Friday, December 8, 2023

Is This New Zealand’s Best-Kept Glamping Secret? We Check Out Te Awa Glamping

In our latest edition of Capsule Travels, Kelly Bertrand checks out a stunning glamping spot just a few hours from Auckland – Te Awa Glamping on the mighty Whanganui River

Is it just me, or is glamping really having a moment in New Zealand?

Romantic getaways used to be squarely the domain of fancy five-star hotels, but now it seems like if you’re going away for the weekend with your number-one human, you best believe there’d better be an outdoor bath.

Now, there was a long time where romantic getaways for me involved dragging along a mate because – despite the fact I was chronically single – I still had to write about gorgeous couple-y places for work and I thought it would be sadder to go alone, so I’m still getting used to the joy that is heading away for a few nights with an actual partner.

And let me tell you, there’s just something about huddling in front of a roaring fire, or slipping into an outdoor bath, that makes you feel supremely content with the world.

And who would have thought it would be in Taumarunui?

Nestled on the banks of the Whanganui River, and just 15 minutes from town lies Te Awa Glamping, an off-grid oasis that promises rest, relaxation and completely disconnecting from the world – perfect for reconnecting and rejuvenating.

Red wine, fire, platter? It doesn’t get much better

The Glamping Tent:

Local couple Louise and Tom Donaldson have turned a bit of farmland into a glamper’s dream, shipping the huge safari tent from South Africa and transforming a slice of Kiwi paradise into an incredible holiday destination.

Ok and when I say tent, I really mean house made of canvas – this thing is big, solid and supremely comfortable (and bloody impressive to look at, especially as you drive down the gravel road for the first time and take in the gorgeous property.

A huge king-sized dominates the main room, which also contains a couch, dining room table and kitchenette with gas hobs and a fridge, so you can self-cater. (Tip from us, just grab some of that spinach and ricotta-stuffed pasta, and you’ll have dinner in five minutes flat).

The gorgeous bathroom is bigger – and far nicer – than the one we have at home, and the tent is wrapped by a huge deck which is perfect for watching the river rush by.

Louise has gone to great lengths to make the tent feel homely – think bone china, fluffy pillows, cosy blankets and Moroccan poufs combining for an eclectic, soft vibe. She’s also a wickedly good baker, and provides a tin of home-made goodies in the welcome hamper that’s left for all guests, which includes eggs, bread, milk and a variety of snacks including marshmallows for roasting on the outdoor fire.

What to Do When You’re Glamping:

The thing about Te Awa Glamping is that you can do as little, or as much, as you like. If you’re an active relaxer you’ve got kayaks, hiking, swimming (but for the love of God check the currents) and you can also book in tours with local providers, or take a drive up the very picturesque Forgotten World Highway. There’s also a huge chest of magazines, yoga mats and games, as well as a treasure hunt, with some goodies hidden around the tent at the end that’ll delight both adults and kids (yup, you can bring kids – there’s a sofa bed too.) Trust me, do the treasure hunt.

Or, if you’re just keen to slow down and chill out, utilise the gorgeous claw-foot outdoor tub (bubble bath and candles provided) for a soak as you take in the river and the beautiful hills and valleys that rise up on either side, before snuggling up in front of the fire. We grabbed one of the picnic blankets provided and enjoyed a picnic on the grass before having a snooze in the afternoon sun – stock up on platter stuff before you come, lie back and enjoy. And don’t forget to look up at night – the stargazing is jaw-dropping thanks to no light pollution, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be staggered to realise how many satellites there are in the sky!

Outdoor bath on a glamping trip
Ok maybe it gets better with the bath

It’s completely private, with the only sounds courtesy of the river and the native birdlife, and it’s surprisingly easy to get over the fact there’s jack all reception and definitely no Wifi.

Off Grid and On-Trend – Glamping at its Best

You don’t get much more planet-friendly than Te Awa Glamping – it’s 100% off grid. The lights and fridge and powered by the solar panels (be warned if it’s cloudy) and the water’s heated by gas. The water comes from a nearby spring, most of the food supplied comes from Louise and Tom’s farm, and they’re currently working towards zero waste.

Something to note if you’re planning to come in winter: there’s no heating in the tent. Warmth, says Louise, is provided by blankets (and there’s a HEAP of them) and hugs. The hugs part is on you, obviously.

But don’t be fooled – this really is a luxe experience in the middle of one of New Zealand’s most picturesque landscapes.

If you’re after a weekend away to reconnect and spend some time with somebody important, this is it.

The writer was hosted by Te Awa Glamping

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