All the comforts of home. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
All the comforts of home. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

Glamp it up on a mini-break in Cabarita

The wow factor hits the moment we hear that familiar unzipping sound, then peel back the wide cream flaps and step inside.

This is certainly not the camping I know.

This is luxe glamping.

We have arrived at The Hideaway Cabarita Beach.

Our Plush Deluxe room (it could never be classified as a "tent") is more like a bohemian boudoir.

And there's more space than most hotel rooms we've stayed in.

A quick glance reveals a kingsize bed, bamboo/rattan/cane styling in occasional furniture pieces and a huge funky circular floor rug.

The airconditioner is cooling one side of the room and a large tripod fan the other.

We try to take it all in: the comfy pillows, designer cushions, lounge, director's chairs with casual table, lamps on bedside tables, mini-fridge with glass bottle of water, and towel rack with fluffy towels.

Glasses, blanket basket and vase add to the homely feel.

There's even high-speed Wi-Fi.

The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

Outside on the grassy front lawn is a rustic scene we've already earmarked for sunset drinks: two squatter chairs beside a sturdy beach umbrella and "stump" table, plus mats and stone entry to minimise dirt being brought inside the room.

From the moment we flop on the bed, the crazy traffic of the M1 to the Gold Coast is a distant memory.

Earlier, we parked the car, checked in at reception, brought in our overnight bags and found everything laid out before us on a guided tour of the pet-free and smoke-free resort.

There's been no erecting a tent, driving in pegs and tightening ropes.

No filling the cooler with ice and having it drip on the floor.

No putting up the camp stretcher beds and rolling out the sleeping bags.

No cramped space to get dressed and put all the gear.

There's not even a set of keys to lose: just walk away (an on-site manager keeps an eye on things during the day and a security guard patrols the resort at night for peace of mind).

And if you're staying longer than three nights, the room will be serviced every fourth day.

All the comforts of home. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
All the comforts of home. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

With Cudgen Nature Reserve as its neighbour and Main Beach less than 100m stroll away, the former Cabarita Caravan Park site could have been ripe for the picking with any big overseas developer to stride in and build a resort monstrosity.

But that's not Cabarita's style.

And it's certainly not in the mindset of new owners Cath and Adam Smith.

The born-and-bred Tweed region locals wanted to create something special they could be proud of that was in keeping with the casual beachside lifestyle and draw people from all over Australia - if not the world - for a no-fuss, restful holiday or mini-break.

The Hideaway Cabarita Beach idea is all about helping guests relax, recharge and rejuvenate.

The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

The boutique outdoor resort opened in October and is believed to be Australia's first "glamping by the sea".

It's small-scale: capped by the owners at 23 rooms, catering for a maximum of 58 guests on the 4000sq m (1 acre) site.

The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. The tents are more like a bohemian boudoir. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. The tents are more like a bohemian boudoir. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

The rooms come in three sizes: the 6m Plush Deluxe includes a kingsize bed; the 6m Bigger/Family suites have a queen-size bed and a single bed either side; and the 5m Classic has a queen-size bed (the mattresses are made by the company that produces the much-lauded Koala beds - firm but oh-so comfortable, and quality linen is supplied).

They offer everything to love about camping (fresh air, sounds of nature, open spaces and night skies, relaxed living and novelty of sleeping under canvas) but minimise everything to hate about camping (too uncomfortable, too noisy, too many people, no privacy, too far away from the action, too dirty, too much equipment to pack and lug in then repack and take home).

The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

In fact, The Hideaway is more like a hotel in the great outdoors than an old-style campground, in an idyllic beachside community.

There's plenty of living space within and surrounding the bell structures, which are akin to traditional Himalayan and Mongolian homes and feel like you're sleeping under a circus big top.

The waterproof cotton canvas is military-grade and highly soundproof.

On our recent visit, couples, mates and young families were our glamping neighbours but once inside the rooms, other campers were oblivious to any conversations or joyful playtime (no hint of loud snoring, either).

The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

Re-purposed shipping containers have created a reception area, well-maintained toilets and toilet/showers (male and female plus unisex including disabled) and laundry, as well as a barbecue/bar area and a kitchen/dining/chill-out zone with children's play area. The communal areas - especially the long dining tables, lounge, barbecue, fire pit and picnic tables - as well as twinkling lights overhead all add to the fun holiday atmosphere and create the best thing about camping: a community of travellers.

