Luxury camping complete with a king-sized bed and en suite is the only way to go, writes Jacqueline Le.

'Luxury camping isn't real camping."

At least that's what most people said when I told them I was going "glamping" in the South Australian outback.

I half expected them to whip out a warped two-person tent and say "That's not a tent, THIS is a tent" in the same way Crocodile Dundee showed his would-be-thief what a real knife was.

People seemed to have an issue with the fact my tent had a king-sized bed and en suite bathroom. I certainly didn't.

Advertisement

Walking into a ready-made tent is certainly much easier than frantically trying to pitch one before it gets dark, or before the skies open up and ruin the best-laid plans.

Camping trips are often full of regrets: about not packing enough toilet paper, about your choice of companion. About going camping in the first place.

Nothing at a luxury camp will leave you regretting anything. You'll still feel the sense of freedom - that "anything goes" vibe - of abandoning a concrete jungle in favour of a real one.

And while Australia's wide brown land is ideal for nature-based tourism, not everyone wants the same escape. Glamour camping lets people experience the bush, with a few of life's luxuries thrown in. You could call it camping for cheats.

The tent I sleep in at Ikara Safari Camp in the Flinders Ranges has floorboards and a tiled bathroom, as well as running electricity for hot water, bedside reading lamps and a mini fridge in the corner. Measuring four by six metres, it's more of a small marquee than a tent. But it's not over-the-top like I expected.

The white silk canopy, crystal chandeliers and gloss timber floors of some luxury camps would have felt out of place against the red river gums and native pines of Flinders Ranges National Park.

Instead, the nature tourism operators behind this project have developed a safari-style experience which complements the outback.

Here we're guests to the kangaroos and emus milling about, the wedge-tailed eagles flying overhead, not the other way around. One minute we're patting wildlife, the next we're eating perfectly cooked kangaroo as part of a gourmet barbecue dinner prepared by the executive chef.

Sorry, Skippy.

Inside my tented kingdom, the brown floorboards beneath look and feel weathered, even though I know they're just made to look rustic.

Startrails and the milky way as seen from Wilpena Pound. Photo / Getty Images
Startrails and the milky way as seen from Wilpena Pound. Photo / Getty Images

The tent's light khaki-coloured canvas is insulated for South Australia's scorching temperatures, or the rare thunderstorm that can take even arid landscapes by surprise.

Door and window openings can be rolled up to let in the sunlight, or zipped shut for privacy, while the mesh keeps out any creepy crawlies.

There's reverse air conditioning, but I draw a line and decide not to use it.

Pronounced "Ick-kara", it means "meeting place" in the local Adnyamathanha tongue and refers to Wilpena Pound, a huge rock basin that can fit eight Ulurus inside it. The walls of this 600 million-year-old rust-coloured quartzite and limestone landmark are there to wish me good morning when I step outside my tent, its hues changing with the flickering sunlight.

After a night of heavy rain, it's the best way to start the day. Not that the wet weather bothered me.

If you have to go camping in the rain, there is no better place to seek shelter than in an elevated, waterproof, windproof and foolproof tent. Much better than those 60-second pop up ones.

This is the campsite for me.

Great sights

From the skies

What better way to take in the beauty of South Australia's

Barossa Valley

than from the basket of a hot air balloon? If you're not an adrenalin-chaser, this is a wonderfully relaxing way to sightsee - leaving at sunrise, you'll float above the famous wine-growing region as it becomes illuminated. Once it's over, kick back at one of the many excellent wineries and celebrate your journey with a glass of something local.

On a bike
South Australia has a large network of trails for keen cyclists. River Torrens Linear Park - 35km of cycling and walking trails going from the sea to the Adelaide foothills, via the city's CBD - is great for families. The trail follows the picturesque River Torrens and is ideal for all fitness levels. For another leisurely ride, try the Riesling Trail in the Clare Valley wine region - it runs for 27km along an old railway line and passes through vineyards and historic townships. walkingsa.org.au
By the water
The mighty Murray River is Australia's longest, running through New South Wales and Victoria and ending in South Australia. To get better acquainted with the "food bowl of the nation", try a guided tour like the Murray River Walk, a four-day immersive journey through ancient forest and wetlands. If you're more the driving type, take the family on a road trip down the Mighty Murray Way. Or better yet, take a cruise down the river on a historic paddle steamer.

CHECKLIST
Getting there

Air New Zealand flies year round non-stop between Auckland and Adelaide, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will operate seasonally on this service from October. One-way Economy Class fares start from $307.

Ikara Safari Camp and Wilpena Pound are 429km north from Adelaide. You can drive, catch a bus, or charter a plane. If driving, aim to get there by sundown. Insurance companies won't cover vehicles driven on country roads between dusk and dawn.