Glamp­ing on Slip­per Is­land

Though easy to ac­cess, the is­land’s nat­u­ral charms of­fer com­plete respite from the pace and prob­lems of daily life, writes Britt Mann.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

The place

Si­t­u­ated within half an hour’s drive of some of New Zealand’s most iconic beaches, Slip­per Is­land holds its own as one of the Coro­man­del’s most beau­ti­ful spots.

The set­ting

Slip­per Is­land (Whaka­hau) lies about 3 kilo­me­tres from the Coro­man­del Penin­sula’s east coast, ac­cessed by a 15-minute boat ride from mari­nas at Tairua and Pauanui. Slip­per Is­land is one of New Zealand’s few pri­vately owned is­lands.

Its nat­u­ral har­bour has a halo of glit­ter­ing pink sand and turquoise wa­ters so clear snorkels are su­per­flu­ous in the shal­lows. The week­end we vis­ited, a manta ray was flap­ping its wings above the wa­ter. We were told that the in­cred­i­ble black and white sea crea­ture would have eaten bait out of our hands, should we have felt so in­clined to tempt it.

Slip­per Is­land is easy to cir­cum­nav­i­gate by boat or kayak there’s a ‘‘mer­maid pool’’ half­way around where rock for­ma­tions and tides cre­ate a nat­u­ral spa to lan­guish in. The vol­canic cliffs in Crater Bay at the is­land’s north­ern end are a mes­meris­ing ge­o­log­i­cal fea­ture. In the wa­ter, huge jel­ly­fish - pink, pur­ple and frilly - float idly by.

The space

The Slip­per Is­land Re­sort en­com­passes the ma­jor­ity of its 224ha. Vis­i­tors can stay at the lodge, chalets or glamp­ing tents, or at the good old-fash­ioned camp­ground at South Bay. The op­er­a­tion is man­aged by Brian and Fiona Brak­en­ridge, a Kiwi-Cana­dian cou­ple whose warmth and hos­pi­tal­ity will leave a last­ing im­pres­sion.

The kit

Glamp­ing is the best way to ex­pe­ri­ence is­land life. Two lux­ury tents are sta­tioned on a grassy slope fac­ing the ocean, fea­tur­ing wooden floors, a plush queen-size bed, fold-out sofa and writ­ing desk, as well as a shower and flush­ing toi­let. The decor’s nat­u­ral pal­lette off­sets the daz­zle of blue and green vis­i­ble through the tent flaps.

There’s rain­wa­ter to drink and freshen up with, and so­lar power to charge your elec­tron­ics. Out­side on the deck, there’s a ta­ble on the deck out­side to en­joy drinks and a plat­ter as the sun goes down. At night, you can stargaze while snug­gled in bed. You’ll awake to the peace­ful sounds of bleat­ing sheep and chirp­ing birds.

Com­fort fac­tor

To glamp is to ex­pe­ri­ence a novel para­dox - op­u­lent lux­ury in the midst of na­ture. After the ini­tial oohing and ah­hing at the beau­ti­ful space and sur­rounds (the beach is a lit­eral stone’s throw from the bed), we soon felt right at home. The bed was cosy and we slept all the bet­ter for the cool sea breeze fil­ter­ing through. Take proper py­ja­mas and a jersey for the evenings, which can be chilly. A rain­coat or um­brella also wouldn’t go amiss.

The lodge’s cook­ing and re­frig­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties, as well as ar­ray of crock­ery and cut­lery mean glam­pers want for noth­ing. On Slip­per Is­land, you can rough it as much or as lit­tle as you like.

Food

It’s a self-cater­ing ar­range­ment: guests bring all their own food and bev­er­ages (aside from drink­ing wa­ter) in chilly­bins, but have ac­cess to the lodge’s full kitchen and spa­cious din­ing area. There’s also a shel­tered bar­be­cue area should you wish to cook and dine al fresco. We stocked up on booze from Gold­dig­gers Liquor in Tairua, which boasts an im­pres­sive ar­ray of wine, spir­its and beer in­clud­ing lo­cal of­fer­ings from the Coro­man­del Brew­ing Com­pany (we were par­tic­u­larly en­am­oured by the Cloud 9 - a honey rye beer brewed from lo­cal manuka honey). There’s also a Four Square su­per­mar­ket, health food shop, butcher and bak­ery in the town. Put a bit of thought into your meal plan­ning, and err on the side of over-cater­ing.

