When Tony Mayne purchased the Lagoon View Caravan Park in 1999, he could see its potential to be transformed into a holiday park guests would remember. Over almost two decades, Tony has invested more than $10 million into the South West Rocks park -rebranding it to create the BIG4 Sunshine Resort, an innovative and award-winning destination that enjoys immense popularity.
Growing up in Sydney, a 15-year-old Tony was introduced to the little village of South West Rocks during a family holiday. The white sands of Trial Bay and memories of running to the corner store for ice-cream never left his mind. Despite having a successful career as a builder and property developer in Sydney, Tony and his then partner were ready for a sea change.
After travelling Australia and experiencing a range of holiday park accommodation (most of it, according to Tony, full of untapped potential) the couple, who now had their first child, found the Lagoon View.
“When we bought this park, we thought it was a lifestyle choice and that we’d be walking along the beach holding hands and having a nice time with the kids,” Tony laughs. “The reality turned out to be different. We had to fix and redesign virtually everything.”
With the basics finally taken care of, Tony began to dream up the next ambitious phase of the park’s reinvention. In 2014, he oversaw the construction of Shipwreck Island, a pirate-themed water-park complete with a tall ship, waterslides and a huge tipping bucket. Shipwreck Island continues to be a hit with kids and parents.
“We wanted Shipwreck island to be as authentic as possible,” he says. “The centerpiece is a ship that is actually a real trawler rescued from the Macleay River and re-engineered as a pirate ship. I’m really proud of it.”
A self-confessed ‘frustrated architect’, Tony has a passion for design. After progressively designing and overseeing the construction of 36 on-site villas and several glamping tents, he launched his most ambitious project yet in 2017, the $1.6 million luxury Ngurra Lodges.
“The lodges have been designed to blend in perfectly with the landscape,” Tony says. “‘Ngurra’ means ‘place of home’ in the local Dunghutti Aboriginal language, and that’s how we want our guests to feel when they stay here. The idea for using this indigenous word was born out of our relationship with one of our residents, Lizzie, a very special person within the Sunshine family.”
Lizzy, a Ngaku Elder of the local Dunghutti tribe, also regularly shares her inspiring stories of growing up in South West Rocks during organised storytelling sessions once a month.
“I feel like it’s so important for guests to at least try to understand the relationship traditional indigenous people have with the land,” Tony says.
It’s evident that Tony is deeply invested in the ‘why’ of his business, which revolves around the family-values he prioritises in his own life (his two daughters are his primary market researchers).
“Kids just want simple, quality time with their parents, so we try to provide a natural environment that facilitates opportunities for togetherness,” he says. “As parents become increasingly time poor, our aim is also to provide a fun-filled atmosphere for families to reconnect and create memories that they will cherish for years to come.”
The park’s mantra of “putting sunshine in people’s lives and changing them for the better” is reflected in every facet of the BIG4 Sunshine Resort – from the presentation of the cabins to the shows the staff put on just for the kids.
“We carefully consider everything from pre-arrival communication to providing well presented, quality accommodation,” Tony says. “Business without purpose is pointless. I believe in acting with a servant’s heart – if you’re not doing it with heart, people can tell.”
With a ‘sky’s the limit’ mentality and a bundle of energy to match, Tony is excited about the future of the BIG4 Sunshine, and the town of South West Rocks. From treehouses to high-rises that blend into the landscape, there’s no shortage of ideas on his ever-expanding list of plans for the popular resort, which, he understands, contributes to the visibility of South West Rocks as a great place for families to holiday.
“South West Rocks has been touted as Byron Bay 30 years ago,” he says. “No one wants to see it overrun with tourists like Byron, but it is begging for more development and remains largely undiscovered. Given the right investment and the right vision, I see an enormous amount of potential and feel very enthusiastic about where the Macleay Valley region is heading.”