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Travel

Travel

Words and pics ANDREW HARRIS

RV travellers will find

plenty of reasons to

put their feet up at the

Riverside Caravan Park

in Swan Hill, Vic.

The sun sets over Swan Hill Riverside

Holiday Park and the sky turns

pink. Minutes earlier, the rain had

been pelting on the roof of our Kea

Campers motorhome and rippling the

Murray River behind our site.

We’re parked on a log-bordered

patch of gravel facing away from the

water, with plenty of space on either

side (sites on one side are currently on

loan to nature and the local council

for some sprucing up; the other side

is vacant). The park is gearing up for

school holidays and, as yet, there are

only Grey Nomads staying the night. So

although there’s a subtle buzz about the

place, it’s peaceful and quiet. We’ve been

warmly welcomed by Barbara and Philip

Camm, and with some sugar and jam

from the store at reception safely in the

cupboard, we’re well settled.

LOCATION, LOCATION

Swan Hill Riverside Caravan Park, a

Top Tourist Park, is artfully arranged

around a tiny bend in the Murray.

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Top: Let Philip and Barbara Camm welcome you to Swan Hill Riverside Caravan Park. Above: There’s a

particularly friendly atmosphere here. Opposite and inset: The Murray River flows behind the park.

Along the bank are powered sites, with

unobstructed views across the water,

with cabins across the drive that sit

in a semicircle around the swimming

pool and spa. Three amenities blocks

are evenly spaced across the middle

section of the park. Unpowered sites lie

along a small section of bank, as well as

along the road bordering the front of the

park, by the long reception and kiosk

building, next to the expansive picnic,

playground and barbecue area.

Wireless Internet is available

throughout the park for $6 an hour,

but it cuts out at 8pm when the Internet

kiosk at reception is shut down.

Philip was once a butcher and, after

severely cutting his finger, a service

manager for a Melbourne pump

company. He also spent nine years

on the Top Tourist Parks of Australia

board, so he knows what makes a good

park (he also served as treasurer, so

he’s well aware of how to build one up,

dollar by dollar). He and Barbara, an

exceptionally fast typist, proofreader

and stenographer, bought Riverside

after 12 years running another park in

Hay, about a two-hour drive north-east,

across the border in NSW.

“We sort of ran out of steam up there

and decided it was time for a move,”

Philip says. They’ve now spent a decade

at Swan Hill Riverside Caravan Park.

The original decision to move from

Hay was motivated by the park’s

affordability as well as its year-round

traffic. Swan Hill Riverside is, as Philip

puts it, “A bit of transit, and a bit of

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Travel

destination.”

They knew the park’s potential when

they bought it – Murray wanderers pass

through in the autumn and winter;

regular holidaymakers stampede there

at Christmas and Easter, when there’s

not a single site available. Some guests

have been returning to this very same

park for more than 30 years, booking

for the following year before the end of

their current stay. Others will come for a

night, book another, then book another

two, and before they know it, they’ve

been there a week.

CONSTANT UPGRADING

When Philip and Barbara bought the

park, there were 14 cabins. They’ve

since put in another 15. They see cabins

as a real advantage for holiday parks

because they compete with motels, often

offering better value for money, and

they’re much cheaper to keep up

to date.

The Camms have also installed

additional gardens. They don’t actually

own the plot; instead they are the

holders of a management contract for

the Crown land on which it stands. It’s

an unusual arrangement that requires a

degree of tact and balance on the part of

the council and by the Camms.

Sixteen employees are on the park’s

payroll, and they ensure it’s spick and

“Fifth wheelers and other big

rigs are catered for, and pass

through frequently”

span. The benefits of ‘grey labour’ are

well understood, with one older staff

member on for six months of the year,

and sunning himself up north for the

other six months.

Part of Swan Hill Riverside’s appeal

is its relatively secluded location. The

railway line, which serves the town,

runs between the river and the main

Clockwise from top left: Park

co-owner Philip Camm with one

of the resident ducks; the park

has its own pool and spa; since

buying the park, the Camms have

added 15 cabins to the original

14; what the cabins look like

inside; unpowered sites lie along

the road bordering the front of

the park, by the long reception

building; view of the Murray from

the rear of the Kea motorhome.

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Swan Hill Riverside

Caravan Park

Fast Facts:

Swan Hill Riverside Caravan Park, 1

Monash Drive, Swan Hill, Vic,

(03) 5032 1494,

www.swanhillriverside.com.au

Swan Hill is about 340km from

Melbourne, along the Calder and

Murray Valley highways.

Above: There are a number of riverside

powered sites providing unobstructed

views across the Murray. Left: View of

the reception area.

Swan Hill

map

road, leaving the street on which

the park sits fairly undisturbed. The

occasional through traffic is barely

audible, and local birdlife, including

near-tame, rather peckish ducks,

wanders the park in abundance.

Fifth wheelers and other big rigs

are well catered for, and pass through

frequently.

If you’re planning to drive your bus

down during Christmas or Easter,

however, call ahead: there’s unlikely to

be sufficient space.

One notable Camm touch is that upon

arrival, I wasn’t simply told where my

site was, I was directed there, following

in the wake of Philip in his golf buggy,

and then asked if it suits – this is

something he or another staff member

does for every traveller who checks in.

“Some of them don’t like being under

gum trees,” Philip says. “If they’ve said

they want to be by the river, but the only

sites left are under gum trees, then we’ll

say, ‘If that site doesn’t suit you, then

we’ll take you up the hill to a site that

doesn’t have any trees’.”

And I can tell you that a beautiful

riverside spot, and such genuinely warm

park hospitality, suits me absolutely.

Find your way with Hema’s Vic map.

Caravan World 97

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