a glamping roadtrip

Posted on May 24th, 2013

When we were kids Dad would grab the youngest, blindfold them, spin them once and get them to stab at a map of New South Wales pinned to the wall. Wherever my little brother or sister pointed determined our summer holiday fun. “Rippa! Kids, we’re off camping in….Dubbo!”.

paper bark hut 2 copy

This is the tent we stayed in. That’s a meteorite shot by Joanne Paquette the week before.

Oh, the places we visited. Up to eight of us in a four-man tent (my brothers slept in the trailer once it was unpacked).  One year it was drought-stricken goat paddock in Jindabyne. Another we wound up in Bendigo (we eventually branched out to the holiday non-spots of greater Victoria). We sat on milk crates. Mum always cooked Hungarian goulash in the big cast-iron pot. It invariably stormed. Flooded. Or there was a dust storm.

And you thought your jaunt to the Lake Macquarie Big 4 with the kidney pool was as good as it got.

I camped all my life. In snow. On the banks of crocodile-infested waters. In the middle of cities. In fact, I was 21 before I stayed in a hotel. I packed a towel and soap and made the bed in the morning, which made my new boyfriend at the time roll around laughing. So, it could be said I’ve earned my camping stripes.

And so, recently I allowed myself the comfort and joy of “glamping”. Glamorous camping. Last weekend I headed south of Sydney with my mate Zoe to try out the glamping deal at Paperbark Camp. I’d heard about this place almost ten years ago, when it first opened. I loved the idea. Turns out it’s now a MrandMrsSmith property.

Please note: I’m an ambassador with MrandMrsSmith and I am invited to try out their properties from time to time for review purposes. The opinions in this post are my own.

Paperbark is about 2-3 hours out of town, in Woolamia near Jervis Bay. It’s a bunch of elevated, luxury tents scattered throughout dense bushland close to the sea. You can hear the roar at night. Along with crackles of the night life going about it’s thing. Otherwise it’s blissful…silence. No humans. No lights.

There’s a main building, built up high in the trees with a deck running around, a big open fire and a restaurant – Gunyah – which is a destination unto itself. A lot of Sydney folk head here just for dinner and if you’re not a glamping type, you might want to do the same. The menu is seriously good, using local produce (oh, the oysters!) where possible in simple, smart, interesting ways.

Have you been to Jervis Bay? It’s worth a road trip. The area is dotted with a bunch of little coastal hamlets – all a 15 minute drive or so from each other – and has a wonderful National Park in the middle of the fun.

This is how we did the caper, should you wish to emulate the standout time we had: We arrived. Ate dinner in the buzzing restaurant in ugg boots. We had duck and lamb, and a kangaroo carpaccio. After sitting in front of the open fire for a bit with a chamomile tea we headed off to bed in our snug tents. The bathrooms are “outdoors” but beautifully done and smell of camphor wood. Kangaroo hide rugs are on the floor (sourced and handmade by a character the owners tracked down in Tamworth), there are candles scattered about and the bath…the bath is deep with views of the stars!

Mr & Mrs Smith_Paperbark Camp_Jervis Bay_Australia_Deluxe Tent Interior

The next day we ate the kind of breakfast I couldn’t do better myself: eggs, bacon, spinach mushrooms. With really lovely coffee. Out on the deck with the birds. Then we set off for the Booderee National Park and did a 7km walk that took us through coastal scrub and over headlands with views out over aquamarine water and then back down to Murray’s beach. Where we just sat and swam and enjoyed quietness.

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 9.01.18 AM

Zoe and I had a “colour off”…here on Murray’s Beach

A 10-minute drive through the park and you’re at Hyam’s Beach. The cafe here is ace. An old milko that serves nourishing food. I ate a deconstructed hamburger with broccoli instead of chips. Big communal tables and benches out on the front porch. Newspapers and lots of interesting people. It seems to be an area where groups of friends come to holiday.

The next day – Sunday – we contemplated kayaking up the creek from the tents, out to the ocean. It’s then an hour paddle up to Huskisson. Or riding one of Paperbark’s bikes to the local farmer’s market. But instead went for another (12km) hike in the park, this time one of my bush shuffles. Bloody. Stunning. Didn’t. See. A. Soul.

I’m not sure if you follow my bush excursions on Instagram and Facebook. Look for the hashtag #bushexcursions and #bushrunning. I get out and about around Sydney every second weekend or so and trial trails…feel free to follow in my footsteps. I can totally recommend Booderee. There are a stack of walks to try down there. Ben, the son of the owners of Paperbark, knows about most of them and can point you to the best ones.

Paperbark, sadly, closes down for winter. But reopens in September. They’re taking bookings now. Got a mate you want to do a roadtrip with? You and mum need a getaway? A partner in need of rut-busting adventure? Or just want some quiet? Hey, get outta town.

To make a booking, click here. To check out other MrandMrsSmith properties, go here.

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  • Laura

    Staided or Stayed???? You need a proof reader!


    lilapud Reply:

    It says staid not staided, hahaha!!!!!

