We’re welcomed to Waterfall Mountain by hosts Sonia and Mac and the delightful smell of woodsmoke wafting through the native bush. It’s just ten minutes from the eastern Bay of Plenty town of Opotiki but when the tarmac turned to gravel, it suddenly felt very remote.
“This is such a special place,” smiles Sonia before regaling us with stories of past guests’ encounters with wildlife (“Two pigs walked by when one woman was sitting in the bath. She didn’t know whether to jump out or sit quietly for them to pass by!”) and Mac shows us a video he took of a doe and her fawn standing in the driveway.
The glampsite sits next to a stream that cascades down a hill creating a series of small waterfalls. Up on the wooden deck sit two chairs, a table and an outside bath. The kitchen and bathroom are two separate rooms off to the side. When we unzip the tent, we’re enchanted to find a bed complete with beautiful linen, extra blankets, lanterns and another dining set with board games and books.
This is more than somewhere to spend a night. This is indeed a unique memory in our rural heartland.
There are no power points, no cell phone reception and no internet. We are genuinely off the grid and out of my comfort zone. For a novice camper like me, though, running hot water and the undeniable charm of sleeping in a lotus belle tent in the midst of native New Zealand bush make it well worth the break from all the mod cons.
We take a walk down the quiet gravel road to the Otara River. The water is clear and would be perfect on a hot summer’s day with the hills of the Urutawa Conservation Area behind. The Pakihi Trail starts another eight kilometres further along the road. It’s a 20-kilometre advanced Grade 4 cycle track that is part of the Motu Trails Great Ride.
The bush tends to be a place where time stands still, so it’s only when the light starts fading that I realise I’m getting hungry. All we’ve had to bring is meat for the barbeque, so along with pre-made salad and wine it’s an easy meal. This is the traditional time for TV, social media scrolling and music playing in the background. But instead of the abbreviated conversation that comes after the phrase ‘hey, could you hit mute for a second’, my partner and I have each other’s undivided attention accompanied by the soundtrack of the babbling stream. Later, when I’m lying in the hot bath surrounded by native bush and a darkening sky, I realise it’s not what the glampsite has that’s important, it’s what it doesn’t have.
A flick through the guest book shows previous guests have celebrated honeymoons and anniversaries at Waterfall Mountain and left messages gushing about glowworms, serenity and the opportunity to reconnect in a romantic setting. Closing my eyes on the rosy glow from the fire and the silver of the three-quarter moon touching the tent top, I couldn’t agree more.
Accommodation: Waterfall Mountain Glamping // Pricing from: NZD$225pn // Reopens 03 Sep
Note from OTBT: Debbie is a guest travel contributor for Off the Beaten Track. You can also follow along with Deb’s amazing travel updates on her Instagram