20 September 2019
Stay overnight in the great outdoors – without driving too far or giving up the comforts of home.
One of Sydney’s best-kept secrets is glamping on Cockatoo Island, smack-bang in the middle of the harbour. The historic island – a former convict settlement – is a 10-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay and has three types of glamping: glamping for two; two-bedroom glamping for four people; and mini glamping (a cosy tent for two). The tents come with toiletries, bedding and a cooler box, and glampers have access to hot showers and a communal camp kitchen with BBQ, fridges, microwaves and boiling water.
What to bring: food supplies (or order BBQ and breakfast packs from the island cafe, Societé Overboard), cooking utensils, cutlery and plates.
Need to know: there are strict alcohol rules—you cannot bring alcohol but you can buy it from the cafe. You can enjoy a drink at the Cockatoo Island Marine Centre or Societé Overboard.
Cost: mini glamping from $130.
For a luxe camping weekend away without the road trip, look no further than Tandara, in the Lane Cove Holiday Park close to Lane Cove National Park, 20 minutes from the city. The safari-style tent – separate from the rest of the campsite – was made for those who like their creature comforts, with a luxe king-size bed, bathroom with deep tub, and a smart sound system. Perched on a rock shelf with views of the Lane Cove River, Tandara (it means ‘here we camp’ in the local Gadigal language) has expansive decking, ideal for observing the wildlife, which might include eastern water dragons, kookaburras and sulphur-crested cockatoos. Want to get active? Hire a canoe or kayak from the Lane Cove Boatshed and mosey down along the river.
What to bring: food supplies (but you can pre-order a gourmet BBQ and/or breakfast hampers); hiking boots; bike helmets (there are mountain bikes for guest use).
Need to know: there’s only one tent, so book early. No smoking, no children, no pets and limited phone reception.
Cost: from $220 a night.
Paperbark Camp offers a luxury sustainable camping experience in a bushland setting in the Sapphire Coast region, a three-hour drive south of Sydney. Inspired by tent-style safari accommodation the owners experienced in South Africa, Paperbark Camp pioneered eco-conscious glamping when it opened in 1999. Owners Jeremy and Irena Hutchings have created a remarkable haven, with 12 canvas tents placed strategically among native eucalypts. The tents have hotel-quality linen and amenities (there’s even a bathtub in the Deluxe tents), wrap-around decks and full insect screens. Canoe, cycle and laze on the beach with a book during the day; in the evening, have dinner in the tree-top Gunyah restaurant, and then meander back to your tent, spotting native critters with your torch.
What to bring: beach towels. And alcohol, if you fancy a tipple at your tent.
Need to know: it’s pretty much off-grid at Paperbark – so no air-conditioning, TV, bar fridge or power points. But, if you must, power and wifi can be accessed at the restaurant.
Cost: from $495 per night.
Want to ‘go bush’ without going too far? Then consider Turon Gates Mountain Retreat, a collection of cottages, cabins and glamping tents, set on 2,400 hectares in the Blue Mountains, a 2.5-hour drive west of the city. The bushland property is dotted with misty valleys and a creek, with plentiful wildlife to spot – kangaroos, wombats, platypus, echidnas and possums. The tents have heated floors and are set on raised platforms with decks overlooking the creek. One is ideal for a couple with a child or fur baby, the other is for couples only. Creature comforts include a hot shower, hammock, fireplace and self-contained kitchen.
What to bring: linen, and a cooler for perishable food, drinks and ice.
Need to know: Turon is pet friendly and smoking is allowed outside.
Cost: glamping, from $161 a night.
Stargazers and romantics will love these clear dome tents overlooking the Capertree Valley near Round Swamp, about 180km northwest of the city. The three transparent spheres—named after zodiac constellations—sit atop raised wooden decks, with spectacular views of the stars at night and the vast valley during the day. Inside, there’s a queen bed with goose-down pillows and a washroom with vanity and composting toilet. The lower deck has a well-stocked outdoor kitchenette and a seating area, an ideal spot to enjoy a glass of local wine and drink in the views. The Virgo tent has a wood-fired outdoor tub.
What to bring: it can get very chilly here, so pack warm clothes. Drinking water, your favourite tipple, a camera and a good book.
Need to know: the tents are made with fireproof, commercial-grade PVC, and the air inside is renewed, filtered and dehumidified up to nine times an hour. They can withstand winds up to 70kmh. Books out fast, so get in early.
Cost: from $340 a night.
Did you know you can stay overnight at Taronga Zoo in a safari-style tent, enjoy gourmet food under the stars and commune with exotic and native animals without the crowds? It’s called Roar and Snore, and it includes a twilight walk through the zoo, canapés and welcome drinks, a buffet dinner and a night safari at 9pm. Wake up at sunrise to views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge then, after breakfast, head off on an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour. Each tent has a double bed and a single pop-up trundle bed, and there’s an on-site amenities block with hot showers.
What to bring: closed-toed shoes (no sandals, thongs or heels) and wet-weather gear (Roar and Snore is an all-weather program).
Need to know: all meals and drinks are supplied; special dietary requirements can be catered for, with prior notice. Fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Cost: from $275 per adult a night.
For more information on planning your trip to New South Wales, head to VisitNSW.com.