Staying at the BIG4 Deniliquin Holiday Park, Riley Palmer discovers luxury by the river in Country New South Wales.
Gliding down the Edward River, a glass of sparkling wine in hand, in this moment there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Feet dangling from a pontoon, I let my head roll back and catch hues of pink, orange and red begin to paint themselves across the skyline. It’s the last day of winter but there’s an air of endless summer, even as dusk makes itself known.
I’m staying at the BIG4 Holiday Park in the New South Wales country town of Deniliquin. Deni, as it’s known locally, is renowned for many things. It’s home to the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere and is a top agricultural region for crops, sheep and cattle. More recently, it’s become the venerated Ute Capital of the World. Deni claimed the Guinness World Record in 1999 for the largest parade of legally registered utes.
However accurate they may be, these titles overlook one of Deniliquin’s greatest assets: its proximity to the river.
Big hearts at the BIG4
Owners of Deniliquin’s BIG4, Frank and Lynda White, are of the same opinion. Having spent the summers of their teens waterskiing along the Edward River, they have an almost palpable love of the region. They still see the town through the starry eyes of tourists.
This unique perspective led the couple to purchase the dilapidated, dirt-based site in 2001. Their aspiration was to develop affordable holiday accommodation. This would include activities that made the most of the river.
“We really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” says Linda, with a laugh. Despite their initial naiveté, their patch of dirt has flourished. It was even recognised as the state’s best in the “Tourist & Caravan Park” category at the New South Wales Tourism Awards in 2012.
As I sit on the balcony of my cabin, which is close enough to the riverfront that I can witness the aerobatic displays of zealous Murray cod, I, for one, am appreciative of Frank and Lynda’s gargantuan undertaking. Despite their humility, it’s evident that the Whytes are proud of what they’ve developed. Given the gruelling challenges they’ve faced since purchasing the park – a decade of drought, two floods, and plagues of mice and locusts – their pride is warranted.
Exploring the park
We zip around the holiday park in a golf buggy, Lynda at the helm and me a super-relaxed passenger. Her three-year-old son happily sits wedged between us. I can tell he’s done this before. The buggy slows to a stop as we approach a middle-aged man, and Lynda chats to him as through they’re old mates.
As I gaze contentedly around me, Lynda’s son leaps out of the buggy and runs towards a jungle gym with excited children swarming all over it. Lynda doesn’t bat an eyelid and continues chatting.
As the man walks off, Lynda explains that he’s on of their ‘annuals:’ clients who own the structure of their sites. In many ways, being an annual is similar to owning a permanent holiday house, with the added benefit of facilities and security and without the burden of maintenance.
Deluxe riverfront cabins at BIG4 Deniliquin
As a less frequent guest of Deni’s BIG4, I’m staying in one of Frank and Lynda’s riverfront deluxe cabins. The park caters to all types of travellers. Guests can choose from holiday cabins and villas as well as sites for caravans, campervans, motorhomes and tents. Wherever it is that people are staying on the BIG4 site, one thing is across the board – the cheerful comings and goings of happy children. It’s not just Frank and Lynda’s son; all the kids gallivant around the park with an air of independence. It’s almost as though there’s an unspoken rule that parents leave their offspring anxiety at the boom gate upon entering. It’s the way things once were, and it makes for a delighted bunch of adventurous kids.
I’ve been at BIG4 Deniliquin for two days, and already the awe-inspiring sunsets, water views and sociable atmosphere have won me over. I make a pledge to come back in summer when the water-skiing season is underway.
Things to do in Deniliquin
BIG4 Deniliquin offers 18-hole minigolf, go-karts, tennis and basketball courts, a water park, a jumping pillow, a pontoon boat (available for hire) and BBQs. If you would like to venture out of the holiday park, be sure to check Deni’s event calendar.
If you miss the Deni Ute Muster on October long weekend, fear not: there are events year-round on Deni’s calendar. Not to be overlooked is the 2012 ‘Best Festival’ winner at the Inland Tourism Awards, the Deni Blues & Roots Festival.