With plenty of opportunity to mix and mingle, we share conversations over a champagne at sunset or walking past a breakfast fry-up, while checking the surf and as groups enjoy their takeaway lunch under a fan in the kitchen.

The view from the Cabarita Surf Club veranda. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
The view from the Cabarita Surf Club veranda. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

The owners encourage guests to "enjoy Cabarita" and all the restaurants, cafes and businesses providing meals, snacks, drinks, takeaways and supplies rather than the bore of full-on cooking in the kitchen.

And why would you want to when a five-minute stroll along the nature strip by the sand dunes brings you to an award-winning hatted restaurant (Jason Barrett's Paper Daisy in Halcyon House).

What else could you want for a hassle-free break in your own little sanctuary, but still with the joys only camping can offer.

Over a morning coffee and pick-me-up juice at nearby Halcyon House, Cath Smith reminisces about childhood holidays at the Cabarita Caravan Park with her Murwillumbah family.

Back then, her grandmother lived next door to Halcyon House, which was then called The Hideaway, and management turned a blind eye when she and her cousins jumped the fence for a swim in the pool.

The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
The Hideaway Cabarita Beach. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

The Smiths wanted the name of The Hideaway as a nod to those nostalgic memories but also as a reflection of what they are creating.

In the future, the glamping will be taken up a notch with much more "luxe" added.

As the rooms near the end of their lifespan, Cath says they have plans to introduce A-frame timber structures with canvas stretched over the frame and timber floors - something they had seen in Slovenia.

Extra inclusions in the Plush Deluxe rooms may see everything from wine glasses, crockery and bathrobes to picnic baskets and tea and coffee-making facilities.

And no matter which rooms you book, guests may be able to upscale their stay with added extras such as picnic and late-arrival hampers.

Once spoiled by The Hideaway Cabarita Beach experience, you may never settle for run-of-the-mill camping ever again.

 

The writer was a guest of The Hideaway Cabarita Beach

 

STAY

Cabarita is a waterlover's paradise. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
Cabarita is a waterlover's paradise. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

CABARITA Beach is part of the Tweed region that stretches from the coast to the valley and is a short 15-minute drive south of the Gold Coast International Airport at Coolangatta and 30 minutes north of Byron Bay.

With a world-class surf break along Main Beach, cosy beach coves with shady pandanus and casuarina trees, plus Norries Headland with majestic views across the ocean to the mountains, Cabarita is a popular, laid-back beachside community.

The Hideaway Cabarita Beach is at 2-6 Tweed Coast Rd (corner Cypress Crescent), Cabarita Beach, NSW. Call 1300 611 392.

Prices start under $200 a night per room. Mid-wees specials are available. Visit https://www.hideawaycabaritabeach.com.au/ or book through www.booking.com and TripAdvisor. The retreat is ideal for wellness, business and incentive events and an additional pop-up bar and dining area available for hire.

 

The view from nearby Norries Headland. Picture: Shirley Sinclair
The view from nearby Norries Headland. Picture: Shirley Sinclair

EAT

Despite being a relatively small town, visitors to Cabarita are spoiled for choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try these:

Good coffee, light meals, pastries and baked goods (including vegan and gluten-free options) are available at Fuel Bakehouse Cabarita at 39-45 Tweed Coast Rd, Bogangar.

Cabarita Beach Surf Club on Pandanus Parade is popular for affordable, hearty meals (the seafood pie with barramundi and prawns is legendary) and hot and cold drinks on the veranda, with a view of the ocean and headland (phone 02 6676 1551).

The Stunned Mullet at 16 Tweed Coast Rd is the locals' choice for fish and chips (phone 02 6676 0318).

Tweed residents and visitors from near and far come to dine at award-winning hatted Paper Daisy in Halcyon House (21 Cypress Crescent), with a team led by executive chef Jason Barrett (https://halcyonhouse.com.au/paper-daisy-restaurant/ or phone 02 6676 1444).

And less than five minutes up the road from Cabarita is Osteria, another favourite with the locals for coffee, family meals and barbecues - even weddings - because of its strong paddock to plate philosophy (at 1 Barclay Drive, Casuarina. Phone 02 6674 9962).

 

PLAY

Tropical Fruit World, 29 Duranbah Rd, Duranbah. the world's largest selection of tropical fruits in the one location. The property will keep the family entertained for hours with gardens, Plantation Café, a jungle boat cruise, tractor train ride, and gift market including natural food and beauty products. Visit www.tropicalfruitworld.com.au