them from taking the time to sit at the beach. They’ll dull the roar of their generator with hits from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and maybe even the ‘90s if you’re really lucky. They’ll have a dog that looks disturbingly similar to them, most likely an old Labrador or Spaniel that’s graying around the snout and struggles just as much as they do walking across the sand, while they collectively bemoan the insistent onset of osteoarthritis.
Having passed the days of rejecting the comforts of a home with electricity, this couple will have chosen one of two options: a campavan or a generator. Or both. The bed is raised because it’s no easy feat getting up and down from the ground, and they have discovered all kinds of gadets at Aldi and Bunnings to make sure that camping is exactly like being at home, except 20m from the ocean. They have frothers for coffee, fridges with freezer compartments for their Connoisseur ice cream, and brand new portable speakers to blast their music.
By this stage of their camping lives their first 4WD has well and truly died, so they’ve probably replaced it with the latest model, carefully balancing the importance of fuel efficiency for the few years it will spend on day-to-day city commutes before their impending retirement, against the importance of high clearance so they can make daring runs across the beach without worrying about the boggings of their youth.
They pack up almost without a sound. They’ve done it so many times before that there is no need for instructions, or questions about what goes where. One minute they’re packing up their breakfast, and the next they’re in the car driving away.
Similar to the nature lovers, this lot will be up at dawn to catch their breakfast, in at midday for a quick nap, and then back out in the afternoon to catch dinner, this time with the assistance of a nice cool stubbie in hand. Where their wives fish with them they’ll probably have some kind of small working dog like a Cattledog who knows far better than to try and eat the fish while they’re in the bucket. If not, there will inevitably be a tiny terrier or fluffy lap dog yapping back at the campsite while the wife sits with a book.
This is the pop-up caravan that arrives quietly but from that moment on, while the owners are home, consistently blasts obscure music across the campground. Frequently accompanied by a Chihuahua or one of its ilk, the campground will collectively distain the Random’s site, enjoying neither the music nor the yapping, and the owners will sit, enjoying their inability to hear the ocean, with their alcohol of choice in hand. Even their raging fire won’t provoke envy, because the only thing making it burn that high is the fresh piece of pine thrown on every five minutes which, of course, the Nature Lovers hate.
Whether it’s just the nuclear family with their setup down to an art, or a group of family friends who ring their tents and cars around like the circling of the wagons to make a private fence, they have everything they could possibly need. They know that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and so it is with their campsite. There are more huge water bottles and crates of food than it seems possible to go through, and yet they will. Largely because there are always people in the kitchen, and there is always something being eaten.
Within easy view of the kitchen is the totem tennis pole where some evil miniature campers take delight in trying to get their younger siblings heads to intercept the ball, but most just struggle hilariously with coordination. There’s probably a hammock hanging on the other side of the ring, also within site of the kitchen that will double as a wresting place in the warm shade of the afternoon sun, and a swing set operated by incredibly patient parents and older siblings.
There will be a few fishing rods, surfboards, bodyboards and kites scattered around the site, and somehow the kids seem to be able to expend enough energy running around the sand and through the surf that they don’t have energy to squabblewhich is whose. The only squabble seems to be between older siblings telling the younger ones that it’s time to get out of the sun, but that is quickly ended by parents telling them all to pull their heads in and come grab lunch. A lunch that usually ends with one of the kids sitting next to the family dog, the pair looking equally guilty, having been caught feeding treats from the table.
Despite their differences, and their slight distrust of each other, these campers communicate with a widely accepted system as they give (and take) right of way. No words are necessary, just one of three hand gestures. Two fingers in a small salute from the steering wheel will do for everything from smiling between gritted teeth to the most enthusiastic of drivers. The full hand wave is for those who are either eager to make friends, or know that they’ve been saved from a tight spot on the beach by the other car giving way. And then there’s the one finger wave, for the slightly less happy campers.