Ah, the great outdoors. There's nothing like being at one with nature when, for a moment in time there, we were all very much stuck being at one with our own homes, and truly little else.
Glamping is what we all need right now; the chance to be outside, enjoying the fresh air and beauty New Zealand has to offer — without being chumps, roughing it on a lumpy airbed.
A clever term combining camping and glamour — or glamorous camping — glamping has all the fun and excitement from that classic Kiwi getaway, but with the added extras you'd usually find in 5-star luxury; think the finest bedding, extravagant outdoor baths set for star-gazing, a cheeky vino next to a raging fire pit and beyond that, views unlike any other on the planet.
Glamping is a booming industry, so here are some of the most amazing spots to let someone else set up camp for you:
The Camp, Lake Hawea
We've all been there. You're hanging out with some friends, and suddenly someone throws out the idea of a group camping trip and everyone gets far too enthusiastic. Then, you wake up the next morning, full of regret because, while you love your friends, you would never voluntarily sleep on the dirt as a way to spend time with them, let alone call that a "holiday".
The Camp, perched on the edge of Lake Hawea, about a 20-minute drive from Wanaka, might be the answer. With three glamping options — ranging from "villages" of bell and Denver tents, through to a standalone safari tent — this is the perfect option when you want to rough it with your mates, but actually don't want to rough it whatsoever and would much prefer to sleep in a queen-size bed with an electric blanket than the ground. Each of the villages have access to a shared kitchen with basic cooking facilities, there's a fire pit for singing Exponents classics, and the tents come with charging stations for the essentials.
Te Pamu Escape, Masterton
If a holiday isn't a holiday unless you can take your equine friend along for the ride, this rural home-away-from-home is for you. Yes, for a small price your horse can have its own glamping experience and the two of you can ride the farm together. But if two legs are more your thing, this luxury rural escape will have you putting your feet up before you even unpack.
With a full bathroom (yes, flushing toilet and hot showers) a full kitchen (yes, mixing bowls and a sink) and breakfast thrown in for good measure (and you can even pay extra for a cheese platter!), all you'll have to worry about is how much bubble bath to put in the outdoor tub.
The Terraces, Waiheke
Just 40 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Auckland CBD, Waiheke Island is a literal microclimate, full of sun, sand, and sauvignon blanc. And with Waiheke's wineries just a stone's throw away, and the beach almost on your doorstep, if you were ever going to explore the island, why not do it from a rather lovely tent like the ones on offer here, overlooking Palm Beach. Think big beds and even bigger views (with a coffee machine to boot).
Set among 500 olive trees, The Terraces will also soon be selling the fruits of their labour as they start production on their very own range of olive oil, so you can remember your trip every time you make a salad dressing.
Te Wepu, Banks Peninsula
It would be hard to beat this for a bathtub vista. Three timber-lined, solar-powered pods (yes, you can charge your phone) are snuggled into the hills of this 157-year-old cattle farm, each looking out over Akaroa Harbour, Onawe Peninsula and French Farm Valley.
If you time it right, that woodfired hot tub will be bubbling away just as you arrive, either by 4WD or via a 30-minute walk up the farm's hiking track. And along with room to soak, each pod comes with a separate pod housing an eco-friendly toilet, changing area, robes and towels, and there's also a gas BBQ, fresh spring water and a light breakfast on offer. But if you don't want to lug your own supplies to your pod, owner Kate can deliver you a heaving hamper of local produce, meat from the working farm, cheeses, and homemade bread.
Waitomo Hilltop Glamping, Waikato
By now, we all know glamping is, by its very name, glamorous camping. And it's hard to see it getting more lux than this. With 360-degree views of the Waikato countryside, Waitomo Hilltop Glamping is a getaway in a tent — but with all the luxuries of a high-end hotel. Think dual outdoor bathtubs, a fully equipped en suite (with twin basins so you can even social distance from your partner) a range of eco toiletries, glorious bedding, Egyptian towels, and you are within spitting distance of Mother Nature herself. Tuck into the fresh farm eggs left in your kitchen, or whip up a pizza in the outdoor pizza oven, and then enjoy some fire-toasted marshmallows from the complimentary s'mores kit. Being off the grid does mean you won't be able to charge your devices — but maybe, with those views, that's not a bad thing.
Rabbit Island Huts at Appleby House, Mapua
Close to Nelson, this collection of glamorous wee huts is too adorable to ignore. Described as a little bit hotel, a little bit glamping and a little bit traditional Kiwi camping experience, they hold little more than a bed (and TV in a couple of cases) — but who cares?
Though tiny, they are perfectly formed and environmentally sound, have been locally milled and built from fallen trees, using only organic oils and paints and the rural property, which also has a five-bedroom holiday home and fully-decked out safari canvas tent to rent, is 98 per cent plastic-free.
Half the huts have en suites (the others share a couple of high-end bathrooms), alongside big comfy beds and tea and coffee-making facilities, and there's a shared kitchen and lounge area — and even a little library in an old caravan on site.
No further than two-and-a-half hours from Christchurch, all hidden in remote locations, sit six weirdly wonderful little glass boxes. Purepods are the ultimate in being "at-one" with nature; made completely of glass, there is absolutely no privacy in these remote hotel rooms — but then again, you don't really need to worry because you are in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Whether it's high above the ocean or deep in native bush, each of these glass cabins is accessed on foot (although some have alternative routes for those with mobility issues), which means they have been carefully placed to escape light pollution (and civilisation). At night, watching the stars through the glass ceiling is unlike anything you've seen before. There is a full bathroom, some pods have telescopes and board games, and you can choose to bring your own food and drinks or pre-order a breakfast and dinner package to cook over the gas hob. But you might as well leave your phone in the car — coverage verges on non-existent.
This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.