I’m not really one for camping. Indeed, I used to joke that my idea of camping accommodation was when you had to walk up the hallway to a shared bathroom.But I needn’t have worried too much about roughing it at Paperbark Camp, which was conceived by Irena and Jeremy Hutchings in the early 1990s and opened by them near Jervis Bay, on the NSW South Coast, in 1998.
While its Deluxe Safari accommodation — there’s also an even more luxurious King Deluxe Safari version known to staff as the ‘King Parrot’ — does represent camping in the sense that guests stay in a tent, that’s just about where the comparison ends.
The hardwood floor is well above the ground and reached by a solid staircase; headroom isn’t a problem and even a tall person can move around comfortably without stooping.
The king-size bed is lusciously comfortable, well high enough for guests to easily get in and out of, with occupants also being treated to the finest of cotton sheets.
For casual relaxation, there’s a large, insect-screened, timber deck complete with lounges, but the best bit is clearly the indoor, yet cleverly enough designed to be at the same time ‘outdoor’, ensuite bathroom, which features a free-standing bath, vanity, flush toilet and separate shower.
So scrabbling about the bush in the dark with a shovel in your hand and a torch between your teeth is clearly unnecessary. And the big-city-hotel niceties are there as well — plush gowns, thick towels, slippers and top-class soaps and lotions.
And while there’s no 240-volt mains power, that hardly matters. There is efficient solar-powered lighting, the staff leave a thermos of hot water on the stairs in the morning so that you can have a pot of tea or a caffeine hit, and you can charge up your laptop or phone in the Gunyah Restaurant or central lounge area.
Dining in the Gunyah Restaurant is in the very capable hands of Chilean-born Emilio Erazo, who adds some very deft South American touches to the extremely fine Australian ingredients at his disposal.
The food is sensational, the atmosphere both classy and relaxed. The menu varies nightly and we’re lucky enough to be there on Sunday, which is Emilio’s pisco-and-paella night.
The paella is a richly flavoured and perfectly prepared concoction of local seafood, and Chile’s national drink, the pisco, is just so refreshing and plate cleansing that it simply demands to be followed by food.
IF YOU’RE GOING
Location: Paperbark Camp, 571 Woollamia Road, Woollamia 2540
Contact: Phone 1300 668 167; email firstname.lastname@example.org; web www.paperbarkcamp.com.au
Rates: Range from $395 per couple per night midweek shoulder-season for a bed-and-breakfast package in an Original Safari Tent, to $790 per couple per night peak-season for a Taste of Jervis package including King Deluxe Safari accommodation, breakfast and dinner.
Words and images: JOHN ROZENTALS