Tent camping was such a big part of our life in Colorado, yet we had done very little since moving to Aotearoa New Zealand. We adopted the hut and campervan lifestyle that is so prevalent here and with a roof over our head and comfy bed we were no longer roughing it. When I stumbled upon a site for canopy camping with intrigue, I felt guilty that I would be taking an even greater step away from my ‘proper camping’ roots. But…the ‘glamping’ sites were so darn cute and my partner and I were doing heaps of running training for an ultra marathon so comfort and a nice shower were important for our recovery. So as we chased the sun once again for the weekend (it apparently doesn’t exist in Welly July – Sept), I decided that glamping would be the perfect compromise between luxury and the outdoors. We booked a canopy campsite in Central Hawkes Bay, about 4 hours northeast of Wellington and WE LOVED the experience.
Birch Hill Station
Birch Hill Station is a quintessential Central Hawke’s Bay sheep and cattle farm with 1300 hectares of rolling farmland and kanuka and pine forest blocks.
There are nearly 4000 sheep and between 100-400 cattle depending on the season. We came at the end of the August – September lambing season and there were heaps of little ones following their mommy around.
The canopy campsite is tucked in the corner of the property, overlooking the Porangahau countryside. Mature kānuka trees provide privacy from the managed farm and bring the distinctive native bird songs at dawn and dusk. The hammocks hanging in the trees are the perfect place to escape the intense NZ summer sun for an afternoon nap. They are still pretty relaxing in the spring as well.
The site contains three tents that sleep up to nine guests and former sheep shed converted into a living, dining, kitchen, and bath area. The main tent is adorable, with rustic touches and a small wood stove to keep warm in the cooler months. Check out that bed, this was definitely glamping!
The main sheep shed is equip with everything you need and more. Libby and Ben, the owners of the station, have tended to every detail. All of the kitchen essentials are provided, including a large chilly bin to store perishable items. Fresh farm eggs and marshmallows for toasting were left on the large indoor dining table (not shown here). The living space was stocked with games, books, and stacks of magazines…containing a collection National Geographic, my favorite! A small gas heater can be used to heat the inside.
We spent most of our time outdoors, enjoying breakfasts at the outdoor table and dinners and evenings by the large wood stove.
I definitely didn’t pass up the chance to roast a few marshmallows. It took me four or five attempts to get that perfect combination of a charred outside and gooey inside. I suppose I was out of practice.
Our favorite part of the site was the outdoor plumbing. Outdoor baths are a big thing in NZ and they are spectacular. Why don’t more people have this in the US? I prefer a chemical free experience over a hot tub any day.
With all of these amenities, many would probably think this place is actually too fancy to even be considered glamping. Well, there was one big element common to camping (besides the tent of course), there is no electricity on the property. Several solar powered torches can be hanged around the property to provide evening light. Although we preferred the softer light of the candles. See all of those Nat Geos?!
While we stuck to the farm during most of our stay, we did have to return to town (~30 minute drive) for more food (bad planning) and checked out the Porangahau beach on our way out of town. After our first day of 3 hour running, we enjoyed a big lunch at DaXx. A bit of a dive place, serving pretty good food. The best part of DaXx is that it was originally named Dak after Dan and Kevin. When they sold it, the owners tried to rename the place, but the locals refused so they compromised by allowing a spelling change. I love stories like that.
Porangahau beach is gorgeous 8km long beach, about a 15 minute drive. It wasn’t really a ‘beach day’ when we passed through, but hung out for a bit to share a beer in celebration of our last 3 hour training running.
Not far from the beach, you will find the site of the longest place name in the world., Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu. Despite practice, I still struggle for breath with this mouthful. Check out how insignificant I look next to this sign!
Our first glamping experience was terrific! I have absolutely no qualms about a little luxury added to my camping, especially when I am not in a wilderness area. There are a bunch of other equally as interesting canopy camping sites that we definitely plan to check out. We are officially ‘glampers’ and I am not ashamed to say so.