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Flashback: Shoalhaven camping holidays of yesteryear

Holiday Haven
28 Oct 2022

Part of the appeal of a camping holiday in the Shoalhaven region on NSW’s South Coast is that it somehow captures a nostalgic essence of holidays from times gone by – perhaps from our own childhoods, or even those of our parents and grandparents. 

Of course, camping has long been a popular Australian pastime. In 1893, the arrival of the railway line to Bomaderry alongside the Shoalhaven River ushered in the first wave of tourism for the region. Until then, the resource-rich area had been mainly logged for timber – sent by ship to Sydney for use as sleepers under the very rail lines that would later bring the holidaymakers. The early part of the 20th century saw visitor numbers continue to grow, although usually confined to the northern reaches of the region due to the poor quality roads and road vehicles of the time.

After World War II, a combination of highway improvements and the huge growth of automobiles saw holidaymakers from Sydney and Canberra flock even further south to the Shoalhaven’s stunning collection beaches and bays – each village along the way a destination in itself on the long pilgrimage. This golden age of holidaying starting from the 1950s and ‘60s saw campers and caravans set up all summer long. No jumping pillows or outdoor cinemas here – just a transistor radio and a nearby river or ocean to cool you down.

As the following vintage images show, things were indeed much simpler “back in the day” – proof that the Shoalhaven region has actually changed plenty over the decades. And yet, even today with Holiday Haven parks offering modern conveniences like free WiFi, air conditioning and even takeout coffee, and with holiday photos more likely to be snapped digitally than on film, there remains a timelessness about this place – where long-lasting family memories continue to be made every year.

Do YOU have a photo of holidaying in the Shoalhaven “back in the day”? Email it to us here!

“Old school” tent camping near Ulladulla – and still the shape most people would draw to illustrate a tent!


A popular model of caravan, 1970s


The ultimate ocean-side set up


Campers at Lake Tabourie, 1960s


Lake Tabourie


Dads and kids enjoy a snack among the trees


Washing and drying the dishes at the water’s edge


Early days of Holiday Haven’s “Lake Burrill” (before the name was flipped around) – a luxury with its own pool, plus an adult enjoying the trampoline


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