The Poplar Caravan Park: New kids on the block: Glen Innes.
So, what do you do when you have retired from the workforce three times but have decided you are not yet ready to retire? You buy a caravan park of course, not just any old caravan park with a small kiosk, but one which features not only a take-away food service but one which offers a full eat-in restaurant-on site.
That’s exactly what Angela and Michael Hartard did back in May, 2013. Both UK expats, Angela came to the land of OZ in 1983 while Michael arrived here fifty five years ago.
“We retired (the third time) having travelled around Australia in a motor home for three years—about three years ago, during which time we worked in and managed two caravan parks in Queensland and relief managed more in various states,” said Angela. “We would pull into a park and ask them if they needed any help with cleaning, office work or any menial jobs. Well, one thing led to another, and it wasn’t long before some owners would ask us if we could ‘look after’ their park while they took a well-earned break?”
“We soon found ourselves as relief managers and getting regular work doing just that, and the best thing was, we were getting paid to travel around the country. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Why Glen Innes and the Poplar Caravan Park?
“We originally were seeking a motel,” Mike said, “And preferably somewhere on the coast; we looked everywhere for three hectic years not finding anything that excited us, when we suddenly thought: Hang on a minute, with all of our caravan parks’ experience, why don’t we change direction and ‘look at’ which caravan parks are for sale.”
“It didn’t take long trawling through the Caravan Parks’ website to see this one come up and what really caught our eye was the take-away food and sit-in restaurant situated right there in the main office,” Michael said. “We thought, here’s a challenge and something different and while I wasn’t qualified as a chef, I reckoned I had enough experience as a ‘food critic’ when we lived in Sydney where we would, every Saturday night, dine out somewhere different. And while we had some memorable food experiences, there were plenty of times the stuff served up was ‘pretty ordinary’, and I thought (to myself) I can do better than that.”
Michael admitted that he and Angela have been on a steep learning curve on the cooking and presentation of fine food, but “wouldn’t have it any other way—we enjoy the challenge,” Michael said.
The restaurant menu is extensive and includes such luminaries as Barramundi with chips and salad for $15.50; Mixed grill $19.50 and Lambs fry & bacon (a real favourite) for just $15.00—all great value meals.
“The restaurant can seat eighteen, and is open for breakfast seven days; lunch (except Tuesdays) where all Lunch Special meals are priced @ $9.90 and include fish ‘n chips; spaghetti bolognaise and salad plus many more choices. Dinner, (except Tuesdays) with more extensive menu—larger meals but still not expensive,” Angela said.
“We have a regular clientele with Thursday, Friday and Saturdays nights really busy, with many local groups including the CWA holding regular meetings in the restaurant. Over those nights we have four casual staff on to handle orders and meals,” Michael said.
“And if sit-down isn’t your go or if time is limited, we have an extensive take-away menu which includes crumbed prawns; seafood basket and hamburgers—you can’t jump over starting from $5.60,” Angela said.
Editors’ note: The bride and I treated ourselves to the “Big Breakfast” which included, ‘eggs done as you like them’, loads of bacon, grilled tomatoes, sausages, mushrooms and toast—all for the princely sum of $10.50 each, and oh, if coffee required, cappuccino etc, a big cup for just one dollar!
The park is as you would expect: Clean with Forty five caravan sites—all with easy access with the option of drive-through; there are four en-suite cabins, two on-site caravans and six tent sites.
The amenities block which includes three ladies showers plus a children’s bath and four toilets while the Mens has four showers and three toilets—all of which were spotlessly clean when we were there (two nights). A small but well equipped camp kitchen including large BBC, microwave oven and (very) handy separate wash-up facility makes one’s stay all that more enjoyable and for those seeking clothes washing facilities, there’s a good-sized laundry complete with two commercial washing machines and one clothes dryer, and...the all important dump point.
The Poplar Caravan Park is ideally situated on the southern end of the town and it’s an easy level five to ten minute stroll to one of the oldest historic towns in the country.
Glen Innes (to us at least) always seems to one of those towns you are rushing through en route to Brisbane or Sydney, however this time—although our original itinerary showed us staying just the one night, we decided to stay two nights and we are so glad we did for the township offers so much in the way of tourist attractions from its main street laced with fine old Federation buildings from yesteryear, witness the lovely old Town Hall built in 1887 which stands proud in Grey St; or the old Post-Telegraph office “Telegraph”—another reminder of days gone by) just down the road. Grey St is lined with both new and old shops and you would be hard pressed not to find something to your taste; and for those of us whose heritage embraces Scotland you will find several shops in Glen Innes catering for the Celtic way of life.
Speaking of the “Celtic way of life” no visit to Glen Innes would be complete without a visit to the Australian Standing Stones Park on the outskirts of town. A labour of love, taking untold hours of collection, cutting and erecting, forty stones each standing upwards of 3.7 metre above the ground with a history or sponsorship make for a very impressive tour.
Time too should be set aside to visit the spectacular History House Museum with its impressive “Albion” Horizontal Steam Engine as you drive or walk up the pathway to the museum.
So much to see so much to do, Glen Innes is not a township you should be passing through. Stop awhile, a good place to visit is the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre in Church St, Ph: (02) 6730 2400, e-mail: email@example.com; inhale the fresh and crisp fresh air; reflect back to the halcyon days of the mighty goldrush period of 1852 when the township was gazetted; visit any of the several wineries located in the district and surrounds, and take in the sights of a wonderful town located high up on the New England Tablelands.
Fact File: The Poplar Caravan Park is located at 15-19 Church St (New England Hwy) on the southern end of the town. Ph: (02) 6732 1514; mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tarrifs: Powered Sites: $25.00; non-power: $18.00; On-site vans: $39.00; On-site ensuite cabins: From $69.00 a double, ironed linen supplied.
Travel: Glen Innes is: 608 klms from Sydney, 367 klms from Brisbane, 161 klms from Grafton and a hundred klms north of Armidale.
Best times to go: Autumn and Spring, we went in July and while the days were at times crisp, the nights were coolish.
Story & Pics by Alan & Jackie Mitchell.