Paperbark Camp opened in late 1998 after many years of dreaming and planning. It was a huge rollercoaster ride and took unbelievable patience since we first started talking about chucking in our day jobs and building a camp in the Australian bush.
It all started in Africa in the early 90's over a few 'sundowners' with good friends in their private safari camp. We had travelled to Africa a couple of times and just loved the tented style of accommodation we experienced there and thought that the same concept would be ideal for Australia. Having been enthusiastic campers in our earlier years we still loved the feeling it gives of really being amongst nature, but no longer could be bothered with the planning, packing and unpacking required for more traditional camping.
On our return, we happened to discover beautiful Jervis Bay and it's pristine environment and at the same time noticed there was not much accommodation available, unless you knew someone with a house in the area. Perhaps this could be the place for our much dreamed about camp? The idea of creating our own Aussie version of the African camp experience really started to take hold.
There were a few years of 'dreaming' of it all, discussing our ideas with friends and generally working up the courage to take the plunge. We still had dependent children in school in Sydney and it was pretty scary thinking of giving up our secure jobs and nice city lifestyle to risk everything we had worked so hard for, especially for what many friends considered a CRAZY idea! We had the vision, but found it hard convincing others. It was a matter of having the perseverance and belief in what we were doing, even though no-one else did!
After a few years we found what we were looking for, a 100 acre site of untouched bushland with creek frontage and close to the bay. We left our jobs in engineering and publishing, rented out our home in Sydney and began the long process of satisfying council and government requirements to build on a protected wetland.
It took a staggering 4 years from the time of submitting the development application to the start of building though the delay may have been a positive thing, as perhaps the concept was ahead of it's time. In the end, our opening coincided with a growing trend towards nature based tourism and ecologically sustainable development, as well as the growth in the internet which has been so beneficial to our industry. Our opening also coincided with a re-discovery of the Jervis Bay area by Sydneysiders and it becoming a National Marine Park (only the second in NSW at the time) which renewed interest in the area and increased recognition of it as being a truly spectacular coastal destination.
Nearly ten years on and the camp has evolved somewhat from our original basic vision of a small private bush camp. Our architect Trevor Hamilton, of Sydney firm Nettleton Tribe, must have known from the beginning something we didn't, foreseeing the emergence of 'glamping' when designing the ochre-toned 'Gunyah' and realising the need for a substantial space that would meet all our requirements as the business evolved. It is now an integral part of the camp, with an established restaurant (never part of our original plans!) re known for its fine food and unique atmosphere. a tree house for possums and foodies! It has become a special place for weddings and has proven very popular for conferences, family gatherings and celebrations.
Though our original safari tents were certainly very comfortable and were positively posh compared to your usual erect-it-yourself tent, we could see there might be a market for a more 'luxury' product and decided to build another two 'deluxe' tents that would satisfy this demand. These were quickly booked out months in advance and we have since upgraded another two which are also very popular. it seems the concept of luxury camping is really taking hold and we welcome the growth in the concept around Australia.
We have been fortunate over the years to have had much support from our children, all of whom have worked with us in varying capacities and continue to do so as they start there own families and follow their own interests. Together with a team of dedicated local staff we like to think this gives our guests an especially warm welcome and genuine interest in ensuring they have a truly memorable stay.
During our opening week all those years ago we were having dinner on the verandah of the Gunyah, looking at all the couples having candle lit dinners under the gum trees, and it was just so exciting to finally see the evidence of what we had achieved. Today we welcome guests from around the world looking for a genuine Australian bush experience as well as many weary city folk looking for an antidote to their hectic lives and it still gives us immense satisfaction to see them enjoying our special part of the world and appreciating the beauty of our natural surroundings.
We hope to see you here one day!
Irena & Jeremy Hutchings