Fancy fresh trout for breakfast? No problem…  take a few steps from your colourful gypsy caravan and catch it yourself in the river.  Or luxuriate in a sumptuous tent with ensuite bathroom (yes that’s right) in peace and quiet miles from anyone. This is glamour camping – glamping – and the Wairarapa could have been designed for it. Susan McLeary explains. 

Lulled to sleep by the river

Getting away from it all takes on new meaning for River’s Edge Retreat.  It’s set in the beautiful Ruakokopatuna Valley, literally at the edge of the local river, on quiet farmland.  Yet being only 15 minutes’ drive from Martinborough (and less than two hours from Wellington) means it’s easily accessible for city couples wanting a luxurious rural break.

Designed for couples, the purpose-built and stylish luxury tent has large glass windows overlooking the river, an inviting king bed, luxurious textiles including a comfortable leather sofa, wood-burning stove, a pretty chandelier and lots of recycled timber. In addition to that ensuite (with flushing toilet), there’s a small kitchenette and a bathtub under the stars.

Roughing it is not the River’s Edge style; it’s all rustic chic.  It’s about relaxing, being indulgently comfortable and relaxed, feeling city tensions draining away. Maybe with a glass of Martinborough’s fine wine? Margrain Vineyard helpfully produces one called River’s Edge Pinot Noir. This luxury experience is on the family farm of Matt Thomas, who runs River’s Edge with his wife Nicki and a bit of help from their sons Ben and Henry, alongside day to day farming.

They see glamping as “the perfect way to share the natural environment of the farm in a unique and luxury style of accommodation.  Our guests love it,” they say. 

Quaint, quirky and colourful

Similar concept, very different style. Gypsy River Camping offers three delightfully distinctive, hand-built caravans for up to six guests. It’s on the banks of the Ruamahanga River, and it’s said there are plenty of brown trout ready for a battle of wits with aspiring fisher-people. On the grounds of popular homestay Mas de Saules (‘house of willows’) just out of Masterton, co-owner Steve Blakemore made the three-wheeled Gypsy Caravan and Shepherds Huts to traditional designs. 

The Shepherds Huts (Primrose and Rose) each sleep two adults beneath feather duvets and the comfort of a wood-burning stove for winter, while the delightful Gypsy Caravan offers a double bed (with option for two singles) plus two bunks for family flexibility. The beds, linen, towels and bathrobes are all beautifully high quality for that essential touch of glamping luxury.  Bathroom and hot shower are separate, and the ‘bush bath’ is very popular.  Meals can be cooked on the campfire, barbecue or in the cookhouse. Trout is especially good over the campfire, host Mary Blakemore says. 

Gypsy Caravan glamping is more family-oriented, offering such country treats as a flying fox, kayaks, rope swing, fishing and swimming from the ‘river beach’ nearby, as well as the more gentle pleasures of bird-watching and simply soaking up the peace of nature under the sparkling night sky.