AUSTRALIANS are on the road again and 19 Sheltons are among them, complete with tents, tarpaulins and caravans.
Three generations of the Shelton family have come together from two States for a holiday in Coffs Harbour this week.
Dennis Shelton of Newcastle has been enjoying his annual Christmas holidays at Park Beach's caravan park, now Coffs Harbour Holiday Park, since 1984. He and his wife, Carol, tried a luxury resort once, then returned to Park Beach.
He likes the relaxation, friendliness and the fact that most of his family is scattered around 'under canvas' in the same park and he also likes the nearby beach, Coffs Creek, clubs and restaurants.
His sister-in-law, Christine Shelton, from Tamworth, likes the easy camaraderie.
"People look out for other people and are more open ? they share their stories and problems and don't hesitate to give a hand of it's needed."
Christine Shelton also likes the sales and air-conditioned shops and Carol Shelton likes the attractions for the children like the Big Banana and the movies.
Geoffrey and Lorraine Shelton say they have a two-man, four-man and eight-man tent in their shed at home in Tamworth, but with grown-up children they are now on their second caravan, a luxury model that includes a shower and toilet, because they are 'practising to be grey nomads'.
The Sheltons illustrate why those taking to the road in increasing numbers are expected to inject more than $5 billion into the economy in 2006, as more than 600,000 Australians choose touring holidays.
The perception of caravanners and caravan park campers is that they are mostly 'grey nomads' -retired people who have the money and leisure to spend their retirement travelling.
But the chief executive of Caravan, Recreational Vehicle and Accommodation Australia (CRVA), Ben Yates, said the latest figures showed most visitors who used caravan or camping accommodation were aged 15 to 44, showing new generations of Australians are taking to the road. ? BELINDA SCOTT