Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Dr Lelia Green


Largely ignored over the years as a group worthy of serious academic research, grey nomads have recently become a topic of interest, in part due to Australia’s ageing population and resultant increases in the number of retirees with the time available to tour Australia and its regions in this manner. Tourism bodies now view grey nomads as an important market niche and caravan and motorhome manufacturers foresee ongoing growth in their industry. This thesis investigates how grey nomads make sense of their peripatetic lifestyle. It uses an ethnographic approach to uncover how the grey nomad lifestyle is defined by respondents themselves. Through analysis of field interviews, as well as field observations, the meanings and perspectives made by grey nomads are revealed and contextualised.

Drive tourism has been a feature of Australia’s domestic travel industry for many decades and the drive industry is nowadays driven by grey nomads. Grey nomads are defined in this thesis as retirees who tour Australia in caravans, motorhomes and sometimes tents. They have been a part of prevailing Australian culture for at least four decades. A highly visible group, these retirees tow their caravans behind their large four wheel drives, or drive their motorhomes, along the city roads and regional highways of Australia. Many form part of a seasonal migration route travelling north at the beginning of winter and returning south with the onset of spring. Others do not return home, however. They are the fulltimers who tour for years at a time.

The themes and issues which emerged from this qualitative research process are varied. Grey nomads are a large, heterogeneous cohort of retirees who are little different from many other retired Australians in that they engage in the routines of quotidian life—domestic tasks and everyday relationships—even while touring. They also have similar health outcomes to other Australian retirees but are seemingly resilient, adapting to the ongoing frailties of their ageing bodies in order to carry on touring for as long as possible. Grey nomads have a desire to articulate territory through travel and, consequently, many of them hold a sense of stewardship over the landscape, and are sometimes censorious of those tourists who transgress (what some grey nomads conceive to be) environmentally sound touring practices.

This thesis also addresses changing discourses about grey nomads and how these reflect a change in the discursive context in which ageing—in general—is discussed. In addition to this the research considers the future of the grey nomad lifestyle which, despite the predicted influx of grey nomads into regional Australia in the near future, and the ongoing economic boost this will give these regions, is under threat due to the declining number of caravan parks and caravan sites within Australia.

LCSH Subject Headings

Tourism – Australia

Older people -- Travel – Australia

Older people -- Recreation – Australia

Older people -- Australia -- Attitudes

Edith Cowan University. Faculty of Education and Arts -- Dissertations


Edith Cowan University. Faculty of Education and Arts -- Dissertations



Paper Location