Campervan boom for Douglas region

Story by Newsport

by Roy Weavers

The past 12 months has seen a massive growth in the budget Combi Van travellers visiting Port Douglas and the far north.  

This has been driven by the consolidation of budget van rental organisations like Wicked vans, where modern day backpackers can afford to rent from fleets of refurbished secondhand vans that include catering and sleeping quarters.  

Back in the dim and distant past, many international travellers used to hire old Combi vans, take their chances travelling around the country for their year long adventure and then get back to civilisation and sell on the van to the next generation before flying home with a bag full of life changing experiences.

Wicked vans and other van rental organisations recognised the opportunity to turn this practice into a more sophisticated youth market, a trans-Australian business.  With contact offices all over Australia the travellers have a higher level of security should they experience personal problems or mechanical difficulties.

This form of more organised transport has been heavily marketed to the youth market with the vans being adorned by "barrier pushing" slogans to let anyone who cared to notice that safer vans have not altered the revolutionary and anti establishment attitudes of youth.

Whilst this 'in your face' attitude antagonised many of the older generation, this massive growth in youth tourist traffic is overlooked at our peril. The current attitude from the establishment is forcing these budget travellers to find illegal overnight accommodation whenever and wherever they can.  

This has resulted in local problems here in Port Douglas along the beach esplanade, in most of the car parks along Four Mile Beach and a considerable increase in residential roadside parking.  


"I understand the public frustration," Officer in Charge of Port Douglas Police, Damian Meadows said. " People who are paying $300 or $400 a night (for accommodation) are looking out over these vans parked all along the street and with their dirty washing hung out."


"The complaints from the public are mainly related to noise and alcohol, and people lighting fires on the beach.


"It's a Council issue. We (the police) have no legislative powers over illegal camping, but the Council have no funding to be able to work after hours when the problem arises." he said.


In these days of modern technology it must be understood that if these travellers have success in parking illegally they will pass that information on to whoever wants to hear it via twitter, facebook, text messaging and email.

So there is no point in the establishment continuing to ignore this growing issue.  Why don't we stop thinking of it as a problem and start thinking of it as an opportunity? 


The travellers that have brought this situation to our notice here at Newsport Daily have come from every continent and every country.  The police just recently had several run-ins with a group of French travellers who found Four Mile Beach quite irresistible and who can blame them?

There is very limited budget parking for holidaymakers and travellers in Port Douglas and surrounding districts because many of these self sufficient and self contained travellers don't value overnight power or hygiene services.  So the higher overnight fees being charged don't attract them.

It is very easy to take the view that these travellers are an unwelcome nuisance but shouldn't we as a tourist destination be embracing this as a new opportunity to expand our facilities and offer this end of the market a comfortable welcoming experience.  

Naturally this will need council, police and community assistance.  but don't we risk sending out the wrong messages to potential travellers if we don't take advantage of this trend.  After all this trend would appear to be one that will stay around for the forseable future.