Unique Holiday Retreat

The Evolution of The Clog Barn: From Caravan Park to Premier Tourist Attraction

In October 1983, Tom, a successful businessman from Muswellbrook, was contemplating retirement at the age of 51. Seeking a peaceful yet sustainable lifestyle, he purchased a rundown caravan park in the then-small country town of Coffs Harbour. His initial plan was simple: the caravan park would provide steady income to cover his living expenses.

However, Tom soon realized that he was too young and energetic to settle into a quiet retirement. During a trip to Canberra, he visited Cockington Green, a miniature village that captured his imagination. Inspired by this charming attraction, Tom envisioned creating a similar Dutch-themed miniature village as part of his caravan park, transforming it into a unique tourist destination.

To bring this vision to life, Tom enlisted the help of his 21-year-old son, John, who was contemplating a move to Queensland at the time. Invited by Tom to join him in Coffs Harbour, John decided to support his father’s ambitious project. Together, they started by building a workshop, which would be the birthplace of Tom’s miniature village dream.

Although Tom was a Dutch immigrant, he felt it was essential to capture the authenticity of Dutch architecture. He took a trip to Europe to photograph various buildings to replicate them faithfully in miniature form. Upon returning, Tom taught himself the intricate skills needed to create these miniature structures. Initially, he used Western Red Cedar, which was showcased in the main office. However, as the number of replicas grew, it became clear that the main office could no longer appropriately display them. This led to the idea of creating an outdoor miniature village, providing greater space for a comfortable viewing experience. Unfortunately, the Western Red Cedar replicas did not withstand Coffs Harbour’s rainy climate well. Consequently, Tom had to learn how to remake all his replicas from fiberglass, which proved to be more durable.

In November 1984, Tom added another unique element to the park by purchasing clog-making equipment from Raymond de Smit in Cooma. This addition brought an authentic Dutch craft to the park, further enhancing its cultural appeal.

Over the next six months, Tom and John constructed the main building, which now serves as the front office and a charming souvenir shop. Construction of the miniature Dutch village began in April 1985 on what were previously camping sites. By October 1985, the village was complete, featuring meticulously crafted replicas of Dutch buildings. In June 1987, landscaping efforts began to ensure the miniature village was ready to enchant visitors by Christmas.

As the village took shape, Tom and John recognized the need for additional amenities to enhance the visitor experience. In early 1988, they built a cozy coffee shop, which quickly became a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, famed for its pancakes and dutch quisine. The success of the coffee shop led to its expansion in 1992, adding a new kitchen and toilet block to accommodate the growing number of guests. In 2002, they extended the coffee shop again, creating a larger external deck to offer an alfresco dining experience, taking advantage of the quieter surroundings nestled in bushland that hovered over a creek.

Today, The Clog Barn is a beloved tourist attraction and a vibrant testament to Tom and John’s vision and hard work. Visitors from near and far come to explore the enchanting miniature Dutch village, enjoy the delicious offerings at Big Oma’s Coffee House, and shop for unique Dutch souvenirs. The Clog Barn has evolved from a simple caravan park into a multifaceted destination, blending cultural heritage with warm hospitality.

From its humble beginnings to its current status as a premier tourist spot, The Clog Barn’s story is one of creativity, dedication, and transformation. It stands as a unique piece of Dutch culture in the heart of Coffs Harbour, inviting visitors to experience a little slice of the Netherlands down under.

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