Vintage Van Extravaganza

Like the proverbial birds of a feather, vintage caravan enthusiasts like to get together

It is always enjoyable seeing a vintage caravan hitched up to a classic tow car, maybe at a heritage or country fair, or at a car show. But to see retro rigs at their very best, you need to catch a bunch of them camping together in a caravan park. So when we ran into more than 50 vintage vans having a weekend together in Bridgewater on Loddon, about 180km northwest of Melbourne, we knew we were in for a treat.

The event was the 3rd Annual Victorian Vintage Caravan Extravaganza, which was held over three days in February 2018 and attracted a wide range of caravans, mostly dating from the 1940s through to the 70s. There were rounded wooden vans, fibreglass vans and aluminium vans, plus a few tiny teardrops, many of them towed by classic cars.

Camping on lush green grass beneath sunny blue skies and partly shaded by tall gumtrees, the event re-created an idealized version of camping in the middle of the 20th century. Some of the caravans had a view across the Loddon River, while others looked out across open fields. The setting was so peaceful and idyllic that some of the campers decided to stay on beyond the three days that they had originally planned to spend in Bridgewater.

Of course, you might wonder what people do on an old fashioned, low tech caravanning holiday. How did the vintage vanners fill in all that spare time, without the benefits of modern time killers like flat screen televisions, computer work stations and fully equipped kitchens?

Some of them chose to simply relax in a chair under the caravan annex, reading a book or newspaper. Others used the opportunity to catch up with old friends and also made some new ones. And almost everyone walked around, checking out all the other vans and looking for good ideas that could be adapted for their own rig.

There were also some organised group events, including a barbecue, trivia night and swap meet. The bakery and hotel in the town did better business than usual, and the op shop in the old church building was positively scoured by vintage caravanners, who are always looking for period memorabilia that would look perfect in their retro rigs.

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