The return of the "old-school" caravan is part of a surge in interest from New Zealanders, particularly young families, in camping in New Zealand.
Department of Conservation Wellington visitor centre manager Wendy Challis said while the cost was appealing - as low as $6 per night to stay in a DOC camp ground - the surge was also being pushed by people "getting back to nature".
The environmental benefits of camping were also appealing to people, she said. "It's a greater awareness and appetite of what we have at our own doorstep."
It was a secret long-known to overseas visitors, who had been camping in New Zealand in droves for years, as had retired New Zealanders.
"DOC campgrounds are a hot favourite," Ms Challis said.
For Stokes Valley couple Naomi and Josh Cooper, the decision to camp at the Paekakariki Holiday Park this summer was partly driven by money but also as "an experience" for their daughters, Heilee, 10, and Jorja, 9.
The Coopers had not been camping since their early 20s and wanted their daughters to experience the camaraderie they remembered of children at camping sites. "Also, with adult campers, the adults are really friendly people," Mrs Cooper said.
Paekakariki had the added bonus of welcoming their great dane-bull mastiff cross, Dodge.
Pukerua Bay woman Conor Twyford knows the benefits of camping well.
Camping in Paekakariki with her two twin sons, Joseph and Patrick Rockell, 7, only 10 minutes from home, she has the enjoyment of camping with the comforts of home. "My husband can go home and bring stuff we forgot. We love it. This is the fourth year we have done it."
But, costing $90 just for three nights camping, the bargain aspect also played its part, she said.
"I haven't got a lot of leave this year, so we can do something quickly and feel like we have had a proper holiday."
Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park owner Frank Cornelissen said while people were saving a bit of money by staying in campgrounds rather than resorts or hotels, they were not skimping on dining and drinking out.
"The whole family can go away for not a lot of money."
There was a "definite" increase in people choosing to camp in recent years, with a noticeable increase in the return of "old-school" caravans.
As well as the classic family camping holiday, he was seeing a lot of younger groups of friends.
Top 10 Holiday Parks chairman Gerald Nolan said campgrounds were generally full at this time of year, but there had been a surge in people tenting.
New Zealand Motor Caravan Association general manager Bruce Lochore said membership in the last year had risen by 13 per cent - largely driven by baby boomers retiring. Those who would have retired to a $450,000 bach were now spending $150,000 on a mobile home, which was not only cheaper, but gave them more freedom.
Retirees these days also seemed to have more energy to travel.
"They want to make the most of it."
- The Dominion Post
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