Roughing it is for the birds. Jesse Mulligan much prefers his camping VIP-style.
Castaways' glam camping offers the best of both worlds, especially for those of us who look at the best of one world and say, "Pah, I need twice as much of this." Isolation plus convenience, DIY plus TLC, birdsong plus MP3: if this still isn't luxurious enough for your tastes, then maybe camping isn't for you. Maybe walking out of your front door isn't for you.
I first glamped at Castaways at Auckland's Karioitahi Beach, the night after my wedding, on a honeymoon surprise for my wife, who loves the outdoors but, bafflingly, decided to marry somebody who thinks fresh air is a poor imitation of air conditioning. I kept the destination secret from her right up until the moment we arrived at the campsite, and though a tent equipped with full plumbing, shag carpet, kingsize bed and microwave might not seem particularly rugged, I think she appreciated the effort.
That tent was up in the hills above the ocean - think crashing wave sounds and beautiful west coast views. It was exhilarating and relaxing, so relaxing that by the time I'd brushed my teeth and gone to bed, my new wife was already asleep. I think you'll agree that's a pretty ideal situation when you're paying $400 for a one-night honeymoon away from your kids.
All your meals are provided; you just have to do a little heating and eating. After that you can have an outdoor bath under the stars and read a book - there's no mobile reception, so you won't be tempted to waste your time on frivolous activities like looking at Twitter or checking whether your children are still alive.
By the next morning we were both totally unwound, a feeling ruined only temporarily by driving our golf cart back to Castaways reception right into a TVNZ executive leadership team getaway.
"Hey, aren't you that guy off TV?" one of them quipped. "Not recently," I replied, then waited, my wife tells me, just a little too long for somebody else to fill the silence.
We drove back to Auckland in a Mercedes-Benz lent to me by Coutts Newmarket, which I was unable to thank publicly at the time because of my recent role with news and current affairs, but which I promised I would give a juicy plug to at some point, maybe in a newspaper if I could slip it past the editor.
When we got home we were in such a good mood we promised ourselves we'd do it again.
In November, Castaways opened its new, slightly more expensive, native bush glam camping site called Totara Experience. It's the same deal, set in native bush rather than on the coast, and would be a great spot for overseas visitors looking to get amongst local flora without doing any real exercise.
The new site is 15km from Castaways HQ, which you can travel to by car or on electric bikes, which are quite fun once you figure out you don't need to pedal. It's interesting seeing Waiuku at a gentle pace - cabbage fields, home-kill sheds and a wedding with a sign that read, "Vern loves Raymond", so don't let anybody tell you rural New Zealand isn't progressive.
You see nothing but bush from your tent built around a totara trunk and surrounded by greenery and birdsong.
Sadly, they can't do much about good cell coverage and distant traffic noise, but once rush hour is over you can turn your phone off and feel like you're hundreds of kilometres from civilisation. Then, suddenly, the rural peace is interrupted by the crackle of fireworks nearby and you think, "I hope you're enjoying yourself tonight Vern. Raymond will be sound asleep this time tomorrow."
The living quarters are set up much the same as on the coast (where they now have multiple sites to deal with the demand from Grey Lynners sick of waking up to the sound of renovations and the construction of new apartment buildings), with the addition of a "suspended bath", which swings gently on chains, and I'm pleased to report is strong enough to hold a 100kg man and his green smoothie-drinking bride.
In the morning you get on those bikes and do a bit of token pedalling before realising the battery is charged enough to get you back to Castaways without human assistance. And as you pass Vern and Raymond's pad you wonder if they're doing the opposite, and spending their honeymoon night in a noisy urban apartment sandwiched between a tow-truck yard and a motorway.
Getting there: Castaways Resort is at Karioitahi Beach just under an hour's drive southwest of Auckland via Glenbrook and Waiuku.
Details: The resort's Glam Camping Experiences start at $430 per couple which includes a gourmet dinner and breakfast package. Stay in July or August and receive a free lunch at Agave Restaurant (terms and conditions apply).
The writer was a guest of Castaways.