Liz Johnson and family spend the weekend at luxurious, yet eco-conscious, camp on the new south wales south coast in the new family tent.
In the early 1990s Sydney couple Irena and Jeremy Hutchings stayed at luxury permanent camps while on safari in Africa and fell in love with the concept. They returned home convinced that this style of accommodation would work just as well in the Australian bush and, in 1998, opened Paperbark Camp in Jervis Bay on the New South Wales South Coast – the first of its kind in Australia.
Just 13 tents, as well as the main building housing The Gunyah restaurant, are tucked into the trees. The original safari tents all have a raised porch, ensuite, queen size bed, solid roof and mosquito netting across the windows and front and back walls. Deluxe tents have a larger verandah as well as a free standing bath. This year has seen the construction of a new king family deluxe tent, the premier accommodation on the property. Sleeping up to six, the tent has a large outdoor deck, king size beds and an outdoor shower.
Explore along the rocks and foliage
The Gunyah restaurant sits high up in the trees with open verandahs looking out over the camp. The chef focuses on local produce and seasonal ingredients, with kangaroo carpaccio and local fish on the menu. The kitchen can also arrange gourmet picnic baskets or a sunset barbecue.
The owners are proud of the camp’s eco credentials and have consistently worked to maintain the pristine bush that surrounds it. There’s no air conditioning in the tents, lighting is solar powered and hot water is heated on-demand by gas. The tents have been built into the surrounding vegetation, with no large trees removed during construction and no fences built to interrupt the wildlife corridor. There is also an active program of bush regeneration and non-native species are continuously removed. But while it is tempting to stay on the verandah reading the weekend papers, there’s plenty to do in the surrounding area, especially with teenagers in tow.
Secluded accommodation in amongst the trees
The camp is surrounded by the Booderee National Park with kilometres of walking tracks, or there are free bicycles available to explore on two wheels. Get up early to spot kangaroos or walk in the evenings to see possums. Pristine beaches are close by including Hyams Beach, recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the whitest sand in the world, and Caves Beach, one of the South Coast’s most popular surfing spots. Ask the staff for their secret beach location. It is incredible and chances are you will have it all to yourself.
From May to July and October to November, migrating pods of humpback whales make their way past Jervis Bay. They can often be seen from the shore, or head out on a boat to get a closer look. The waters around Jervis Bay are also renowned for their exceptional visibility so are great for snorkelling or diving.