On the road with the Grey Nomads
How do they do it? Travel Australia for months or years at a time, where do they go, what are their tips? We have the insight!
The online dictionary, Wiktionary defines a grey nomad as “a retired person who travels independently and for an extended period within their own country, particularly in a caravan or motor home”.
So how do they do it, these grey nomads? Some choose to do a big lap of the Australian continent taking 12 months or more, others head north to escape the southern winter each year and others set their own itineraries and travel for months or years on end. However they choose to do this, they are doing it in increasing droves, because in 2019 there were 60 million overnight caravan or camping stays across Australia and of that the 55-plus age group represented 26 million nights – or 43%.
What’s not to like? The sense of freedom, the minimal and simple lifestyle, going where ever you want? It can also be about living life to the fullest, seeing things in this amazing country that may not have been seen otherwise, making new and lasting friends, and reconnecting with your loved one.
With caravans and their high tech facilities nowadays, it makes it easy for the growing number of people to join the grey nomad adventurers. Considered by many to be lucky, grey nomads are usually of retirement age, often having sold up and chosen a life on the open road, although some still have a home base. Often downsizing their lives, they live simply, mobile and free after working hard to achieve this chosen lifestyle.
Caravan parks and camping grounds around Australia also now offer modern amenities, often set amongst stunning settings, making the whole experience easier and more pleasant. It is often in these places that they meet other travellers and pick up tips on where to go and how to get there and how to make the most of this lifestyle.
With no shortage of things to do and see, Australia boasts some of the most varied and spectacular scenery in the world. If you are looking for remote desserts, rainforests, coastal drives or modern cities, Australia has it all. Here are some popular destinations, noting that much of the joy is in the journey to get there:
DARWIN, NT with a glorious winter climate, laid back and casual lifestyle, and many tourist attractions. Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks are on Darwin’s doorstep and definitely worth the visit.
KIMBERLEY REGION, WA a remote region with two major tourist towns, Broome and Kununurra. Magnificent scenery, history and more. The Gibb River Road is a popular route with great walks, swimming holes and waterfalls.
RIVER RED GUM DRIVE, VIC a 354km route from Gunbower to Barmah National Parks, along the Murray River. With many campsites and welcoming small towns along the way.
FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND Cape York is a great adventure and popular destination for many. Make sure you enjoy the rest of Far North Queensland along with way, such as the Atherton Tablelands, Cairns, Port Douglas, the Daintree and Cooktown.
SIMPSON DESERT a popular route in central Australia for 4WD groups, going from west to east and ending up in Birdsville is a great route.
MID NORTH COAST, NSW popular for the many beachside camps in places like Crescent Head, Hat Head, South West Rocks, Yamba, Iluka and Brooms Head. All with stunning scenery and often great surf spots.
DARLING RIVER RUN, NSW from Bourke onto the tiny town of Louth with all its history, then further on to Tilpa. With lovely camping, cabins and farm-stays along the way.
FLINDERS RANGES, SA with breathtaking views, walking trails and great camping facilities. Then onto Maree and William Creek on the Oodnadatta Track and up the Birdsville Track to the famous Birdsville Pub.
ESPERANCE, WA with several impressive national parks in the area including Cape Le Grand, famous for its white sandy beaches, and Cape Arid, with a camping ground for those who want to escape the crowds.
KANGAROO ISLAND, SA a stunning destination, full of native animals and beautiful scenery and small town hospitality.
LAWN HILL NATIONAL PARK, QLD Adels Grove is an ideal base camp for a powered site, then on to Lawn Hill, via sections of rough road, but it’s worth it!
TASMANIA so much to see wherever you go in Tasmania, it’s worth the effort getting across Bass Straight.
THE MURRAY RIVER travel the length of the river in NSW, VIC and SA, with great towns on both sides of the river. The native animals and birdlife is fantastic along the way, as is the fishing.
Travelling tips from fellow grey nomads
- Its best to plan ahead. Popular destinations are usually full in busy seasons, so make sure you book to get your preferred accommodation. Also don’t just pass through the smaller towns in between the bigger destinations, support them so they continue to exist.
- Be considerate to others. Generators can be offensive to others, so always consult your neighbour before using them.
- Grey water (shower and sink waste) needs to be disposed of responsibly, never at a rest area or in water ways, preferably at dump points.
- Communication is important, especially in remote areas, make sure you have a UHF radio and reliable phone service provider. Some areas may need a satellite phone. GPS navigation is helpful as is a good map book.
- Join the Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia. You can make friends, get ideas and advice and help is never far away with the CMCA network.
- When travelling on roads with large transport and road trains, make contact with them via UHF radio (they are usually on channel 40), especially for overtaking and the like.
- When heading into remote areas, be aware of the limited facilities and the isolation. Have your vehicle thoroughly checked by a mechanic before heading off.
- Tyre pressure is important on rough roads, so take gauges and a small compressor.
- Do not overload your vehicle, pack light where you can.
- Plan ahead for travelling in remote areas. Make sure you have sufficient food, water and fuel, basic vehicle spares such as radiator hoses, fan belts and spare wheels, basic tools including a jack and wheel chocks; and of course medications and a first aid kit.
- Most important of all, don’t hurry. It’s a big country, take your time and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
Resources available for grey nomads
There are many resources available, including clubs, websites and books, with all sorts of information available, such as caravanning products, jobs, travel guides and so much more. Check these examples out:
Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia – cmca.net.au
The Grey Nomads Ultimate Guide to Australia by Rob Catania and Xavier Waterkeyn.
The Grey Nomads: Two lives, Eight Months, a thousand experiences by John A. Richardson.
The Grey Nomads Guidebook by Cindy Gough and Jeremy Gough.