Driving up a gravel forestry road in the pitch black with dwindling cellphone reception, we wondered where on earth we were heading. Through a padlocked gate and across some farm bridges, finally our destination came into sight.
The warm glow coming from a safari-style canvas tent was a welcoming beacon in the darkness (although I’m not sure you would call it a tent as it was really something much more luxurious, but I digress). Finally we had arrived at Highfield River Retreat, our home away from home for the weekend.
Glamping in New Zealand
Glamping (glamour-camping) has massively increased in popularity in recent years, with people seeking a luxurious getaway with all the amenities of a fancy resort. Forget those leaky air mattresses and fold out chairs, glamping sites are well-equipped with anything you would hope to find in a resort-style abode.
We unfolded ourselves from the car and excitedly zipped open the tent door. Inside was a large squishy bed, a couch, and even a chandelier (no, I’m not kidding). The adjoining kauri timber hut contained the kitchen, comfy seating, and a sizeable bathroom with flush toilet and proper shower.
What luxury! Then we spotted the pièce de résistance – the outdoor bathtub. On went the hot water and it was time for a bath before bed. Despite a few moths landing in the bath (we were in the great outdoors, after all), it was heavenly sitting in the steaming water, glass of red wine in hand, listening to the crickets and the gurgle of the nearby stream.
During the night we were amazed to hear the call of multiple kiwi – New Zealand’s national bird and a species that is in a vulnerable state. It was such a fantastic feeling to hear kiwi calling in the wild; it is such a rarity for city-dwellers like us to come into contact with our most famous native species.
We woke up to a chilly morning and warmed up with coffee made on the camp stove along with pancakes topped with honey harvested from Highfield Farm’s own beehives.
It was so serene sitting outside the tent and warming up in the sun’s rays as they broke over the ridge behind us. After breakfast we zipped up the tent and headed north to see some of Earth’s biggest living things: kauri trees.
Kauri: Gods of the forest
New Zealand’s kauri are a sight to behold – these straight, massive trees with splaying crowns are incredibly impressive. Tane Mahuta is the largest living kauri tree, and thought to be the oldest at over 2000 years old. Te Matua Ngahere is the fattest. You don’t actually realise how huge these trees are until you see them in the flesh – they’re gobsmacking. How can something living get that big!?
Te Matua Ngahere (above)
Tane Mahuta (above)
After ogling at these gods of the forest (Tane Mahuta means Lord of the Forest in Maori), we continued further north until we reached the Hokianga Harbour. This harbour is edged by sleepy holiday towns on its southern shore and massive sand dunes on its northern shore. We ate a delicious lunch over the water at the Boatshed Cafe in Rawene – such a cute spot.
Back to the tent and the afternoon was spent reading in the sunshine – bliss! We ate dinner at the local pub, a true kiwi experience, complete with hilarious locals who had had a few too many beers. After dinner we drove the short distance to Trounson Kauri Park and walked around a bush track in the dark for an hour in the hope of seeing a kiwi. Unfortunately we didn’t see any although we heard heaps calling, but we did see a fat possum (boo!) and an eel in a stream.
The next morning we slept in and had a soak in the outdoor bath before heading back towards Auckland. What a relaxing weekend! If only we could escape to a Highfield River Retreat every weekend…
Our first experience of glamping (and trust us, this won’t be our last – as soon as we got back into cellphone reception we were looking up the other sites under Canopy Camping’s umbrella!) was such a joy. We loved having a weekend away from the internet and the city, and in the bush, but with the added bonus of such beautiful luxury.
We fully recommend checking out a glampsite near you – and if you’re in New Zealand definitely look up Canopy Camping!
Thanks to Canopy Camping for sponsoring our weekend at Highfield River Retreat. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinions, regardless of who is footing the bill.
Have you ever been glamping? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!