WAGGA residents and travellers can whinge and argue as much as they want about our divisive Wilks Park.
Apparently the city’s free camping hot spot pales in comparison to the real jewel in the Riverina’s crown: Lockhart.
The laid-back, easy going verandah town ticks all the boxes for tourists, according to Caravanning Australia.
The magazine has voted the township numero uno of the six hidden gems of inland NSW.
While caravan parks across the country struggle to keep the punters coming through the gates thanks to free camping and pimped-out, self-sufficient motorhomes, Lockhart Caravan Park is bucking the trend – seeing a 300 per cent increase in overnight stays last financial year and numbers staying high so far this year.
Wagga’s tourism heads may have their noses out of joint over Caravanning Australia’s list, which listed Wagga as third behind Lockhart and Coonamble.
Tamworth, Griffith and Parkes padded out the rest of the top six.
So what is it that Lockhart is doing right exactly?
Basically, they are welcoming caravanners and “grey nomads” – a hugely untapped market.
This is a group who spends $7 billion across the country annually and continues to grow stronger each year.
Camping has been part of our culture since the jolly swagman unfurled his swag under the shade of a Coolibah tree.
There are hundreds of thousands of Aussies with great memories of exploring the nation’s caravan parks with Mum and Dad in their youth.
Many of these youngsters have since grown up, and now hit the highways searching for new adventures.
It’s amazing how quickly word spreads among this highly-connected, mobile community.
Spots such as Bourke are well-known for their open-door policy when it comes to motorhomes and caravanners.
Domestic road travellers have breathed new lifeblood into many smaller communities such as Lockhart, spending money in shops, petrol stations and eateries while enjoying little extras such as ease of parking, good facilities and dump points.
Anyone who doubts the strength of this niche market is totally out of touch with reality.
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