Head off-grid and leave the pandemic behind at these incredible glamping escapes in the north of New Zealand. Brook Sabin reports.
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve found the pandemic exhausting. Add a dash of near-constant anxiety, mix it with the stress of lockdowns, add a sprinkle of social isolation, and we’ve baked a bit of burnout.
But, I’ve got just the solution. How about heading off-grid, leaving behind the news, crowded places, and stress?
If this sounds like just what you need, we’ve put together some of our favourite glamping escapes in Auckland and Northland. After all, the northern part of our beautiful country is the best place to experience the elements in autumn.
READ MORE: * Guide to glamping in New Zealand: Here are the best places to stay * Inside Coromandel’s best secluded escapes for summer * Accommodation for every occasion in Tairāwhiti Gisborne
Castaways Glam Camping, Karioitahi Beach
One of the jewels in Auckland’s glamping crown can be found just an hour from the central city overlooking the wild black sands of Karioitahi Beach.
You’ll be given an off-road buggy with a map, and set off along the coastal hills on a treasure hunt to find your off-grid cabin. The beauty of this place is pretty profound: despite being just an hour from the central city, you can’t see any evidence of humans from your tent: no buildings, roads, lights, people or wifi. Here, you connect with the elements.
But let’s not forget the finer things. Isolation doesn’t need to mean discomfort. Despite being off-grid, the tent is heated, has a coffee machine, a generous selection of goodies in the fridge to eat for dinner, an outdoor bath overlooking the sea, and even a Bluetooth speaker system to set the mood.
My favourite part was falling asleep to the rhythmic crash of the waves on the beach below – it’s nature’s lullaby.
Castaways Glam Camping is $449 per night, including meals, drinks package and buggy transfer. See: glamcamping.co.nz
Just a few minutes from Matakana, you’ll find a miniature tepee village, with each tent perched above the soil on a circular platform, which you reach on a snaking boardwalk. Inside you’ll find an uber-comfy bed, better than many hotels.
There are three tepees in relatively close proximity, with a shared bathroom – and for the price, it offers some of the best value glamping in Auckland.
This is a place to pray for rain – the pitter-patter on the roof is hypnotic in its ability to melt away stress.
And you’re only a few minutes drive to Tāwharanui Regional Park, which is teeming with birdlife, Omaha Beach, Goat Island, the Matakana Farmers’ Market and a selection of vineyards and breweries.
A night at Teepee Matakana starts from $125 per night. See: tepee.co.nz
Hunting Lodge Glamping, Waimauku
If a luxury escape on a wine estate, just a few metres from a cellar door, sounds like your type of glamping, the Hunting Lodge in Waimauku is the perfect escape.
The tent has all the luxury touches, including robes, a hairdryer, and heater – and a two-course dinner is included at the property’s award-winning restaurant.
Your glamping experience also includes breakfast, meaning everything is taken care of – except the drinks. Good thing you’re spending a night at a winery.
Hunting Lodge Glamping starts from $375 per night, including dinner and breakfast. See: thehuntinglodgeglamping.co.nz
Black Rocks Retreat, Waiuku
If you’re keen to escape to the elements but don’t fancy a tent, Black Rocks Retreat offers a luxury solution.
It’s just over an hour’s drive from the central city, and has a luxury cabin overlooking the Manukau Habour, with views of the western side of the city.
The cabin is a little like a flash hotel room with beachfront access and kayaks to explore the water. But the highlight is the outdoor bath, overlooking the harbour, where you and your loved one can unwind in peace.
Black Rocks Retreat starts from $360 per night. See: canopycamping.co.nz
Matapouri Glamping, Matapouri
Overlooking the magnificent Poor Knights Islands, nestled in native bush, you’ll find Matapouri Glamping – one of Northland’s best hidden gems.
The Bowden Family owns the mighty Tawapou Farm, the closest mainland point to the Poor Knights Islands. The property has a vast area of regenerating native forest, and among this is the spectacular glamping site, complete with coastal views from the bed, deck, and outdoor bath.
You’re just a short drive away from Matapouri Beach, one of Northland’s best, and don’t miss a snorkel trip out to the Poor Knights, which departs from nearby Tutukaka.
Matapouri Glamping from $355 per night. See: matapouriglamping.co.nz
Tui Hilltop, Whangārei
If Northland had a little slice of Bali, this retreat – perched on the side of a mountain with sweeping views – would be it.
Tui Hilltop is the passion project of Greg Hall, who has spent 20 years meticulously landscaping the grounds. He’s now opened his property to the public, so they can enjoy what he created.
The retreat has three huts; the first is a kitchen and dining area, a few steps away you’ll find a glass-lined bedroom, and finally a separate shower block with composting toilet.
As you’re high up on a hill, you may even be lucky enough to wake up above the clouds.
Tui Hilltop from $290 per night. See: canopycamping.co.nz
Awatuna Yurt, Sandy Bay
One of Northland’s newest glamping escapes is tucked away in native bush, where you’ll fall asleep to the gentle trickle of the stream.
Rewind a few thousand years, and Awatuna Yurt would be fit for an emperor. The plush interior includes a luxurious bed, a separate bathroom with a flush toilet, and an outdoor bath.
Best of all, you’re less than a kilometre from Sandy Bay, which is a popular surf spot for locals – but also an excellent swimming beach.
Awatuna Yurt from $300 per night. See: canopycamping.co.nz
Little Tin Shed, Mangawhai
The beachside community of Mangawhai encompasses the best of the winterless North. You’ll find fantastic swimming beaches, a bustling little village – complete with a chocolate shop – and great places to unwind, such as the Little Tin Shed. The retreat is adults-only with one exception: dogs are allowed, as long as they’re well-behaved and are farm-friendly.
Owner Julia Smith wanted to create a space where the focus was on slowing down and enjoying each other. The result is a tiny house escape that celebrates the simpler things: reading a book, watching the stars, or listening to the birds. You’ll also find an impressive outdoor bath hidden in a mini mānuka forest.
Little Tin Shed from $280 per night. See: canopycamping.co.nz
Staying safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Follow the instructions at covid19.govt.nz.
The author has previously done photography for Canopy Camping, although this collection was put together on merit.