CAMPING OUT IS IN

There's a resurgence of the great Australian road trip, but it's a new generation of happy campers who are hitting the highway. Contact speaks to the UQ experts about the latest off-track travel trend.


If you’re craving an escape to the country, you’re not alone. One in three Australians took a camping or caravan holiday between January and March this year, according to the Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s 2021 State of the Industry report. 

An astonishing 4.1 million caravan and camping trips were taken in this same timeframe, equalling a total of 16.3 million nights away – that’s a lot of roasted marshmallows and billy tea!

Why are Aussies so keen to set up camp? According to Associate Professor Gabby Walters from UQ's School of Business, in the time of coronavirus, the great outdoors have never looked greater. 

"Since COVID-19, people have a newfound appreciation for the outdoors and, in particular, regional tourism destinations that they are able to drive to instead of flying,” Dr Walters said 

"This is primarily due to the large open spaces and fresh air, as opposed to urban and hotel experiences."

Despite international borders opening, new research by Dr Walters suggests the regional travel trend is here to stay.

Just 51 per cent of Australians plan to travel overseas now that international borders are open, according to Dr Walters’ latest online survey of 560 Australians. Up to 33 per cent of Australians would prefer to travel domestically, while 16 per cent said they would not travel at all. 

"My COVID-19 and travel studies in both 2020 and 2021 revealed that regional and coastal destinations are preferred over cities, and this is where the majority of camping spots are."

There's a resurgence of the great Australian road trip, but it's a new generation of happy campers who are hitting the highway. Contact speaks to the UQ experts about the latest off-track travel trend.


If you’re craving an escape to the country, you’re not alone. One in three Australians took a camping or caravan holiday between January and March this year, according to the Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s 2021 State of the Industry report. 

An astonishing 4.1 million caravan and camping trips were taken in this same timeframe, equalling a total of 16.3 million nights away – that’s a lot of roasted marshmallows and billy tea!

Why are Aussies so keen to set up camp? According to Associate Professor Gabby Walters from UQ's School of Business, in the time of coronavirus, the great outdoors have never looked greater. 

"Since COVID-19, people have a newfound appreciation for the outdoors and, in particular, regional tourism destinations that they are able to drive to instead of flying,” Dr Walters said 

"This is primarily due to the large open spaces and fresh air, as opposed to urban and hotel experiences."

Despite international borders opening, new research by Dr Walters suggests the regional travel trend is here to stay.

Just 51 per cent of Australians plan to travel overseas now that international borders are open, according to Dr Walters’ latest online survey of 560 Australians. Up to 33 per cent of Australians would prefer to travel domestically, while 16 per cent said they would not travel at all. 

"My COVID-19 and travel studies in both 2020 and 2021 revealed that regional and coastal destinations are preferred over cities, and this is where the majority of camping spots are."

A white Toyota Landcruiser parked in front of a towering beige sand dune.

Sand dune driving in Lincoln National Park, South Australia. Image: Casey Fung.

Sand dune driving in Lincoln National Park, South Australia. Image: Casey Fung.

The kinds of people you will meet on your holiday are changing, too. Caravan and camping holidays are often associated with ‘grey nomads’ – retired Australians who spend their time travelling. 

However, more young Australian families are hitting the ‘frog and toad’. The Caravan Industry Association of Australia reported that ‘parents with children at home’ were the largest market for caravan and camping holidays this year. 

Associate Professor Pierre Benckendorff from UQ's School of Business explains that in addition to travel hesitancy in the grey-nomad demographic, this change has also been influenced by parents looking to strengthen family ties.

"The pandemic has just reinforced the importance of family and magnified this trend," Dr Benckendorff said.

"Very few sectors of the Australian tourism industry cater well for families – hotel rooms are almost always set up for couples, and holiday rentals better suited to families can be expensive. 

"Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of caravan parks identified this gap in the market for affordable family style accommodation, and put in facilities like mini golf, pools, water slides, bouncing pillows, go kart tracks, playgrounds and larger cabins targeted at families.”

A Polaroid picture showing the beach view from the inside of a camper van.
A Polaroid image showing a white Toyota Landcruiser parked in front of a lush green mountain range in Tasmania.
A white Toyota Landcruiser driving across a river in outback Western Australia.

Crossing a river in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Image: Casey Fung.

Crossing a river in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Image: Casey Fung.

Amid the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, UQ Doctor of Philosophy candidate Casey Fung (Master of Communication ’16) and his partner Maya Robinson-Kennedy wanted an escape. So, they packed their bags and set out for a lap of the map.

