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!”.
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!
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.
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.