Diana Staveley has fond memories of care-free road-tripping and camping with girlfriends after graduating from university. Add husbands, kids and pets into the mix and those subsequent camping holidays became not so relaxed. The idea of an easier way began brewing.
"Three girlfriends and I set off around Coromandel with a station wagon, a biggish pup tent, sleeping bags, a cooker and coffee plunger. Camping nowadays is still great but quite a lot of stress and work; organising and packing the equipment, putting up the tent, feeding and looking after everyone's needs. All for odd moments of tranquillity and some beach time, to have to do it in reverse at the end."
A girls' weekend away in the outdoors without the usual stress of making it eventuate was looking appealing.
"What if the tent was already set up and you didn't need the trailer? You wouldn't need the bloke's help and he could stay at home with the kids. What if there were nice, comfy camp beds made up with linen and you didn't have to deal with all the washing back at home? You'd pack only your togs and PJs. Imagine hanging with your girls away from it all where you could drink, laugh and eat cheese. Now there's an idea!"
Feedback from others, involving hilarious stories of camping nightmares, proved Diana, who is happily married and has a daughter and a dog, wasn't the only one with these wistful thoughts. With a lot of encouragement and, after practising the experience last summer with several groups of friends, Diana launched Perfect Four in October.
Based at Whangarei Heads, a 45-minute drive from town, the site is situated on a coastal farm with a backdrop of Mt Manaia and walking access to a beautiful, deserted long, white sandy beach.
A large, modern canvas tent with sturdy camp beds are set up beforehand so groups of four can simply show up to be met by Diana and shown the ropes before she leaves them to enjoy the experience.
"It's comfortable, modern camping. There are flush toilets, and hot showers onsite but no power or wifi."
Guests simply bring a bag of clothes, food and drinks – there is a camp kitchen with gas fridge, bbq and cooker onsite.
"I think the experience starts with the anticipation; planning meals, cocktails and treats. Then the fun of a girls' road-trip. Really the whole experience is up to them - it's their girl-camp.
"There is plenty to see and do; walk Mt Manaia, have surf or SUP lesson, yoga … or just enjoy doing nothing much, being outside and having a beach to themselves. At night, they can have a campfire, watch the stars, listen for Kiwi and experience the fun of a big girls' sleepover."
A Girl Guide leader, Diana has been organising camps for girls and women since before cell-phones were invented.
"The tents and equipment have changed but what hasn't is the fun of being outdoors; the simplicity of daily tasks, the wonders of nature and the joy of sleeping in a tent with your friends."
She says the name Perfect Four comes from the vision of the perfect four women camping experience.
"Four people fit nicely in a car, there are four glasses of wine in a bottle and four is perfect for playing cards. Four is just a number that seems to work in life – and it just so happens that our fabulous Perfect Four tent is ideally set up for a luxury four-lady experience."
The feedback has been 'super-positive' and she's finding it popular with all ages, both locals and Aucklanders, for girls-getaways, hens nights, birthdays, as well as for Whangarei Heads events, such as the Wild Kiwi and Easter Arts Trail.
"I'm one of four sisters and am still really close with my uni friends. I get how nourishing girl-time is for the soul. We women become so absorbed with keeping the men, children and animals in our lives happy, that we forget to take time out for ourselves.
"As my best friend says: 'There is a reason the airline safety briefing says to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. You can't help anyone if you don't'. Sometimes we forget to breathe."
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