There’s a reason why families and holiday-makers are flocking back to the good old caravanning vacations of yesteryear – and it’s not because the bigger, broader trips are no longer available. It’s because we are re-embracing all things slow and discovering the joy in simplicity again. Caravanning holidays are the ultimate way to stop, reconnect and breathe.

They used to be compulsory; the annual family holidays where days felt like weeks, mums laughed out loud all day and dads let all the rules be broken. Kids made new friends that became lifelong pen pals. Dogs ran freely on the beach and ice-creams dripped down your arms under the midday sun. Afternoons drifted by in a hammock in the shade and shoes were abandoned on day one, only to be worn if you ventured out to the local cinema for a treat.

But somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that this is the perfect holiday. We started to believe long-haul flights and flash hotels with endless buffets were the solutions to all our stress. And that a giant swimming pool and theme parks were what brought us back together as a family. Shopping trips for mum. Golf holidays for dad. Ski school for the kids. This is what everyone has been aspiring to.

For those of us who remember the beauty of a caravanning holiday, as well as those who are keen to try one out, then head north of Sydney’s hustle and bustle to the Central Coast. Here’s a rundown of the holiday parks where you can unhitch your caravan and enjoy all the region has to offer.

Where to stay

Budgewoi Holiday Park

There are a bunch of reasons why Budgewoi is a winner for a camping or caravanning holiday. And if you’ve never heard of the place, then that’s an even better indication that it’s still a hidden gem. The holiday park sits alongside a lovely big lake, which offers up dozens of activities and adventures for all family members.

Lake Munmorah is popular with fishing enthusiasts and the bright blue waters are perfect for a huge range of water sports. The giant grassy foreshore is also perfect for picnics and barbecues, and the fun playground equipment, including a jumping pillow, will keep the kids entertained for days.

Toowoon Bay Holiday Park

For something a little buzzier, Toowoon Bay is right near The Entrance’s smattering of cafes and restaurants, shops and a cinema. And then to escape, you have the luxury of a bunch of patrolled beaches at your doorstep.

Pets are welcome at the holiday park, and there are loads of grassy areas to explore on long walks. Head to the resort-style pool if you feel like a moment kicking back with a cool drink in the afternoon sun and dreaming of Palm Springs afternoons.

Norah Head Holiday Park

Norah Head is the quiet cousin of Toowoon Bay, lesser known but by no means less fabulous. Norah Head is king for watersport enthusiasts. Think stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing and wakeboarding. The two popular surf beaches, the Lakes and Soldiers Point, have regular surf breaks perfect for beginners or pros. For a romantic evening stroll, grab a picnic hamper and head down the beach to the Norah Head Lighthouse and catch the sunset.

Canton Beach Holiday Park

Canton Beach is a family-friendly favourite with a huge range of cabins, camping and caravan spots so even the extended rellies can join you and still have room to spread out and relax. It’s a great location for teaching the little ones a bit about bush flora and fauna since it is surrounded by the local national park. Long treks around Tuggerah Lake and along the beach foreshore are great for spotting native plants. The kids will also love keeping an eye out for wildlife and watching the humpback whale migrations that occur a few times a year.

Again, this holiday park is pet-friendly, and has a huge range of facilities that will make it hard for you to leave. The main streets of Toukley are just around the corner so you can also pick up any supplies you need, or even hire fishing gear and watersport equipment.

Things to do

Outside of the holiday parks and nearby beaches and lakes, the Central Coast is a stunning region for families seeking adventure or couples wanting some quality relax time. For a special treat, take the kids to the nearby Australian Reptile Park or the TreeTops Adventure Park. Or, hire some bikes and head out to feed the pelicans at The Entrance.

Couples can hire a double kayak with Ocean Planet Kayaking Tours and spend the day exploring the hidden beaches and lakes. And then finish the day in Gosford, with a stroll through the Edogawa Commemorative Garden, before catching a show at The Art House theatre in Wyong. 

Caravanning holidays don’t have to be rough and basic. Take the scenic route from Sydney, or make a say trip of it, and drop by luxury boutique hotel Bells at Killcare, less than 30 minutes’ drive south of Gosford. Stop for the afternoon and dine at the restaurant before treating yourself to a pamper session at the spa and then hit the road again.

Where to eat

The dining scene on the Central Coast is growing thanks to some talented chefs and local producers pushing fresh ingredients that exemplify “from farm to plate”. The kids will love Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf on The Boulevarde, where they can check out the fresh seafood of the region. Nearby Pinocchio’s in Gosford is also a hit for buzzy, casual dining.

Take me there

Stay: Central Coast Council runs holiday parks at Budgewoi, Canton Beach, Norah Head and Toowoon Bay. Rates vary between the parks but expect to pay about $45 per night on weekends and $39 per night on weekdays for a powered caravan site. Bookings are for a minimum of three days, or seven days during peak periods. Phone 1800 241 342.

Caravan hire: Prices average between $130 and $200 per night for a four-to-six berth luxury caravan. To book, enter your desired location, how many people and how many nights. Select the van you love and then collect it on your way. The caravans come with toilets and showers and are fully insured. Try camptoo.com.au, takeabreakcaravanhire.com.au or camplify.com.au.

Explore more: visitcentralcoast.com.au

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