17 Sep 2019
WATCH: Our van in the middle of the street
Scott Annakin says there’s something special about having your van parked in the same spot. It’s kept him coming back to their home-on-wheels for a decade.
While caravan parks are often frequented by travellers forever on the move, some parks are equipped with more permanent sites so people can create their own home away from home. Sydney local Scott Annakin has done just this at Discovery Parks - Gerroa, where he, his wife and their four kids have had a permanent van site since 2010.
“We stayed here in a cabin our friends owned, and we had such a ball we decided we wanted one of our own. Nearly ten years later and we’re still here,” Scott says.
For Scott, the 1.5-hour journey down the coast from Sydney is a small price to pay for a getaway that feels a million miles away from their busy city life back home. “It’s like a bad drive to work in the morning, except that at the end, we’re here and it’s beautiful.”
Scott and the family travel South every chance they get, whether it’s school holidays or even just for the weekend. It’s an accessible, affordable holiday option for their family, and something Scott would recommend for anyone unsure about travelling too far with their own van.
“We’ve got all the comforts of an Airbnb, it’s just a little bit smaller, and it’s all ours,” he says. “When you’re a working family, time is everything. By the time you pack the car and the kids, it’s already into the night. Here, it’s only an hour and 20 travel time and you still feel like you’re away.”
Having a permanent site at a park, Scott says you still get to make the most of the great outdoors, but with the comfort of your own little home away from home. “You’ve got everything here - the river to fish, beach if you want to swim...there’s lots of things you can do with the kids without spending a lot of money too, which is great.”
Scott’s three sons (aged 21, 23 and 26) have spent much of their teenage years here, while his youngest daughter Haylee (6) has been coming since she was only two months old. “She’s basically grown up in the park,” he says. “Everyone knows her here.”
Like many kids who spend their childhood in the parks, Haylee makes the most of the great outdoors, something that Scott says is reason enough to keep them coming back. “Here, my daughter doesn’t pick up the phone or the iPad. She’s up at seven in the morning running around, collecting crabs, fishing, playing on the jumping pillows, making friends in the park…”
His top tip for parents? Invest in a walkie-talkie for your little ones to roam the park with. “Of course we trust everyone in the park, but the walkie-talkie lets us know where she is,” Scott says. “We’ll check in every five minutes or so and she’ll tell us ‘I’m at Zoe’s place’ or ‘I’m at Chloe’s place.’ Every street here knows Haylee.”
But it’s not just Haylee that’s made friends. Scott says the community that’s been built around the tenants in the vans on their street has been amazing. “We’ve made lots of friends over the years and many of our neighbours here have kids, too.
We love it,” he says, gesturing to neighbouring vans.
Just like a suburban street, the people along Scott’s street in the park have created their own little community, all banding together for fun in the sun and even the odd project here and there, too. “All the people in our street made the rock wall along the banks of the river here,” he says. “We do a lot of street barbecues, too. We can sometimes have 20 or 30 people...we love it. Chris [a neighbour] fishes, I like to catch the crabs, we get a lot of good flathead out there on the lake, too. Sometimes we get about 20 people out on the river and catch the fish for dinner.”
But it’s not just about the park tenants. Scott says over the years they’ve become close to park managers, too. “We have a really good friendship with Dean and Kelly who are managers here at Discovery Parks – Gerroa now. Sometimes they’ll come down for beers and a barbecue after work. We get on a treat. That’s what it’s all about here.”