At Jervis Bay, Helen Pitt discovers she is one happy glamper.
Paperbark Camp is nestled in a grove of eucalypts on the banks of Currambene Creek, which leads into Jervis Bay at Huskisson. It is a series of luxurious African-style safari tents, with some major benefits you don't get when you go "regular" camping. First the tent is erected for you, and on elevated, solar-powered wooden platforms which stretch into a wrap-around verandah from which you can sit in comfort and commune with the kangaroos.
The tents are scattered throughout the bush, but the centrepiece of this ecotourism offering is the stunning Gunyah restaurant, which offers exquisite gourmet meals from breakfast to dinner. This architecturally designed centrepiece is airy and light-filled. You can get a great view from the verandah or swing from the trampoline-style hammocks underneath. Then again you may just want to lounge from your tent balcony's daybed or luxuriate in your own bush bath.
Forget the fitful sleep that is the stuff of normal camping, this is cushy camping on queen-size beds, with crisp white linen and fluffy white robes. The tasteful tents are made from sturdy canvas. Instead of a bush dunny, there's an open-air en suite bathroom, where you can bathe by candlelight looking out onto the paperbarks. Or shower with the scent of eucalyptus wafting in from outside.
From the cheese plate that is handed to you on your arrival, to the thermos discretely delivered morning and night to your balcony; your comfort is the priority of Paperbark staff. Don't forget to ask for a hot water bottle if the weather is a little chilly and it will be delivered by torchlight. Do heed the staff warnings of not leaving food in the tent, otherwise you risk waking, like we did, to a possum scraping its claws on the cheeseboard, to get the remnant of the blue vein from the woodgrain.
The on-site bush garden is a clue to the freshness of the produce. From morning's mouth watering muesli, to the tasting menu dinner, which includes delicate rare roo and ends with eucalyptus icecream, the food is sophisticated bush tucker. There are in-tent tea and coffee making facilities, but my advice is head to the Gunyah restaurant for a flat white rather than your own billy tea (try the bite sized cookies and brownies.) Everything is delicious and baked on site.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
Nothing much other than a bike ride to Huskisson, on the Paperbark Camp bikes. Why bother leaving this oasis of luxury, when the resort provides canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and a nearby creek, the perfect waterhole to cool off and play in. After dinner there's a lovely bonfire where guests can gather to sip fine wine, or discuss the delights of the day.
Paperbark Camp pioneered the idea of glamping (luxury camping) over 15 years ago, when owners Irena and Jeremy Hutchings went on safari to Africa. They were happy campers, but hated the effort of it all, and so brought back the idea for luxury bush camping, as well as some solid canvas tents from Africa. And so the Paperbark story was born. It's as appealing as it was all those years ago. As with regular camping, a weekend in the bush here will feel like it's much longer than two days (only trouble will be returning home which could be a step down from your luxury tent).
HOW TO GET THERE
Paperbark Camp is two hours drive south of Sydney. Head towards Wollongong , then follow the Princes Highway south past Nowra. After 13km, turn left into Jervis Bay Rd. After 2km you will see a sign for Woollamia, turn left into Woollamia Rd and continue a further 6km. When you see Goodland Rd on your left, the entrance to Paperbark Camp is around the bend on your left.
A two-night package including full dinner both nights, breakfasts both mornings plus the use of canoes, kayaks and bikes runs from $1010/ double (original safari tents), $1260/ double (deluxe safari tents) to $1420/ double (king deluxe safari tents.)
Phone: 1300 668 167
The writer was a guest of Paperbark Camp.