Summer’s on its way and you’re in the mood for and adventure. Does the idea of regular camping leave you cold? Check out the luxury trend that’s putting style back into outdoor living.
Like the girl with the curl, when camping goes bad, it can be truly horrid. Is camping synonymous in your mind with itchy bites, bad coffee, and milk that’s gone a bit whiffy? Or jostling with the masses in a packed campsite? Hardly the setting to deliver much-needed rejuvenation. The term ‘glamping’, or glamourous camping, has of late become a bit of a buzzword, used to describe everything from luxury mobile homes to camping grounds with flash facilities through to guided tramping, kayaking or fly-fishing trips with helicopter rides and gourmet meals.
The essence of glamping is in escaping the madding crowds and satisfying a craving for the outdoors – without depriving yourself of creature comforts. It’s about slowing down and enjoying simple pleasures – the rustle of canvas and the hoot of a morepork in the night – as well as great meals, time with special people, and just as importantly, decent linen and a comfy place to sleep.
With a bit of effort you can inject a little old-world safari style into your next outdoor expedition – turn overleaf for tips. Or for something new, book yourself into one of the alternative accommodation options popping up around the country, such as yurts in Ohakune, Sioux-style tipis at Pyes Pa in Tauranga or a luxury covered wagon in Canterbury.
For an authentically local glamping experience, book in to Wainamu Luxury Tents at West Auckland’s Bethells Beach, featured here. There are several private campsites to choose from, set among farmland or bush-clad hills. Sheltered behind dramatic dunes and with a freshwater lake, bush walks, cascade waterfall and the Hillary Trail all nearby, it’s the perfect hideaway location.
This luxury tent was inspired by the canvas tents of Botswana safaris, as well as Maori marae and whare, and designed by Jim Wheeler of the Wainamu farm. “The tent’s uniquely New Zealand in style, with a pitched roof and overhanging eaves to suit local conditions,” says Jim. Its drapey white inner lining certainly gives it a peaceful and romantic feel – well suited to the tranquil, private setting. “Maybe you’re wanting some romance as a couple or you’ve been through a rough patch and need some healing time. In our busy lives we all benefit from time spent in nature,” Jim says, “re-discovering simple things – the darkening hills, the stars above, conversations around a fire, memories from childhood camping.”
1 Head off the grid. Selecting a top spot takes careful consideration. At journey’s end, you probably don’t want to find a packed campsite where car stereos are cranked, the kids in the tent next door are squabbling, and a visit to the ablution block means running the gauntlet of teenage girls charging their mobiles and hair straighteners.
2 Go bush or beach. Colour psychology studies show that a blue-green outlook is calming and restorative, so select a rural or bush location that’s close to a river, lake or beach. The Department of Conservation manages more than 250 vehicle-accessible campsites on conservation land – book through www.doc.govt.nz.
3 Explore your options. Do you know a friendly orchardist, winemaker or farmer with a paddock to spare? Check out the free mobile app Campermate for handy information on nearby campgrounds, toilets and other amenities for freedom campers.
4 Camping with kids? Holiday with another family with similarly aged children for ready entertainment. Institute shared kids’ dinners and bedtime, allowing time at day’s end for for adult conviviality and stargazing.
5 Travel in style. Cruising along in something fun, listening to good music and enjoying regular breaks all help make the journey as enjoyable as arriving at your destination – and what better to travel in than a fabulous retro camper or Kombi van such as those available from Auckland-based Classic Campers.
6 Give yourself space. If taking your own car, borrow a roof pod or hook up a trailer to prevent overstuffing. Glampers are not to be found wedged in with suitcases and sleeping bags, a chilly bin in the middle seat and a guitar atop the lot.
7 Pack a thermos. Throw in a blanket and some tasty snacks for roadside stops. Once you arrive, you’ll be staying put, so enjoy the trip.
8 It’s the journey as well as the destination. Your glamping holiday starts the minute you leave home. Choose the scenic route, take your time and stop at small-town op shops and remote fresh fruit stalls along the way. Make sure the iPod is charged and try out a new genre of music.
9 Think big. A ‘one-man’ tent space is about half a glamper’s space. Take a family-sized tent.
10 Don’t skimp on bedding. Too often, camping involves tossing and turning on a thin mattress or squeaky stretcher – and waking far, far too early. High-end establishments pull out all the stops when it comes to bedding – after all, lolling around is a major component of the glamping holiday. So why rough it when you don’t have to? A self-inflating airbed is a good place to start – check it hasn’t sprung a leak since it was last used. Stay warm with a featherdown sleeping bag or with duvets, linen and pillows from home.
11 Get netted. A mosquito net hanging from the top of the tent not only adds romance, but will save you from waking up with mozzie bites.
12 Go a little crazy. Create a your own dreamy outdoor pavilion worthy of an Out of Africa safari by stringing a rope between trees, draping canvas or fabric over it and securing with stones or pegs. Lay a tarpaulin down on the ground covered with sheepskins or other rugs, and add a scattering of day mattresses or beanbags for ultimate lounging comfort.
13 Dine in style. In our everyday lives, we eat to live – and often in a hurry. While glamping, we live to eat. Dining under the stars, even the simplest combinations – baked kumara and butter or freshly steamed mussels dipped in balsamic vinegar – taste like a gastronomic feast of heavenly proportions.
14 Gear up. Think beyond the basic camper’s gas hob. A portable gas cooker with a spacious pull-down lid can double as an oven for a wider variety of culinary creations. Or take a tripod barbecue to indulge your inner child by roasting marshmallows to charred perfection on long sticks.
15 Add fire. If you have access to a fire pit or open campfire, bake fresh bread using a Dutch oven. What’s more perfect on a summer’s afternoon than steaming bread with a scraping of butter and a drizzle of artisan honey? Perhaps only a cold cider from the chilly bin.
16 Pack luxury rations. Crackers, fruit cake in a tin, cheeses, dried fruit, nuts and Fairtrade chocolate all make for tasty snacking. Add some local olive oil, wine, a stash of smoked fish or small goods and together with fresh fruit and veggies from side-of-road stalls, you’ll be set for days of happy snacking.
17 Maintain standards. Ignore the mockery! A teapot and a plunger or stove-top coffee maker for decent coffee are essential items – as are wine glasses, silverware, and possibly even a jar to arrange wild flowers in.
18 While away the time. Pack the cricket set, swing ball and at least one seriously good board game, plus a gas lantern and cards for late-night Five Hundred battles. If your holiday is getting a little too sedentary, alternate days of activity with days of doing sweet, sweet nothing. Settle into a smoof recliner with that book you’ve been meaning to read or treat yourself to a rare afternoon catnap.
19 Embrace nature. Walking and hiking, surfing, riding bikes, an early morning dip or some beachside yoga are ideal ways to get moving and feel the wind in your hair – and the happy exhaustion will make the next day so much more relaxing.
20 Before you leave town, look up some of the walking tracks close to where you’ll be staying. The Department of Conservation website lists routes, or visit www.truenz.co.nz for a guide to some of the country’s best horse treks.
21 Star gaze. Don’t bother taking your laptop or iPad – there won’t be Wi-Fi. Instead, invite along at least one person who can strum a ukulele or croon a tune under the summer night’s stars.
Dig out your old camp blanket complete with scout badges and spread out classic board games for hours of fun- don’t forget checkers, backgammon, dominos and a deck or two of cards