Pitching a tent with the family just got better, says Sarah Ell.

Just on dusk we hear it: the melodious, fluting call of a kokako, surprisingly loud and beautifully clear in the still air. It is a rare and wonderful opportunity, the stuff memories are made of.

At about the same time it starts to rain. But we don't care because we're glamping, family-style. The rain gently pitter-patters on the sturdy canvas above our heads as we sit comfortably on the "porch", the solar fairy lights strung along its edge starting to glow.

After a tasty barbecue dinner the adults are enjoying a wine, knowing that just inside the tent flap lies a comfortable, fully made-up queen-sized bed and that in the morning we can have a hot shower if we so desire, and breakfast at a proper-height dining table on a solid floor. I am not averse to lumpy ground, dripping tent-flap, cold-toast camping, but with two children under 5, a little luxury does not go unappreciated.

We are spending two nights at Canopy Campsites' Chattan Farm glampsite in the Bay of Plenty, between Lake Rotoma and Matata. It's not exactly the middle of nowhere, but it's pretty close.


On arrival we are greeted warmly by property owners Tim and Jo Mackintosh to be guided to our campsite.

"The road's a bit rough," Tim says.

"You might wonder where on earth we're going, but just follow us."

We bump along metal farm roads for a couple of kilometres, winding up hills and into a tree-lined valley.

About 300ha of beautiful native bush on the 780ha sheep and beef farm is protected and has some big rimu, rata, tawa and kamahi and a thick understorey. Local volunteers are working on pest eradication and the area is now possum-free.

"Even 20 or so years ago I can remember the bush looking really bad, with about every fifth tree or so damaged," Tim says.

"Now it looks fantastic."

Glamping at Chattan Farm. Photo / Canopy Camping

Our campsite is in a clearing surrounded by bush, the robust, 24sq m tent carefully positioned to be sheltered from both the wind and too much bright sunshine. On the other side of the clearing is a fully plumbed kitchen and bathroom shed, with a clever opening wall that lifts to becomes a porch roof. There's a completely odour-free composting toilet.

We settle down with a freshly brewed cup of tea and some of the delicious Christmas cake the Mackintoshes have left us, while the children explore our home for the next two nights.

"It will be like being pioneers," I say.

My husband snorts: "Pioneers with LPG gas, hot and cold running water, red wine and Swiss chocolate."

After a rainy first night, and a glorious dawn chorus courtesy of the kokako, bellbirds and tui - followed shortly after by one from the kids, we decide to spend the day exploring. There are plenty of farm tracks to wander along and the children enjoy running about in the long grass and investigating the shady bush. It's a far cry from city life, electronic entertainment and daily routine - and they love it.

It's barbecue for dinner again, me loving the fact that it is apparently a man's job to cook outside. Then we fill the outdoor tub and the kids and I hop in for a special bathtime. Lying with my little ones in the old enamel bath, looking up at the bright blue sky above the trees, the sounds of the bush all around us, is a another memory I will treasure for a very long time.

We head to bed early after our nightly serenade by the kokako, and enjoy another night of pristine peace and quiet, broken only by the call of the moreporks - and the excited squeals of a two-year-old waking very early.

It's another beautiful day and it is with regret that we pack up and head back to the real world.

It's not often a weekend away provides such super-special holiday memories, but Chattan Farm is a special place, not only because of its remote location, natural beauty and peace and quiet, but because it has made "roughing it" feel pretty damn comfortable.


Chattan Farm is about an hour from either Rotorua or Tauranga, and costs from $250 a night in summer. For more information on Chattan Farm and other glampsites throughout the country, visit canopycamping.co.nz.

Sarah was a guest of Chattan Farm.