This camp has all the hotel-style comforts covered
Life experience suggests there are two types of people: inveterate campers, and others. Once, on a visit to the red centre, my tent collapsed in the middle of a mild dust storm, to general derision. For me and camping, that was a deal-breaker. So the idea of glamping – outsourcing the grunt by staying in a luxury tent pitched by someone else and dining at a quality restaurant – is a powerful draw.
And so to Paperbark Camp, hidden away in 40ha of eucalypt and paperbark trees flanking Currambene Creek, which feeds into Jervis Bay on the NSW south coast. It’s a bike ride (or kayak) from the quaint tourist drawcard of Huskisson, brimming with homewares, bric-abrac, cafes and the Huski Pub.
A long narrow gravel road leads through a tangle of trees to reception, housed in an elevated treehouse-style timber building along with the restaurant. A buggy will carry your luggage down the path to your tent, if you want to outsource that exertion. Each of the 12 tents feels enveloped by the bush, but in reality they are not that far away from the restaurant.
Staying at the camp answered a question I didn’t know I was asking: how could I be close to nature without sacrificing comfort, undertaking a forced march (looking at you, hiking) or messing with poles, pegs, guy ropes, synthetics or canvas? Lounging on a day bed in the sun after a shower under the trees, bird calls and the gentle flapping of canvas in my ears and a glass of cold champagne in my hand, I had my answer.
The King Deluxe safari-style tent – a raised, fixed structure of timber and canvas – can sleep up to six guests; with space enough to host a revivalist meeting, it includes a large
deck with daybed. The bathroom has a free-standing bath, twin vanities and chic toiletries; through a sliding door is an open-air loo with privacy screens. On the other side of the tent, a highlight of the glamp: an outdoor shower underneath the gum trees, which is up there with the best of nature’s caffeine. Glorious.
The tents come with hotel-style comforts such as hot and cold water, nice bedding, towels, slippers and robes but are devoid of televisions, air-con, bar fridges or heating (the camp is closed mid-winter, and hot water bottles are available on chilly nights). Lamps are solar-powered, there are plenty of candles, and if you need to recharge your device, the main lodge has a bank of tastefully screened power points.
Another highlight is the Gunyah restaurant, with its friendly service, full bar and delicious dishes including pan-fried local kingfish with steamed mussels, fennel slaw and olive tapenade. A central fire with couches and a selection of board games creates a welcoming and relaxing space. Underneath the restaurant is another area perfect for whiling away your time, with a large hanging day bed and an open air campfire, sadly unlit on our trip due to fire restrictions. There’s also a giant wooden swing from which couples can gaze out over the river before, say, reviving themselves by paddling a canoe in the creek. Canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and bikes are available for guests to use at will.
The need for activity overcame our indolence on two occasions and the trip up the creek was fantastic, the splashes from my inexperienced canoe mate’s oar fresh and bracing. For bushwalking types, the area is rife with tracks and white-sand beaches, and the staff are knowledgeable and happy to make recommendations.
On this spring weekend, most of our fellow glampers – ranging from their early 20s to retirees, from fleece-wearing hikers to those who look more at home on the day bed – appeared to be on a romantic getaway; the solo traveller may feel conspicuous. A family taste of the bush is possible, but only for children aged six and over.
The wild things you want while glamping are, after all, the nonhuman kind. At Paperbark Camp, curious possums might sit outside the window watching you have dinner, and odds-on you’ll encounter kangaroos. Some impressionable guests report seeing koalas, but the area is not known for them. Birds are plentiful – crimson rosellas, black cockatoos, king parrots, kookaburras and, if you luck is in, the elusive azure kingfisher.
With the birds singing as you drift off to sleep, and a thermos delivered early the next morning for fresh-outof-bed cuppa, it seems all creature comforts are present and correct. Must do: Wander, explore, relax.
Dining: Look no further than Gunyah restaurant. Picnic lunches by prior arrangement; small bar menu from 2pm.
Getting there: Paperbark Camp is 190km or two hours’ drive south of Sydney. Transfers from Sydney Airport or Nowra Bomaderry train station available.
Bottom line: From $395 per night for an Original Safari Tent; from $620 for King Deluxe Tent. Breakfast included; dinner and massage packages available. Minimum two-night stay for bookings including a Friday or Saturday.
Safari: campfire; day bed; kayak; black cockatoo