A luxury tented retreat nestled in pristine Australian bushland.
For my 30th birthday I wanted to spend a long weekend unwinding in the wilderness, but a day before my birthday nothing was organised. I'd decided that it was too late and that I would be spending my birthday at home. I opened a magazine for solace and to my surprise a review about a luxury tented retreat located in bushland south of Sydney caught my eye. The picture looked familiar, like I’d once been there. Then I remembered that I'd pasted a picture of it on my dream board almost ten years prior! Luck was in my favour as one tent was available for the weekend. The next day my boyfriend Al and I packed our bags and set off en route for Paperbark camp.
During our drive I read about the history of Paperbark camp and learnt that the owners were once enthusiastic campers but as they grew older the often lengthy and detailed process of planning, packing and unpacking required for more traditional camping trips became a chore. They still loved the feeling of being amongst nature but desired a more luxurious experience. This desire later materialised into Paperbark camp.
As nature lovers their intention was to maintain the pristine beauty of the natural environment where they would build the camp. Where possible they sourced local products and services and worked with a permaculture expert to grow their own produce. These and other sustainability efforts were recognised with an Advanced Eco Accreditation from Ecotourism Australia and admission to the Eco Lodges of Australia group.
After a two-hour drive down the southern coast from Sydney we arrived at Paperbark camp, nestled into a 100 acre site of untouched, tranquil bushland. A wave of relaxation washed over me as I absorbed the incredible muted colours of the bushland and the refreshing smell of the native eucalyptus trees. The only discernible sound was the call of native birds.
Our safari style tent was camouflaged to blend in with the natural surroundings and placed next to a nearby creek which we later canoed amongst thousands of tiny mud crabs. Our solar powered Deluxe Safari Tent was decked out with all the comforts of a hotel room, including a comfy King size bed with quality organic bamboo linen, robes, and bio-degradable hessian slippers. But instead of windows we had fly screens and the ensuite bathroom with bath and shower were open-air yet private. The hand-made natural soaps and lotions scented with Australian bush plants such as lemon myrtle added to the au naturel experience.
That night we visited the Paperbark camp tree-top restaurant named The Gunyah - which is aboriginal for meeting place or place of shelter - for a delicious three course organic dinner with matching local wines. We had the tastiest paella I've ever eaten made fresh with local seafood caught that day in a nearby town.
After a satisfying dinner we returned to our tent for a restful sleep and woke naturally the next morning to the sound of birds. We practiced yoga on the deck (amongst the mosquitos so I advise using a citronella candle or incense) then we meandered up to the restaurant for a healthy buffet breakfast. It turns out that there is WiFi in the restaurant, but Paperbark camp suggests leaving your devices switched off, or better yet, at home. We more-or-less followed this advice and found it helped us to better connect with the surrounding nature and each other.
While it was tempting to lounge around the campsite all day and receive a massage (you can pay to receive a massage in the tent), we decided to explore the nearby National Marine Park in Jervis Bay, known for its pristine clear waters and white sand beaches. It was low season, so fortunately we found a secluded beach with only a solo stingray as company.
While I love the experience of hiking and camping in remote and secluded wilderness, I also have a penchant for luxury and pampering. Paperbark camp satisfied both these desires for a memorable and fulfilling birthday experience.
Transparency: I was not paid to write this review. My boyfriend Alastair kindly gifted me this experience for my birthday
Sorry about the inconsistency in photo quality. The photos were shot mainly on an old iPhone because they were taken for our private album, but I enjoyed the experience so much that I wanted to share it with you.
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I'd love to hear about your experiences and tips on luxury camping. Where have you been? What did you love about it?