Less than three hours south of Sydney, Australia’s pioneering ‘glamping’ retreat is a coastal hideaway that invites Gemma Kightly to relax and luxuriate in the beauty of the bush.
Paperbark Camp was dreamed of over a few ‘sundowners’ in a private safari camp in Africa by Irena and Jeremy Hutchings. They wanted to bring the concept of ‘glamping’ to Australia, so in 1998, after many years of planning, Paperbark opened its tents to the world in the wilderness of Jervis Bay. More than 20 years later, it is still the ultimate bush retreat.
Traveller: Gemma Kightly
Room: Deluxe Plus Safari Tent
Address: 571 Woollamia Rd, Woollamia NSW 2540
Date: May 2019
Best for: Switching off from technology and reinvigorating yourself with nature, all without compromising on comfort.
The Signature factor
Whether it is stepping into your steaming hot outdoor shower surrounded by nothing but beautiful eucalyptus and paperbark bush or enjoying a glass of locally sourced wine by the fire at the Gunyah restaurant, Paperbark Camp oozes authentic, understated luxury, making camping enjoyable for anyone.
Paperbark Camp offers a perfect blend of delicious food and fine wine, as well as cosy campsites that do not compromise on luxury, all in a secluded environment where you feel as far from the daily grind as you can possibly be.
Paperbark takes a more sustainable approach to glamping. It has received an esteemed Advanced Eco Accreditation Ecotourism Australia and is proud to be part of the Eco Lodges of Australia group, thanks to initiatives such as growing its own produce and using solar-powered lighting in all tents, as well as eschewing air conditioning. With its pioneering green credentials, it’s a luxury escape you can feel good about.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Sydney behind on Friday afternoon after work, we arrive late to Paperbark and are the last to be seated for dinner. Within minutes we cheer each other with a fine drop of a Cab Sav from Orange and taste the delights of succulent lamb. The Gunyah restaurant, with its fire burning in the corner, has a very cosy and warm feeling that makes us feel right at home.
It’s hard to drag ourselves from the warm fire, but after a quick walk in the moonlight, we are guided to our tent where we find two hot water bottles waiting for us in our bed making sure we stay snuggled up for the rest of the evening.
Paperbark’s African-style canvas tents are perched high above the forest floor to catch the sea breeze. They have been thoughtfully placed throughout the camp to maximise privacy, using the surrounding dense bushland as a natural screen. Our tent has a wraparound balcony with outdoor sundeck, the perfect spot for a cup of tea and curling up with your favourite book. Inside, the tent features polished hardwood floors, a king-size bed with luxury linen and mosquito net, as well as solar-powered lightning. Walking through the private open-air ensuite is a freestanding bath and huge shower, both with views of the surrounding bush. The hotel amenities enhance the bush experience further with fresh scents of eucalyptus.
On my plate
Nestled high among the eucalyptus trees, the Gunyah restaurant is the heart of the camp. Designed by Sydney architects, Nettleton Tribe, it is a very welcoming space that evolves with the seasons. In summer, the doors open to let the cool evening breeze through, and in winter there is an open fire and lounges, the perfect place to relax and have a nightcap after your meal.
We are lucky enough to experience Paperbark’s 20th Anniversary Starlit Dinner during our stay. Starting by the outdoor fire pit, we arrive just after dark and are greeted with a glass of champagne and entrées. It is the perfect setting to meet new friends and compare what adventures we have had that day. After a glass or two of bubbles, we are ushered upstairs where we are seated at a family-sized table, sharing a delicious meal of slow-cooked lamb shoulder, whole-roasted pumpkin, signature apple strudel and other hearty local delights with our new friends.
I wish I could take home…
The king-size mattress found in our tent. It was the perfect level of firmness, resulting in a very deep and comfortable sleep.
The breakfast granola. If you love it as much as I did, you can ask for the recipe and make it at home yourself!
Paperbark is perfectly located roughly two-and-a-half hours south of Sydney in Jervis Bay, NSW.
If you choose to explore in the comfort of your car, it’s a short drive to the many attractions Jervis Bay is famous for. We recommend the White Sands walk starting at Greenfields, as it takes you past the picturesque Chinamans Beach up to the world-famous white sands of Hyams Beach. If you’re lucky enough you might even spot a breaching whale.
For those who are feeling more active, you can explore Currambene Creek by kayak or cruise into Huskisson (20 minutes by bike); the camp offers complimentary bike and kayak hire.
We also loved exploring Booderee National Park, with its many walks to picturesque beaches and points within Jervis Bay. We loved Green Patch, reading the haunting stories of the wrecked 1860s Cape St George Lighthouse, topped off by afternoon drinks and nibbles as the sun sets at Huskisson Pub.
Enjoy an afternoon vino in your own secluded bush bath with a book or your partner.
If you want to experience nature without compromising on comfort or style, Paperbark Camp’s understated luxury will have you relaxing in the middle of the Australian bush as soon as you get there.