Unique tents, Milky Way views, delicious food: why NZ glamping is on the rise

We caught up with Louise and Tom from Te Awa Glamping to discover why the interest in luxury glamping shows no signs of slowing down.

Glamping is one of the most popular and fastest growing types of boutique accomodation in New Zealand (and the world) - probably because it combines the best of everything. You get to enjoy all that is associated with the age old tradition of camping. Privacy. Spectacular landscapes and nature. Romance. But with a luxury twist.

"People want more than four walls in a different location - they want a whole experience, an escape from life where they can forget the world and enjoy something totally unique," says Louise Donaldson, founder of Te Awa Glamping, luxury accommodation on the banks of the Whanganui River.

"You can pay $250 for a nice-ish, but boring hotel room, or for a little bit extra you get an entire space to yourself, hosts who care about you as people and delicious food to keep you satisfied! And in our case, access to a river that is so important to New Zealand's story. We're a quality, unique experience rather than just another bed to sleep in."

As we all become more pressured and time-starved, glamping seems like the perfect antidote. Louise says it is particularly appealing to those that want to relax amongst stunning natural surroundings - but without saying goodbye to their creature comforts.

"In terms of where you're staying and nature, I think a lot of people looking for this type of stay are from cities and live in the hustle and bustle of life where a tree is a novelty, let alone animals that eat from your hand," she smiles. "New Zealanders are active, outdoorsy type people and I think that craving to be more at one with nature is growing in people's lives. There is an overall sense of wellbeing when you're at one with nature."

Te Awa Glamping is only three hours South of Auckland or four hours North of Wellington, yet it feels like you are a million miles away. Located deep in a family farm, along the Forgotten World Highway, you can choose to arrive by jet-boat, canoe, air or road.

The business was born when the Donaldson family bought a new block of land as a fattening block for the sheep and beef farms that they run. As soon as they saw it, they knew they had to make the most of the gorgeous spot.

"There are so few places along the Whanganui River that allow for easy river access, and we have the added bonus of a private sandy beach when the river is low. We had previously talked about glamping in jest, but we decided to just go for it.

"When we were searching for the right tent, we really wanted to buy local, but we also wanted something unique. When we came across Tentickle in South Africa that produces these beautiful tents, we knew they would be the best fit for our hilly environment. We got in contact and custom-designed it so that the tent would suit our environment and make the most of the views."

Louise and Tom take great pleasure in seeing people's reactions when they first arrive at Te Awa. Even those that are familiar with the area are surprised and delighted by the secluded corner of paradise, and it seems to have an instant relaxing effect on anyone that visits.

"People have been gobsmacked when they arrive - even people who have lived here all their lives are blown away and feel like they're somewhere completely different. Taumarunui doesn't really have a reputation for 'luxury', but this spot is honestly like no other. Photos don't do justice to the feeling you get down here, the clean air, the smell and sound of the river, let alone the Milky Way across the sky on a clear night."

Louise is excited to welcome more New Zealanders to Te Awa now that the domestic travel restrictions are easing. She hopes that the one silver lining of the pandemic is that it will encourage people to discover more of the country's hidden gems.

"Glamping is such a wonderful way to show people parts of the country that they wouldn't normally see. Te Awa is a special experience because guests are at one with nature on a real Kiwi working farm. We've noticed that people are actually quite interested in seeing what our country's farms are doing, and the pride there is in caring for the land and looking after it for future generations. It's lovely to see and we're always very happy to show people the farm and answer any questions."

Louise thinks that glamping, including Te Awa, is especially suited as a romantic getaway or for anyone simply wanting somewhere to be calm and close to nature.

"That includes those active-relaxers among us," she adds. "There is so much to do in the area, so whether people want adventure with luxury, or relaxation and luxury, the choice is there!"

What a day and night at Te Awa Glamping might look like

When you arrive, you are greeted with a local hamper of goodies then you are welcome to grab a drink and wander down to the river's edge. You could walk along the river until you find the mini waterfall and watch the sun set behind the hills of the King Country, listening to the bleating sheep and flowing river.

Meander back up to the tent and top up your drink before lighting a fire and getting the marshmallows at the ready! Lay out a picnic or prepare a warm meal and enjoy the evening as the stars come out.

We recommend relaxing with a hot bath on a brisk evening. Soak up the bath salts while enjoying the beautiful views, then head inside for a game of cards and a flick through some magazines before heading to bed, ready for another day of adventure.

The mountain is only 40 minutes away for skiing, snowboarding and stunning walks around Tongariro National Park. There are some great mountain bike trails in the area and fishing is also an option.

We are looking into packages with other local companies, but we are still at the beginning stages - watch this space!

You can find learn more about Te Awa Glamping here.