Grey nomads share secrets to staying comfortable on the road

Home Travel Grey nomads share secrets to staying comfortable on the road
Grey nomads share secrets to staying comfortable on the road

Retirees are tackling some of Australia’s greatest road trips, but how do they travel in the middle of nowhere for months at a time? 

Retirees are tackling some of Australia’s greatest road trips, but how do they travel in the middle of nowhere for months at a time?

Experience nature made comfy with Discovery Parks.

John Deckert and his wife Bev have driven all over Australia. Their motorhome, a trusty 22-year-old Mercedes Sprinter, has actually just ticked over 500,000km – which is no mean feat for any vehicle.

The couple just completed a trip around South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula and are looking forward to their next, which will take them up the east coast, across to Tennant Creek, up to Darwin, and back to Victoria.

“Australia is a wonderful place,” Mr Deckert, a retired farmer and business owner, tells “It’s this huge country and you can go just about anywhere. There’s always more you can see and do.”

According to NRMA, the term “grey nomad” is used to describe people over the age of 55 who travel for extended periods of time in motorhomes, caravans, and campervans. Tourism Research Australia estimates as many as 30,000-40,000 grey nomads travel domestically every three months, opting to spend their retirements exploring our sunburnt continent on four wheels. It’s a genuine phenomenon.

This demographic is ticking off many of Australia’s most famous routes – laps of Tasmania, the Great Ocean Road, the South West Edge, and the Savannah Way, just to name a few. It’s dusty, it’s dirty, and it’s an undeniably wonderful way to travel. But how do they actually pull it off from a logistical perspective? 

The key is to think about what kind of traveller you are. For example, some prioritise comfort; others prefer flexibility. Some people love visiting tourist areas; others enjoy camping remotely. What’s important to you?

“We always have a mixture of both,” Mr Deckert says. “We camp where we can and then every four or five days, we call into a caravan park and stay for a night or two. We do all the washing, that’s the first thing, and stock up with supplies before we hit the road again – the amenities are important if you’re away a while.”

Cindy Gough and her husband are avid travellers based on the Gold Coast and the writers behind travel website The Grey Nomads. She says there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to planning a trip as a grey nomad, because there are so many different people on the road with so many different approaches. 

Ms Gough recommends prioritising slow travel, so you’re never trying to knock over too many kilometres at once. Being flexible is important, but she recommends having at least some idea of where you’re going

 “If you’re the sort of traveller who likes to stay on the bitumen and say in caravan parks, or you’re the sort of traveller who likes to go bush for a week and then go into a caravan park for a few days, you should at least loosely plan your trip,” she suggests. “During peak seasons, especially up north, things get really crowded. COVID has exploded the popularity of caravanning, so it’s not just grey nomads anymore, but people who are working as digital nomads and families who have bought caravans and started driving.”

Broome, where Margaret Hay runs the local Discovery Park with her partner, is a perfect example. It’s a bucket list destination for many travellers – especially for those knocking off dust from the Gibb River Road.

“When people turn up here, they’re just overwhelmed by the colour of the water on the beaches,” she says. “It’s just breathtaking, it’s beautiful. There’s the Staircase to the Moon, the Horizontal Falls, Cable Beach – the water is perfect. There are also the pearls, a lot of people come for their pearl anniversary, their 30th.”

The amenities are a big drawcard: the ability to have a decent shower, catch up on your laundry, and not have to empty your wastewater containers for a few days. However, those aren’t the only perks.

“It’s also about the social side of things,” says Ms Hay. “A lot of the grey nomads enjoy catching up with others, talking about their journeys, telling stories, and passing on their tips for the road ahead.”

Ms Hay has personally travelled all around Australia – well, everywhere except Tasmania, she clarifies. Her first solo trip was to Broome, travelling from Adelaide all the way up to Katherine, then across to the coast on the bitumen, exploring places as far and wide as Tom Price and Kalgoorlie. She loved every minute.

“In terms of advice, I would say that you need to be prepared,” she says. “Last season was crazy, so I would say you need to think well ahead when it comes to booking accommodation. It’s also worth considering the shoulder seasons, so that’s April/May and September/October, especially if you want to book for longer periods of time – like seven days – and save some money, because you’re not tied in with peak periods.”

The rain has stopped up north and the stream of caravans and motorhomes is starting to flow as people from southern states chase the sun for another season. If you’re planning to hit the road this year for a few weeks or a few months, the consensus is simple: enjoy the road, plan ahead, and travel slowly. 

After all, the people you meet along the way are often just as memorable as the sights you see.

Say g’day to the great Australian holiday and discover more things that’ll make you a happy camper with Discovery Parks. Learn more.

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