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The Half-Century Travellers

22 Aug 2019

WATCH: Max and Dorne Reardon have been road-tripping from Melbourne to Pambula Beach for nearly 50 years, but say it’s the memories that mean more than the miles. 


We first came here in 1971 when our youngest daughter was six weeks old,” Dorne says. “We hired one of their on-site vans (at Discovery Parks - Pambula Beach), and then we bought a van of our own and we’ve been coming up ever since. We love it.”

While they can list Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia among their pins in the travel map, Pambula Beach on the Sapphire Coast, NSW is still their favourite. Now, their kids have kids of their own and they’re coming up, too. It’s a family affair that’s lasted through the decades. “We used to come in March before the kids went back to school and then the kids grew up and now they come up with the grandkids.”

It’s a story that’s perhaps fondly familiar to many Australians that love criss-crossing the countryside over the years, and passing the tradition on to future generations. While some people love towns or regions or even certain stretches of road, for Max and Dorne, it’s all about the park. They’ve stayed at Discovery Parks - Pambula Beach for 49 years this year, with 2020 being their 50th year. 

After coming here for years with the kids during the holidays, Max and Dorne began extending their stays to three months of the year, usually over the cooler months. Through thick and thin, they always make it down, the pair as dedicated as they come. 

“Dorne’s had two major operations on her spine over the years, but we’ve always made it up,” Max says. “I was getting ready to come up here in 2016 and fell off a ladder cleaning the caravan which fixed me right up. We still got up here, though. We couldn’t wait to get clearance from our doctors to get up was just a couple of weeks. We still got was a bit later and not quite as long but we still got here.”

While the location by the beach is a cracker, it’s the people and the memories that make the place a favourite for the Melbourne pair. “I think it’s the socialising that we love most,” Dorne says. “There’s a group of us that Laurie [park manager] calls his ‘winter family’. There used to be a big group of us but there’s three couples left now as a few have stopped coming over the years as they got older.”

There’s even a photo remaining of the beloved winter family that hangs proudly in the recreation room of the park (make sure to check it out if you’re passing through). 

Max and Dorne 2

Like many in the parks, morning tea and happy hours are a daily affair to look forward to. “Every morning, there used to be a morning tea,” Dorne continues. “Whoever was putting on the morning tea would have the Australian flag on their caravan so you’d know where to go. You’d take your chairs, take your cups and we’d all sit around in a circle, eat bickies and someone would have an urn outside. We did that for many years.”

Nowadays, Max and Dorne still go to morning tea, but this time it’s put on by park manager Laurie and the team, keeping the tradition alive. “He gets up at who-knows what hour and makes all these scones for anybody who wants to come,” Dorne says. “We sit there and everyone talks about their travel experiences and eats Laurie’s scones with jam and cream.”

Max and Dorne 3

Over the years, a few things have changed. Max and Dorne share stories of the dunes being lost in a storm one year at Pambula - the park losing whole rows. There’s even a book of old photos documenting the dramatic storm damage that still remains at the park. You name it and it’s likely that Max and Dorne have experienced it - they’re a part of the history of the park here. 

Their van has changed, too. Their last home on wheels was well loved for 30 years, with their newer model purchased in 2007. “It’s a bit different to our old caravan,” Max says with a laugh. “A few things have changed these days!”

“We’ve had a lot of fun along the way. Another thing that’s changed over the years is how long you can stay on-site,” Max says. “You couldn’t stay on any site longer than five weeks when we first started coming, so when it came to moving day, we would all just gather around, everyone would grab an annex pole, we’d let the ropes go and still have the car hooked up...they’d drive around with everyone holding the poles with the annex up to the next site. That was a great time,” Max says laughing. 

Max and Dorne 4

Some things haven’t changed, though, and Max and Dorne think that’s all for the better. “It’s amazing the difference with technology these days,” Max says, “but it hasn’t changed caravan parks. We used to see the kids maybe for lunch and in the morning...only if they were hungry or they didn’t get fed somewhere else. Nowadays, not much has changed. It’s great.”

Now that they don’t have the kids, it’s all about soaking up life in the slower lane. Same park, different pace. “We just hope the sun comes out every day and we sit and relax together,” Dorne says. “Life’s pretty good.”

This story was originally published in G'DAY Magazine.

Stay at Discovery Parks - Pambula Beach


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