Home Hill’s Homely feelings

Ayr and Home Hill are twin towns astride the Burdekin River, about 100km north of Bowen in North Queensland, Australia. This is the heart of sugar cane country and gateway to the North Queensland tourism areas.

While Ayr has forged ahead, Home Hill has always been the sickly sibling. The duckling that drowned in the mud puddle. The wrong side of the river. It is a little villiage with just a few shops and two pubs. Business was not exactly booming here. But then one day, there was a change.

The Burdekin Council did something very unusual for a council to do. Instead of rangers handing out on-the-spot fines for campers staying overnight in their vehicle, as is the way of many councils, they have welcomed travellers to the town and even set up facilities to encourage them to stay over. They built a clean, welcoming facility that includes toilets and showers, a camp kitchen, tables and chairs and even power points for keeping your laptop topped up while sending those all important emails home to loved ones.

They have even branded the new facility. It is called “Comfort Stop” and boasts its own ad campaign with bill boards up and down the highway.

You are welcome to sleep in your vehicle in a back street, with easy access via the facilities block to the main street in town. Everything is within walking distance. No longer are you dreading that 6am knock on the window from someone in uniform armed with a notebook, a pencil and a digital camera.

Now the town has a new-found confidence. A certain bustle and pride that says “Hey, look at us”. The streets are spick and span. The shopfronts have been freshly painted and the town has a smile in its face. You see, word has got around the nomad set. “Are you stopping in Home Hill? They have free camping you know!” As the afternoon wears on to evening, caravans and camper vans arrive, finding a space to park for the night. They use the laundromat, buy groceries at the two small supermarkets, fill up the vehicle with fuel and go for a drink and a meal at the pub.

Home Hill is feeling pretty smug these days. If only other councils were as smart as Burdekin Council, perhaps more small towns would benefit from the throngs of grey nomads in caravans and young backpackers in camper vans.

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