A young adult couple smiling at each other in front of their white Toyota Landcruiser troop carrier vehicle. Behind them are camp chairs by a stream.

UQ Doctor of Philosophy candidate Casey Fung (Master of Communication ’16) and his partner Maya Robinson-Kennedy in front of their Toyota Landcruiser troop carrier.

UQ Doctor of Philosophy candidate Casey Fung (Master of Communication ’16) and his partner Maya Robinson-Kennedy in front of their Toyota Landcruiser troop carrier.

"My partner Maya and I set off around Australia in our old Troopy [Toyota Landcruiser troop carrier] at the beginning of 2021 with no schedule, timeframe, or route in mind, other than generally heading in a counter-clockwise direction,” Fung said.

"I find planning and scheduling a little bit stressful, so just going with the flow really suited us. 

“I have always found that you find great places in between the famous spots, which are often hyped up so much they let you down. 

“It's much better to just wake up each day and decide if you feel like staying or travelling down the road a little further.”

Fung said that their Troopy was “like a house on wheels”, with all the creature comforts catered for. 

“We had an amazing tent to sleep in on the roof, and could easily carry two weeks of food and water,” he said.

“Plus, we had dual batteries and a solar set up, so we could run a fridge, lights, and even charge our laptops for as long as we liked. 

“The back of the truck was also set up like couches, so you could hang out inside when it was raining, windy or cold.” 

In addition to taking in the sights across Australia, Fung said that the road trip also gave him the opportunity to learn more about the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the lands he visited.  

“Travelling in this beautiful country, we both thought it was important to acknowledge that this was and always will be Aboriginal land. We tried to always learn stories and the real names in each Country,” he said. 

“I also think it is really important to respect traditional owners' requests, like visitors being silent, not taking photos, or not visiting certain places. Unfortunately this is not followed by everyone.

“We actually travelled with an Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) map of Indigenous Australia, and plotted our route through it so we always knew what Country we were travelling on.​”

While the couple don’t fall into the key demographic of ‘parents with children at home’, during their great Australian road trip, they discovered that they soon will.

"My favourite memory from the trip? I'll never forget the beautiful moment when I found out Maya was pregnant on the side of the road in outback Queensland."

Explore photo highlights from Casey's lap of the map.

Casey’s top 5 tips for road trippers

1. Know your vehicle and learn some basic maintenance

I've been lucky to have always been a tinkerer and have always fixed my own cars, so I was shocked to see how many people barely knew how to change a tyre. Learn some basic mechanic skills, even if it's just to diagnose simple problems with brakes, suspension and your engine, to know whether you can make it to the next town or not. 

2. You don't need a 'beast' to go everywhere

We chose to do the trip in an old Troopy because it is mechanically simple and has such a reliable reputation. Even at stock height with standard off-road tyres, we made it everywhere easily. We had a winch and all the recovery gear, but never needed it. And we did all the famous beaches and tracks. Most of the time you'd probably get away with a soft-roader, which is not a terrible idea as most of the time you're sitting on tarred roads at 100 kilometres per hour – so your car needs to be good at this.

3. Know your limits

We helped some very stuck people in a few different places. For example, twice we helped people who took their  two wheel drive sedan down a track that was clearly marked for  four wheel drives (4WD) only. We also helped a few people with 4WDs who didn't do basic stuff, like lower their tyre pressure, and ended up getting stuck or breaking down.

4. Learn the basics of off-road driving

There are plenty of guides online on how to do some simple things, like lower your tyre pressure for sand and the basic recovery gear you’ll need. Also, the 'old mates' in their big rigs might look intimidating, but I've always found them super helpful and ready to share knowledge.

5. Don't use Instagram as a guide

When you’re looking where to go, don't use Instagram as a guide. The glossy, edited photos don't show what places are really like, or how busy they actually are. Some of the best places we went to were recommended by locals or National Park rangers. 

Final words of advice? 

Before setting off on a big lap of Australia, I recommend going on short trips before locking in your set-up. We changed ours about three or four times before we headed off, as you realise what's important and what isn't.

Make sure everything has a spot, and always put it back in that spot when you're done.

It will seem tedious at first, but you’ll  be very happy in the end – I guarantee it!

Background image: Exploring Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia. Image by Casey Fung.

White Toyota Troop Carrier parked in front of red dirt cliffs by the ocean in Kalbarri National Park WA.

Join the conversation

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