While you are there

Ex­plore the is­land’s var­i­ous walk­ing tracks - you’ll spy sheep and cat­tle on your wan­der­ings (the is­land is a work­ing sheep and beef farm), as well as a smat­ter­ing of skit­tish al­pacas. You’ll also spot dot­terels and pukeko peck­ing around the wet­lands Brian and Fiona are seek­ing to re­store Brian’s dream is to lure enough birdlife back to the is­land to hear a dawn cho­rus.

There’s a light­house on the is­land’s eastern most point. It’s a mod­est struc­ture - it’s the view that makes the trip worth­while.

The Al­der­man and Mayor Is­lands can be spot­ted in the dis­tance (and of­fer div­ing ex­pe­ri­ences on a par with North­land’s Poor Knights, should you wish to ven­ture out).

What­ever the is­land’s other at­trac­tions, it’s likely you’ll spend much of your time on the sher­bet-like sand, so fine it feels al­most like suede un­der­foot. Find a shady spot at the beach’s far end, ex­plore the rock pools, and watch gan­nets plunge into the wa­ter in search of a snack. Kayak­ing, snorkelling and div­ing might yield some kaimoana (paua and kina) for din­ner. Brian and Fiona can also help you ar­range fish­ing char­ters with lo­cal op­er­a­tors.

Worth step­ping out for

The Old Mill Cafe, across the road from Tairua ma­rina, is the per­fect place for a cof­fee and a treat be­fore set­ting off to Slip­per Is­land (equally, upon your re­turn to civil­i­sa­tion). They make a mean lemon curd cheese­cake.

Speak­ing of which, The Cheese Barn at Mata­toki serves fan­tas­ti­cally priced plat­ters of its finest fro­mage. Stop in for a driver re­viver on your way to the Coro­man­del, and stock up on cheese and pre­serves for your Slip­per Is­land stay.

The Coro­man­del’s other trea­sures, such as Hot Wa­ter Beach and Cathe­dral Cove, are less than 30 min­utes’ drive from Tairua. Visit The Pour House in Ha­hei to im­bibe Coro­man­del Brew­ing Com­pany’s brews at the source.

The ver­dict

Our long week­end at Slip­per Is­land was truly one to re­mem­ber - there’s an en­dur­ing de­sire to re­turn one day. I’m not sure I’ve en­coun­tered a more beau­ti­ful spot in New Zealand.

Get­ting there

Tairua and Pauanui are about two hours’ drive from Auck­land. Brian can col­lect vis­i­tors from ei­ther ma­rina, where vis­i­tors can leave their cars free of charge.

You can li­aise with Brian and Fiona after book­ing on­line to ar­range a pick up time. Those with their own boats can make their own way to the is­land, weather-de­pen­dent.

He­li­copter trans­fers can also be ar­ranged.

Es­sen­tials

The nightly rate per tent is $350 for two adults. Up to two chil­dren aged un­der 16 can stay on the sofa bed for no ad­di­tional charge, or one ad­di­tional adult can stay for an ex­tra $25 per night. The re­sort’s wa­ter taxi ser­vice costs $150 per tent, for a re­turn trip. Visit canopy­camp­ing.co.nz.

The writer trav­elled cour­tesy of Canopy Camp­ing.

SE­CRET AGENT PRO­DUC­TIONS/SUP­PLIED

Slip­per Is­land’s coast­line is a con­fec­tion of pink, green and blue.

PRO­DUC­TIONS/SUP­PLIED

The is­land is easy to cir­cum­nav­i­gate by kayak.

The light­house at Slip­per Is­land

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