Gone are the holidays where you pitch your tent in the dark and go without a shower for days. Mark Daffey discovers the sites where there’s luxury under canvas.
In remote regions around Australia, you’ll now stumble across safari-style tents and fancy igloo bubbles.
Shaky A-frames with flimsy mattresses and overloaded parked cars might be a fun holiday for some, but if you prefer feather pillows and fine linen, there are now plenty of alternative options.
These days, camping could include wine tastings, chef-prepared meals and even helicopter access.
Jessie Curtis-Griffiths from Mornington Peninsula glamping provider Happy Glamper says: “Outdoor enthusiasts can experience nature and the comforts of home without the hassle of finding camp space, setting up tiny nylon tents that leak and suffering in cramped sleeping bags.
“Traditional camping will always have its place. Glamping is largely reaching out to the demographic that would never try traditional camping.”
The glamping trend blends luxury with nature, and right across the country the market for camping in style has boomed. Try one of these luxe glamping experiences:
Talo Retreat, NSW
Near the Victorian border, in the bushland of Moama along the Murray River, these 12 Mongolian-inspired guest yurts have timber floors, lamb’s-wool insulation and domed skylights for year-round stargazing. Each yurt contains a kitchenette, coffee machine and barbecue facilities, with electric wood-fire heaters and private bathrooms.
Turon Gates, NSW
With nearly 2500 hectares of Blue Mountains bush to roam, it’s no wonder kangaroos, wombats and echidnas are regular visitors to Turon Gates. Choose from cabins, cottages and safari-style tents, with private bathrooms, for two or three guests. Activities include bushwalking, horse riding, mountain biking, trout fishing and gold panning.
Bamurru Plains, NT
For Australia’s closest answer to the cinematic Out of Africa experience, head to the Top End’s Bamurru Plains. Ten mesh bungalows on the coastal floodplains of the Mary River almost guarantee close-up sightings of buffaloes, brumbies, dingoes, crocodiles and magpie geese.
Kings Canyon Resort, NT
Opened in 2019, the resort’s six premium canvas tents were designed to blend in with the Red Centre landscape. Halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru, the tents are close to the Kings Canyon, which has been 440 million years in the making. A two-night stay is required during peak season.
Wilson Island, QLD
A stay in one of this island’s nine Reef Safari Tents feels like the ultimate castaway experience. With no phone or TV reception, days are spent snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, lazing in a hammock or lying on the beach. The island is a 40-minute boat ride from Heron Island.
Spicers Canopy Luxury Tents, QLD
Set deep within a nature refuge, 10 safari-style tents look towards the double-humped Mount Mitchell in Main Range National Park. Established as accommodation for hikers on the Spicers’ Scenic Rim Trail, they are also available for group bookings. A large hot tub will help soothe sore muscles, and onsite chefs prepare hearty meals served with Granite Belt wines.
Kangaluna Camp, SA
Set in open Mallee woodland in the Gawler Ranges, three eco-friendly luxury tents come furnished with handmade timber beds and silkscreen artworks. Try booking the Kangaluna “swagon” – a cowboy wagon with a swag bed and see-through roof.
Rawnsley Park Station, SA
For something completely different, Rawnsley Park Station offers an overnight heli-camping experience sleeping in a swag beneath the stars. The helicopter takes you over the Flinders Ranges landmarks of Rawnsley Bluff and Wilpena Pound before landing on the Chace Range in time for sunset and a two-course camp oven meal.
Truffle Lodge, TAS
On a picturesque river bend in the Derwent Valley, eight safari-style tents combine Aussie bush camp, Arabian Nights and steampunk design elements. The bathrooms, housed inside 20,000-litre water tanks, are particularly innovative. The communal dining and lounge areas are stacked with board games, and you can spot resident platypuses from the deck areas.
Bay of Fires Bush Retreat, TAS
Ten bell tents are tucked away inside a forested glade just minutes from the powdery Bay of Fires beaches. An ideal base for mountain bikers, surfers or bushwalkers, the retreat is also suitable for self-catering motorists who want to utilise its communal kitchen. Otherwise, order chef-prepared meals using locally sourced ingredients.
Pebble Point, VIC
Six spacious tents are spread out across protective woodlands on revegetated farmland close to the village of Princetown. Base yourself here while touring the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles. The Otway Ranges are also nearby.
Wilderness Retreats Wilsons Promontory, VIC
Visitors to Victoria’s much-loved The Prom used to have to BYO a tent to stay overnight. Parks Victoria has added four luxury en-suite tents – among other accommodation options – to make the park accessible to a wider demographic. Each ‘retreat’ has timber floors, a covered timber deck, locally handcrafted furniture and a queen-size bed.
Mile End Glamping, WA
Instead of a tent, how about staying in a dome in Western Australia’s premier wine region, the Margaret River? Each dome is designed with an airy feel and lots of natural light to sleep two people. Take advantage of the private spa bath and barbecue facilities. Optional extras include gourmet hampers, private art classes and in-house massages.