    Under the meteorite Sarah …

    Beautiful photos …. need to work up the courage to face my fears of spiders and bugs!!

    Thanks for sharing, typos included!


  • http://www.sparrowandsea.com Jess @ Sparrow + Sea

    About seven years ago, my crazy-rich aunt and uncle took their spoiled kids ‘glamping’ for a week in the school holidays, to ‘give them a taste of a simpler life’. The rest of us fell about laughing, and were rather scathing, cos let’s face it: glamping ain’t camping. (Especially not the way they did it!) I have camped with nothing but a tarp over my head. I have camped with only freaking damper and dehydrated veggies to cook. I have camped in the wet when we forgot to bring matches and the car broke down and all we had to eat was Maggi noodles dry from the packet. I was particularly scathing of them!
    But then, when I read about ‘glamping’ and saw pictures in a travel magazine… Well. Damn if it doesn’t look awesome!
    These pictures, this trip, Miss Sarah, all look amazing. Consider glamping officially on my list of Must Try Soons!


  • Sarah Wilson

    Huh? Where is staided?


    Lumo Reply:

    Caption under the first picture.


    Allen Reply:

    Staid, staided…. I think both of you mean stayed!


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    It’s been fixed now…hope the remaining words were enjoyable!

  • http://www.livehealthysimply.com Jessica Nazarali – Health Coach

    Paperback Camp is on my to do list…it looks amazing!


  • http://toolboxformen.com Rees

    Getting your feet on the ground in nature is what its all about huh? Those times camping by the sea as a kid have shaped my life: I still call the ocean “my church”, a place where the soul is massaged back to health. Off camping with the mates next weekend for some great conversations and debates over an ale. Looking forward to delicious camp oven roasts, but not the vain attempts at keeping our bits from freezing.
    Great blog


  • Anthony

    Glamping, sounds like the ants pants of a getaway.


  • http://www.rawoncemore.com Raw Once More

    I’m lucky enough to live near this area and visit often. The bush, the ocean, they’re so essential to my soul! Just makes me feel more alive, free, connected, centred, more me. Alas, since lupus reared its ugly head I can’t camp anymore, just too many things that make it too painful and difficult. Glamping may indeed be the way to go! Loved reading this, but I really wanted a photo of that bath!


  • Sarah Wilson

    Hi Christine, have you emailed info@sarahwilson.com.au? I’ll make sure it’s a priority.


  • Lisa

    I love the map thing you did when you were kids – I think I might do that with mine. Amazing you hadn’t stayed in a hotel until you were 21 – me too! I preferred sleeping on the ground at my grandparents place with all of my cousins. Great memories. Paperbark has been on my to do list since it opened – a good reminder – and I probably missed a blog somewhere but did you burn your green shorts?!


  • http://www.winterlust.wordpress.com Anna V

    I saw your pics on instagram and instantly looked it up! Am dying to go! Looks fab x


  • http://posiepatchworkblog.blogspot.com.au posie blogs Jennie McClelland

    See i had to read it twice to work out where the ‘stayed’ typo was thinking i was so highly tuned to reading what people meant – not necessarily the letters – only to see you fixed it first. Lordy, why are people so snarky on a simple spelling error which was completely innocent. I really wish you the best with all your capers, you deserve all the positivity in the world, not the rudeness of people with too much time on their hands to purely catch people out, correct them, inflict their perfection on others – when really, it’s so terribly imperfect to make others feel uncomfortable or just be plain mean about the tiniest things. I wonder what their quality of life is, possibly filled with sugar as they aren’t sweet enough, don’t you think??!! Love Posie (posieshoots on IG, i loved the feed & we do glamping at home under pretty fabrics with fairy lights as my soldier husband refuses to take us camping, as he does it for work!!)


  • Stormageddon

    I give exactly zero shits about your spelling mistakes. A truly creative person can find more than one way to spell a word. :)

    Your parents are rad, Sarah. That sounds like so much fun! I did some camping around rural WA when I was little, and didn’t much care for it. I dearly wish I was one of those people who could just grab a sleeping bag, tent & some tinned food and live off the land. I have a Tasmanian friend who could do that easily, even catch & kill his own food indefinitely if he needed to. As much as I love to, I could never be that person. Deprive me of sleep and a toilet that flushes and I turn into a horrible person that you’d probably want to bury in the desert before the week was out!

    However glamping, now, THAT is my thing! All the beauty of the bush walks combined with a meal not out of a tin can, a bed, and a proper loo. Yes please! Best place I have ever been was Karri Valley near Pemberton in south-west WA. You can live in a little cabin on the lake and even fish for trout from your balcony! You should see if you can get some kind of ambassadorial deal over this side of the country Sarah, it is truly unique and beautiful. We live in the best country in the world, methinks.

    Mia xx


    Guessing Reply:

    Is this Mia Freedman by any chance???


  • Kirsty

    I usually enjoy reading your posts however i find lately i cant bring myself to read your posts that seem like advertisements, it doesnt seem genuine to me and a little dull…at least you got a free holiday out of it….