Paperbark Camp, Jervis Bay: Australia's first glamping retreat turns 20

Are you really camping if you sleep in a bed this comfortable?

The fact that we have the time to ponder one of life's big questions while we recline on plump pillows and snug bedclothes as the morning sun streams into our "tent", helps answer this conundrum. It's a yes.

For although we have only been in our campsite near Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast for a day, we have already switched off in a way that only seems to happen on camping holidays.

And that's the beauty of Paperbark Camp, Australia's first "glamping" retreat. Yes, the pioneering owners of this camp, which is celebrating its 20th birthday, do know how to win over the less outdoorsy by upping the ease with which they can commune with nature. But they have also kept the essence of what makes camping so relaxing. Our wood and canvas "tent" is undeniably more luxurious than any we've slept in before, but it still offers these essential drawcards: peace and quiet, a naturally stunning setting, wildlife, outdoor living inside, the chance to unplug, and little opportunity to do anything but fun stuff.

So what does glamping look like?

We reach our secluded and elevated canvas tent via a private wooden walkway flanked by bushland, home to roos, echidnas, possums and many birds, including the azure kingfisher. Our footsteps and shrieking cockatoos are the only sounds as we take in a double canvas roof and a wraparound verandah – the perfect spot to enjoy the fresh air and celebrate being away from gadgets, supermarkets, cars, noise and stuff. The main room is dominated by a king bed and luxury linen. There are no power plugs (you can power up your devices if you must in communal ports nearby at Gunyah restaurant) but there's a 12V solar lamp and bedside reading lamps. An outdoor/indoor en suite means you can have a star-spangled bath if you so desire.

The canvas sides of the tent are screened and you can close the flaps if it's too cold, or you're spooked by things that go bump in the night, like possums. We are snug, even though it's late May, but there's a resident hot water bottle that can be filled at the restaurant. There's tea and coffee but no kettle: instead a hot Thermos is discreetly deposited on the deck at night and in the morning. As we laze and gaze into the bush we imagine what it would be like if it was teeming with rain and decide it could only be even more snug.

Paperbark prides itself on its eco-friendly credentials and so there are no fences to disrupt wildlife corridors, water is provided in glass bottles, there's a paper bag lining the bin, and the camp's own toiletry range is offered in large refillable bottles.

Because the Gunyah restaurant is nearby, there's no need to cook, so you can ditch the camping stoves, gas bottles, night lights, cooking utensils and Eskys, meaning it's much easier to make a quick getaway for a weekend, and there's no depressing unloading of greasy frypans at the end of your break. Besides, once you get a whiff of what's on offer at this lauded restaurant among the tree-tops you will become a fixture.

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Breakfasts are a feast. Home-made granola, stewed fruits or cooked offerings can ward off hunger pangs for hours. Our dinner included miso flamed kingfish with sweet potato dressing, and strudel with cinnamon bark scented apples and pears with anglaise. A fireplace with lounges dominates the light and air-filled restaurant and it's the perfect place to get away from it all when you are recharging your batteries – or your phone's. Afternoon teas include home-baked goods and we also sample champagne and canapes around a campfire at dusk.

Picnic lunches are packed on request and there are plenty of spots to scoff in peace. We walk past a resident frog breeding pond to Currambene Creek which runs through the camp site. Here, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are available to use on the wide and fast-flowing waterway which leads into Jervis Bay at Huskisson. Or if you're feeling even more energetic, there are bikes for a foray into Husky. There are hammocks to laze in, and regular nightly bonfires, weather permitting.

We prefer to soak up camp life by staring at the trees, listening to kookaburras and cockies, spotting kangaroos and doing as little as possible for as long as we can.

But that's sort of the point.

Trip Notes

Jane Richards was a guest of Paperbark Camp.

MORE

Traveller.com.au/jervis-bay

Paperbarkcamp.com.au

DRIVE

Paperbark Camp is two and a half hours' south of Sydney and a five-minute drive from the blue waters of Jervis Bay.

STAY

Paperbark's Winter Woolly deal, from June 1 to August 31 this year, offers a 30 per cent saving on two nights' accommodation in a luxurious glamping tent. From $819 per couple, including dinner and breakfast in the camp's Gunyah Restaurant. Children aged six to 12 can share the tent for $35 per child per night – a saving of 50 per cent – and can also dine at half price. See Paperbarkcamp.com.au or call 02 44416066.

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