Frankie J Holden and Michelle Pettigrove have been familiar faces on our TV screens for decades, playing memorable roles in some of the most popular dramas and soapies.
Shows like A Country Practice, Home and Away, Something in the Air and A Place to Call Home have all featured either one or both actors in their closing credits.
For the past five years they’ve combined their talents to co-host what is now Australia’s only national caravanning, camping and travel TV show, What’s Up Downunder.
We recently caught up with them to find out what drives their passion for camping.
Where did you go for camping holidays when you were young?
Frankie J: My childhood was spent in Darwin, and some of my earliest and fondest memories revolve around camping. The family would often journey south from Darwin to Howard Springs, Berry Springs, even further to Daley Waters or the Daley River and camp out in the open bush. It must have been pretty rugged and primitive, but my memories paint an idyllic picture. I don’t remember the flies, or the dangers like crocodiles, just the fun, the freedom and sense of being one with the bush.
Michelle: So many of my strongest memories of growing up are against the backdrop of The Holiday Hub at Pambula Beach on the Sapphire Coast of NSW – our annual Christmas pilgrimage destination. If my parents are to be believed, I was conceived on a camping trip. Of course I don’t remember that, but I do remember camping with Mum, Dad and my two sisters for the next seventeen summers.
Did you stay in a caravan or a tent?
Frankie J: Tents – very rudimentary!
Michelle: Our real life address changed regularly, but our holiday address, on the other hand, was always the same. We started out in a big Marachel tent and a little A-frame, then when I was about 15 Mum and Dad bought a pop-top Viscount and my sisters and I filled the annex with wet towels and surfboards.
What are some of your favourite places to camp and why?
Frankie J: Some of my favourites places are Edith Falls, just north of Katherine, stupendous just after the wet; El Questro really lives up to its reputation; Litchfield Park is still awesome despite its easy accessibility from Darwin; the Karajini National Park in The Pilbara region is an adventure lovers paradise; Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland, and Cape Leveque, north of Broome. These are just some of the “must sees” for your readers, and the “must returns” for me and my family.
Michelle: Bush, beach, river, outback… anywhere far from the traffic and crowds and schedules of the “real world”.
Tell us about some of your favourite camping memories.
Michelle: Six weeks of holidays felt like they lasted forever and the memories still make me smile. Trips out to the river to collect tadpoles and dive off rocks into the cool river water, picnics to deserted beaches along the south coast, fishing trips in my Dad’s homemade boat, pumping for nippers in the lake, swinging off ropes into Saltwater Creek… Nothing makes me happier than the sound of the breeze flapping the tent canvas as I lie on my little camp bed at the end of a day full of nature.
Frankie J: During our time hosting What’s Up Downunder we’ve been fortunate to travel around Australia and experience the wonderful facilities now available to campers, particularly families, in holiday parks. We’ve been so impressed we’ve put our money where our mouths are and are now partners in the Tathra Beach Family Park.
Any not so enjoyable camping memories or experience?
Michelle: Frank and I are both hard-pressed recalling any ‘bad’ memories of camping. Even the weather challenged, financially restricted and over-crowded camping holidays are filled with moments we still laugh at and hold fondly in our cherished camping memories!
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