'Glamping' catching on in NZ
Love the idea of camping, but can't be bothered with the gear? Glamping could be for you, writes Jane Dunbar.
As spring and summer approach, campers are starting to think about the day they pack up the car and head off for a break.
Tents, bedding, food, cooking utensils . . . maybe a small fridge, a table and chairs - and what about a microwave? And how about a soft floor covering for the tent? And can't you buy shelves now for tents? And lights . . . yes, lights would be good for the new bigger tent with separate rooms. On the additions go as camping changes from the days of roughing it in pup tents around a campfire to an ever more comfortable experience.
No doubt some still prefer a rough and tough version of camping, but take a wander around a Kiwi summer campground and there's clear evidence of a desire for a few more comforts than in the past.
But what if you want a camping experience, but haven't got the gear to do it, and even if you did, setting up camp all sounds like too much work? Enter glamping - glamorous camping - an international trend that's been around for a few years, but is now experiencing a growth spurt. There are books and websites devoted to the subject, with GlampingUK boasting it can find the perfect glampsite for anyone - from luxury yurts to huts and tipis.
In the US, there's a growing market for high-end camping - an experience of the outdoors but with all the luxuries the wealthy are used to; no uncomfortable beds, cold tents, wet feet or food from a can.
In New Zealand, we already have a well-established version of glamping in terms of "glamorous tramping" - walking tracks such as the Milford without having to carry heavy gear and with warm and well-fed nights at lodges along the way. But glamping, as in camping at sites where it's all set up for you, is more of a newcomer.
Search for glamping in New Zealand and you'll find a handful of offerings. At the top end, for those who can afford luxury, there's Minaret Station, near Wanaka. Promoted as a "luxury tented lodge", a stay costs $3500 per night, with a minimum stay of two nights.
"Guests are hosted under canvas in luxuriously furnished tented suites complete with wall to wall sheepskin carpet, king beds, a private deck set with its own hot tub, full ensuite with double vanity and endless hot showers."
Not your everyday Kiwi camping then. For a price that doesn't bring tears to your eyes, there are options such as Pagoda Lodge in the Bay of Islands. Here you can find "romantically furnished safari tents" nestled in trees by a river. A large family-sized tent has three furnished rooms plus a deck, and comes at a price of around $150 a night, depending on the season.
Closer to home is Okuti Garden, at Little River. This venue prides itself on its eco credentials and is $40 per person per night. Its yurt, tipi, composting toilets, outdoor bath, atmosphere and hosts all get rave reviews on international tourism website tripadvisor.
Then there are new companies such as Canopy Camping which have been set up specifically to catch the glamping wave.
"Glamping is a fast growing market in the UK, USA and Australia . . . as part of a worldwide shift towards more natural, local experiences," says company director Liz Henderson.
"I think we're just at the beginning of a major trend here in New Zealand. We have the right climate, terrain and attitude to provide a brilliant outdoor experience for domestic and international tourists."
Many people want to give their kids a camping experience but don't want to have to deal with the hassle, she says.
"With glamping, you don't need any stuff and you can go at the drop of a hat. In many cases, such as with the glampsites we are setting up, families or couples can escape to a beautiful location on private land, toast marshmallows on a campfire, soak in an outdoor bath, gaze at the starry night sky and retire to a comfy bed, cotton sheets and a feather duvet."
Canopy Camping has big ambitions: it's hoping to develop a network of glamping sites throughout the country by linking up with landowners who'd like to earn extra income by allowing a site on their land.
One of the first in the South Island to join the network will be Hurunui Jacks on the West Coast. They plan to be up and running by the second half of this summer.
Meanwhile, Henderson says the company's site in the Wairarapa is proving popular, even in the off- season.
"We've run our campsite at Kawakawa Station right the way through autumn and winter and it's been pretty much booked out every weekend, including some weekdays. We have a woodburning stove that has been specially designed to fit into our wooden framed luxury tent and it keeps things toasty and warm."
The price ranges from $160 to $250 depending on the season; and you can also pay to have meals provided.
Of course, to camping aficionados, the packing of the car, the travel, the favourite camping spot, the setting up of the camp, the friends seen there every year, the communal living - this can all be treasured ritual.
But for those of us without those rituals, the idea of arriving at a beautiful campsite to find the tent up, the beds ready, hot water on tap and chairs waiting for someone to sit in them with a glass of wine in hand and the stars above . . . Here's hoping for a plethora of South Island glampsites.