As we progressed on our big trip last year we began to realise how poorly designed many caravan parks are. With the enormous increase in caravan travel in recent years we assumed that park owners would have tried to tap into what we thought would be a lucrative market by providing, at least, good basic services.

 The more we travelled the more I began to look for the things that we considered were musts for a good van site.

 My wife and I are retired in our sixties so our needs are simple and few. At the very least, we like a park to have:

1. Easy access to the park itself - easy entry with room to park while registering;
2. Easy access to sites - roads or reasonable width & sites that are easy to reverse into;
3. Services (power, water and sullage) to sites conveniently located;
4. Clean and well-designed amenities;
5. Friendly atmosphere.

We consider 1-4 to be the most important features for an enjoyable stay in a park where we plan to stay a while. Number 5 is really a bonus - if your immediate neighbours are friendly, it does not matter what the park staff are like. We have not struck many parks where the staff gets the thumbs down but you can live with that if everything else is OK.

Amazingly, given that caravanning is so big today, we found very few parks where we could give a high rating to every feature. Most parks fell down somewhere and the worst were those where accessing the site was made difficult by narrow roads, awkwardly angled sites, trees or posts badly positioned, high kerbing, or raised annex pads, to list a few. The worst offender in this feature we found was the Emerald Cabin and Caravan Village, the only one we came across that was supposedly drive through but where there were so many trees that you had to reverse out with only inches to spare on either side of the van. You could not drive out without taking a couple of trees with you and if you deviated slightly when reversing out - same problem.

There are endless examples of poor planning and development. One of the features that often bemused me was the poorly placed services to van sites and probably the worst example of this was Belair Gardens, Geraldton, where our power, water and sullage lines had to run under the van and across the annex pad. Every vanner is familiar with the shower cubicles with funny shower roses, insufficient clothes hooks or shelves, no protection from the shower for your gear and cubicles that allow your dropped soap to end up next door. On the other hand, the attention to cleanliness in most parks was excellent.

I have just realised that this probably sounds like a big whinge but the poor design evident in so many parks really surprised me. I must also add that the number of parks, in spite of their shortcomings, that we would mark never to return was very, very small and we have stayed in more than a hundred over the past four years. We also found that the friendliness of most vanners soon helped us disregard any park shortcomings. This camaraderie was particularly noticeable in the odd crookie that we encountered where you tend to develop a "friends sharing adversity" attitude.

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