Personally, I’m not a huge fan of camping at caravan parks. Sure, they have their purpose and we will definitely be using them as a bit of respite while travelling. I mean – laundry, toilets, showers, camp kitchens, grassy sites, pools, playgrounds – you can see why they can be a luxury for bush campers.
And the BIG4 MacDonnell Ranges in Alice Springs is exactly that; a respite from the ruggedness of bush camping. And if you’ve just toured and camped around the famous sights like Uluru, Kings Canyon and the West MacDonnell Ranges for a couple of weeks, the well-known BIG4 sign is a welcome sight at the end of the day.
We ended up staying for five nights after our big fortnight exploring central Australia – a few nights longer than we had originally anticipated. We washed, and washed, and washed – the laundry just never ends I tell you! I washed my hair - a couple of times, and we took advantage of the awesome activities for kids like hiring a go-cart to motor around the grounds. You can twist your way down a 30 metre slide into a pool. There’s a jumping pillow (mind the pelvic floor though if you decide to give it a go with your kids!), and a trampoline with a basketball hoop. There are several playgrounds dotted around the place, along with some sports courts and even a BMX track! D-Man loved riding his balance bike up and over the mounds and made plenty of friends during our time here. It also kept him out of our hair for a little while! Winning!
But possibly the best part about staying at BIG4 is the free pancake breakfast every Sunday from 8:30am. Brenden (the owner and head pancake-maker) makes 12 dinner plate sized pancakes each batch on a purpose built hotplate that will rival all sausage sizzle fundraisers! The staff busily prepare three – six buckets of batter the night before, with each bucket making about 100 pancakes. The most pancakes that have been made on one day is 920! And if you are really keen to break try smashing these – the most amount of pancakes eaten in one sitting. For men, the record stands at 13, while women are at nine. Adrian managed four and I had three and that was us done – they are filling bundles of joy!
Toppings for your giant pancake are almost endless – butter and maple syrup, caramel, strawberry or chocolate sauce, or lemon juice and sugar! Just don’t do what I did and take the lid off the lemon juice. The team at BIG4 have already worked out a better way to extract just the perfect amount of the acidic pancake delight by putting holes in the lid. All you need to do is shake the desired amount on – just like you would with a salt and pepper shaker!
Remember to bring your plates, cutlery, and coffee cup (there’s cordial for the kids). If it’s super busy a chair is also a great idea.
As we munched on our pancakes we chatted with fellow guests – some new faces, others friendly from our time exploring. We swapped travel stories after we last met and shared our plans for our next adventures. It was a great atmosphere, but the communal breakfast in the large and well-equipped camp kitchen makes it easy to strike up a conversation.
We stayed on a large grassed powered site and it was big enough to accommodate the Prado and Harry Hawk together. Amenities are very well maintained, staff are super friendly, and the grounds are well kept. Although, grounds-people decided to trim back an overgrown tree right next to our van while Red was sleeping…. Suffice to say he woke up a little earlier than we would have liked – but the noise could have easily been something from a neighbour, so we weren’t too upset.
It was a great stay and we will be back… those Sunday morning pancakes are just too good to refuse! D-Man will be very pleased too – he keeps telling everyone we meet who says they are bound for Alice Springs to stay here. And… so, it seems, am I!