Caravanning Since the 1930’s: Here’s the History.

Date Posted: June 18, 2020

vintage green car towing caravan

The history of caravanning in Australia is as long as the roads they travel. With thousands of caravan parks scattered across the country, the industry is enormous. So how did it all start? 

In this article, we go back in time and discover how the Australian domestic travel industry came to be so dependent on caravans.

The Beginning…

vintage car headlight

The first ‘modern’ caravans in Australia date back to pre-WW2! In fact, one of the first documented caravan manufacturers was in Victoria in the mid-1930s. This ‘semi-backyard’ setup became popular for workers looking to relocate for a low cost. A ‘trailer home’ or caravan offered the ability to work in different locations, perfect for seasonal workers in rural areas. Soon the industry expanded into other states and naturally morphed into a more tourism-focused scene.

However, there were problems. Materials were expensive and difficult to source and Australian roads presented huge challenges. Most roads outside populated areas were unsealed, narrow and of poor quality – not ideal for a caravan (even one of today’s). Risk of breakdowns and damage to caravans and vehicles coupled with a lack of adequate sites with water, food and facilities turned (scared) many people off the idea.

Post War Boom…

1950's woman driving

During WW2, many manufacturing facilities re-tooled to help with the war effort. This, like numerous industries, made the caravanning business almost obsolete. The war years, 1939-45, saw a massive increase in manufacturing and supply chain efficiency.

After the war and throughout the ‘50’s, Australia made huge investments in infrastructure. More modernised, sealed roads made for reliable transport between states and capital cities. Rural centres expanded due to increased traffic and demand for fuel and accommodation.

Streamlined and cheaper manufacturing, better road quality and more fuel and accommodation options – the caravan industry obviously boomed.

The Golden Age…

1960s / 70s VWs

The late 1950s, ‘60s and early ‘70s are often dubbed ‘the golden age’ of caravanning in Australia. A significant part of caravan history in Australia. Most ‘big players’ of today can trace their origins here: Viscount – founded in the mid 1950’s and Jayco – founded in 1968 for example. Big4 Holiday Parks were founded in 1979 due to the increasing demand for quality caravans parks.

During this ‘golden age’, destinations also saw more tourism. Victoria, NSW, QLD and SA experienced caravan park development, especially along the Murray-Darling River. Crossing the Nullarbor from Adelaide to Perth (and vice-versa) made the caravan bucket list. 

Caravaning in Australia today…

push button start

With continuous road and highway investment and push for domestic tourism, the industry remains strong. It’s hard not to see a caravan on Aussie highways. Crossing the Nullarbor is no longer a ‘bucket-list brag’ due to the high quality roads, increased vehicle safety and fuel availability – an example of modernisation.

The army of grey nomads may be the most well known in the Australian caravanning scene but younger travellers are getting on board too. Smaller off-road caravan designs and an increase in unique destinations are making things more appealing to everyone.

Caravan maintenance  and simple towing tips have made for far more accessible and safe caravanning in Australia.


Keen to see what Australia has to offer? Try our caravan loan calculator to get started. Upgrading your towing vehicle is easy with our car loan calculator too.

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