A huddle of geodesic domes add luxury and indulgence to a classic Kiwi campground.
Just 15 minutes’ drive from Wānaka, Lake Hāwea is set in sublime mountain surrounds and popular for fishing, boating and summery water sports such as wind surfing and kite surfing. We visited in the depths of winter, which is a questionable time to be testing out a tent.
These aren’t just any old tents, however. These are Cross Hill Domes, located at The Camp on the lakeshore. Nearby, Hāwea township is having a massive suburban growth spurt thanks to Central Otago overflow, but you’d never know that once you’re inside the holiday park gates.
The camp is leased from the local council by Richard and Sarah Burdon, whose family members have owned nearby Glen Dene and Mt Isthmus Stations since 1929. Covering 15 hectares of lakeshore reserve, the holiday park is a Kiwi classic with its mature woodland, secluded camping nooks and adventure playground vibe.
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To cater to the upper end, the Burdons added six geodesic glamping domes earlier this year. A good arm’s length away from the cabins and campsites, they nestle into a hillside just below the handsome lodge reserved for dome-dwellers’ exclusive use.
The domes are the latest glamping offering at The Camp, which includes bell and safari-style tents dotted about the grounds.
Sarah and Richard Burdon discovered the domes overseas and imported them from the USA. Reportedly the first of their kind in New Zealand, they blend heavy-duty construction with comfort and style. At 40 square metres with a high stud, they certainly don’t feel much like a tent.
Looking out through floor to ceiling (plastic) windows, the pièce de résistance is the super king bed furnished with wool blankets and a Shrek-worthy sheepskin throw. At the back is a five-star bathroom pod, a spacious dressing area and a chic wee kitchenette. As the cold night drew in we were glad of the gas fire and heat pump.
Dome guests share the use of the rustic lodge which sports a roaring fire, kitchen, lounge and sun deck. It’s an atmospheric spot to gather and enjoy dinner and breakfast provided in the accommodation package. Guests can also hang out in the lodge’s Whisky Room or pre-book a massage.
Continental breakfast is included and a three-course dinner can be added when booking. As you’d expect down on the farm, the menu is full-bore paddock to plate and generously portioned.
Dinner featured charcuterie and cheese, lamb rack and homegrown vege, followed by cinnamon-poached tamarillos. Central Otago pinot noir went down very well with it. A fortifying breakfast began with fresh fruit and muesli and finished with local bacon and eggs.
The Burdons cooked and hosted, which was a treat in itself. Long-time locals with deep connections to the land and people, they had stories to share and reminded us once again why ‘family-owned and operated’ is New Zealand tourism’s superpower.
The Camp’s excellent printed guest map lists local activities including lots of walking and biking. The Burdons also run hunting, fishing and farm tours, and can arrange other trips such as heli-crayfishing excursions on the West Coast. Holy aioli! Who knew that was a thing?
From the Camp you can bike all the way to Wānaka via the super-scenic Hāwea River Track, which passes the must-see Hāwea Wave. Allow 3-4 hours return to Wānaka.
Richard stoked up the wood-fired hot tub during dinner. By the time our dessert had settled it had reached a slow simmer and snow had started to fall. Yes, snow. Falling like sparkling diamonds against the inky black sky while a voluminous moon peeped in and out of silver clouds. Not even a frozen face could dull my feelings of euphoria.
Getting out of the hot tub. Pretty much killed the euphoria stone-cold dead.
Cross Hill Domes are the dream scenario for camping fans looking to up the luxe-factor, or newbies worried about sandflies, damp or a dodgy bed. They offer the stunning scenery and tranquil, back-to-nature vibe you want from a camping holiday combined with the romance of a canvas cocoon and the comfort of a high-end hotel room.
Cross Hill Domes start from $400 for two people for one night. The Stay, Explore, Enjoy rate is $750 for two people including accommodation, breakfast and three-course dinner with wine at Cross Hill Lodge. For more information, see crosshill.co.nz
The writer was a guest of Cross Hill Lodge & Domes.
Staying safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Face coverings are mandatory on all flights and public transport. Proof of vaccination and vaccine exemption may be required in some venues under the traffic light system. Follow the instructions at covid19.govt.nz.
* CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated the camp is part of Glene Dene and Mt Isthmus Stations owned by the Burdon family since 1929. The camp is leased from the local council by Richard and Sarah Burdon. (Amended January 25, 2022, 8am).
published 2022-01-26 11:47:16