Paperbark Camp, located just a short drive south of Sydney on the New South Wales South Coast, is glamping at its finest. Nestled near the crystal-clear waters and pristine white beaches of Jervis Bay, this stunning retreat offers a tranquil bush experience with a luxurious twist.
Comprising thirteen luxury safari style tents, the camp is thoughtfully designed for privacy and comfort. Each tent features an open-air private ensuite with a freestanding bush bath, allowing guests to unwind amongst the bubbles while spotting kangaroos or birdwatching. The tents also include C+G finished split king-size beds, bespoke locally made furniture, polished hardwood floors and a wraparound verandah for those quiet moments immersed in the sounds of the bush. Not to mention scrumptious food prepared daily by the camps' chefs using locally-sourced produce.
Dreamt up over sundowners in a private African safari camp by Irena and Jeremy Hutchings, Paperbark Camp has been a pioneering glamping retreat in Australia for over 20 years. They wanted to bring the concept of luxury safari tents to Australia, and in 1998, after many years of planning, Paperbark opened its tents to the world in the wilderness of Jervis Bay.
Paperbark Camp also takes pride in its sustainable approach to luxury travel. It holds an esteemed Advanced Eco Accreditation from Ecotourism Australia and is part of the Eco Lodges of Australia group. With initiatives like growing its own produce and using solar-powered lighting in all tents, Paperbark is a stunning escape you can feel good about.
We were delighted to visit Paperbark recently to explore and really disconnect from modern life for a few days among the soaring eucalypts. While there we were lucky enough to chat to Camilla Hamilford, current owner and daughter of Irena and Jeremy, all about what makes this spot truly special. Read our conversation below.
C+G readers can score 10% off their stay at Paperbark Camp with code CANDGEE10 (valid when making a 2 night booking prior to 30/09/23, for stays through until 30/06/2024)
C+G: Tell us the background story of how your parents thought of the idea for Paperbark? They really were ahead of their time.
CH: Irena and Jeremy travelled quite extensively throughout Africa in the late 80s and early 90s and fell in love with the generous sized canvas safari tents that they often stayed in. They hadn’t seen it in Australia and felt that this style of accommodation would suit the Australian environment and allow people to experience nature without all the hard work of traditional camping. No doubt these dreams were assisted by the romance of enjoying a sunset drink looking out over the savannah! Over a few years they kept talking about it and eventually decided to follow their dream, giving up their day jobs and moving to Jervis Bay where they had found a suitable site. This is not to say that it was plain sailing from there on… the site had no road access, and council didn’t know how to deal with an application of this kind, so it took a lot of patience and a few more years before they finally swung open the gate in 1998.
C+G: For those who don’t know, can you explain a little about Paperbark and what is different about it?
CH: Nearly 25 years later, luxury camping (often now known as ‘glamping’ ) has really come into its own, and you can find glamping style accommodation almost anywhere you might choose to travel. However, I think Paperbark Camp remains pretty unique as it was built prior to the changes in bushfire legislation, and so continues to sit amongst a beautiful forested location, with towering gum trees and intriguing paperbarks, which are also home to many species of native animals and birdlife. Most newer properties, whilst offering some beautiful stays, are on cleared land which doesn’t allow for the privacy and feeling of really being immersed in and up close to nature. Combined with a full service treetop restaurant just footsteps away from your accommodation, it really does make for a very special experience. I think the fact that it’s also within easy reach of Sydney also makes it surprisingly accessible.
C+G: We know that the dining experience is quite unique and special too - can you explain?
CH: The Gunyah dining and lounge room sits high above the ground, so that you’re looking out into the midlevel gum forest, it feels like you’re just another part of the natural surroundings. Over the years we have had some seriously talented chefs come through our kitchen, each bringing their own unique take on contemporary Australian cuisine, with an increasing focus on regional produce, foraging on the property and use of indigenous ingredients where appropriate. All our stays include breakfast and 3 course dinner, it’s very much a part of the Paperbark experience. Throughout the year we often have special guest chefs, most recently Peter Kuruvita from Flying Fish as well as other group dining experiences that might include aboriginal dance, drumming sessions or a table under the stars.
C+G: It is a special part of the world, have you seen the area grow and reach new audiences through social media?
CH: Twenty years ago when we first started actively marketing to the international travel industry, we would spend the first 10 minutes explaining where Jervis Bay is, and showing photos to explain why they should consider a stay in our area. It was also relatively unknown to the Sydney demographic too, with mostly people from the southern shires holidaying here. Fast forward to 2023 as we start engaging again with the international market, they nearly always know where Jervis Bay is and why it’s so special.
No doubt the Covid lock-in really expanded our Sydney audience as people were forced to explore their own backyard, and of course social media is a game changer for the tourism industry, the ultimate word-of-mouth tool complete with pictures and video.
This is a double edged sword for us, as we really want to ensure this very special pristine environment is preserved for future generations and is not ‘loved to death’. Despite all the new found attention it does remain relatively unchanged, but the developers are circling and we are working with others in the community to encourage a sustainable approach to growth that always puts the environment first.
C+G: At C+G we hold a special place in our heart for Paperbark, as it really showcases our linen so nicely in the natural environment - what was your favourite combo which we shot? Maybe the Olive?
CH: You guessed it! Whilst I also love the warm tones of the Tobacco, it’s hard to go past the Olive, such a gorgeous version of green that really looks so perfect with the cream interior and solid timber flooring of the tents.