Much like babysitting a friend’s only child, camping is an idea often better resigned to the realm of well meaning theory rather than practice.
As far as activities go, few recreational pursuits are as divisive as voluntarily eating, sleeping and maintaining acceptable levels of personal hygiene while al fresco. One man’s Walden invariably becomes another’s Lord of the Flies – quite literally, more often than not.
Those with an aversion to pursuits reliant on spending extended periods of time in the great outdoors would do well to reorient their expectations of the experience through a cursory introduction to ‘glamping’. As with most unenviable pastimes, affixing a ‘glam’ prefix to the task at hand does wonders when it comes to alleviating any foreseeable woes.
Although ‘glamping’ has become as well-established a cultural portmanteau as ‘brunch’, there are undoubtedly many for whom the concept is as foreign as it is undesirable. For Marcus Kersch, co-founder of the Simple Pleasures Camping Co., ‘glamping’ isn’t a fold out army surplus cot and complimentary Wonder White™ with breakfast, as I was once lead to believe by an over eager tourism officer.
Instead, it’s “a sense of luxury, a touch of the exotic and something which offers an experience that won’t easily be forgotten. It’s a romantic night out of the ordinary.”
Kersch would know too. One year after founding Simple Pleasures with his business partner Dugald King, the two have pitched a 10-tent Bedouin on the Beaches pop-up within the grounds of Manly’s International College of Management that exemplifies the glamping ideal more than any other likeminded venture that I’ve seen.
As far as venues go, you’d be hard pressed to find one in Sydney as spectacular as the grounds of St. Patrick’s estate, an erstwhile seminary that you’ll no doubt recognise as Jay Gatsby’s mansion in Baz Luhrmann’s maximal adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic. Considering the more recent cultural implications of the estate and its personal resonance with the two co-founders, it’s only apt then that Kersch and King would set up a luxury campsite here for the duration of the summer.
“We had originally met in Manly about 12 years ago,” Kersch told GRAZIA. “We were camping together for a couple of weeks one summer – Dugald [a longtime Manly resident] had just sold a bar and we had one of those rare periods where nothing was holding us back. We started talking more as we spent days in the bush, surfing and camping, about there being a market in offering people what we were experiencing.
“I think in all honesty by the time the camping trip was finished and we were headed home, our minds were made up – we were doing it.”
Kersch continues that he and King wanted to create a lifestyle for themselves that allowed them to move away from Sydney, and which allowed them to provide likeminded people with a positive, wholesome experience. Something outside of the ordinary experience of camping with which most are likely familiar: ill-fated childhood camping trips that, more often than not, end in a deluge of either rain or tears – or both.
“The classic marshmallows on the fire, all five of us in a pretty small tent,” Kersch recalls of his earliest camping experience. “One year it rained the whole time and the tent was absolutely drenched – my sister was crying and finally my parents pulled the pin and packed us back in the car to drive home in the middle of the night. After that I’m not sure we ever went camping as a family again!”
Today, Simple Pleasures offers luxury, eco-friendly ‘glamping’ experiences on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales at pristine destinations including Seal Rocks, Bluey’s Beach, Wallis Lake and Booti Booti National Park. Tapping into a burgeoning demographic of festivalgoers for whom the idea of a repurposed yoga mat no longer an adequate bed makes, they’re also pitching at Lost Paradise, the 2017 Surfing World Camp and at a site close to next year’s Splendour in the Grass festival.
“We value the experience above all else,” says Kersch, accounting for what he considers to be his company’s point of difference. “We offer probably the most comprehensive and real camping experience in Australia, through what we offer in the way of our inclusions, such as all cookware, gas cookers, lighting, eskies and outdoor furniture.”
The experience at Bedouin on the Beaches also extends to collaborations with brands like INBED, who provide linen for outrageously comfortable Hugo Sleep mattresses elevated by shipping pallets above vintage Persian rugs. Local businesses, including the nearby Shelly Beach Boathouse, the Artisan Cheese Room, Papi Chulo and Manly Surf School, who are offering discounted private surf lessons, have also come to the party (at an additional cost to the camper). Each has been chosen, Kersch says, for how they enhance the initial offering and “compliment it with a sense of luxury. We want our guests to feel treated or special.”
As their business grows, Kersch concedes that such treatment as grown to become even more valuable.
“The times we get to unwind and camp ourselves has grown even more valuable to us. The ability [to spend] a couple nights in the outdoors and under the stars has a unique and special ability to inspire and recharge.”
Bedouin on the Beaches will run until January 31, 2017. You can find out more information here.
Tile and cover image: Supplied