When I visited Camp Glenorchy in February last year, the campground was just starting to take shape. A couple of cabins were nearing completion, but it was still very much a construction site. So I was keen to head back last month to take a look around the recently completed campground.
Situated at the head of Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy—about 40 minutes’ drive from Queenstown along the scenic shores of Lake Wakatipu—Camp Glenorchy is not your average campsite.
Surrounded by breathtaking scenery, it is New Zealand’s first Net Zero Energy accommodation, having been built according to the Living Building Challenge—the world’s most rigorous standard for green buildings.
Camp Glenorchy’s owners, philanthropists Debbi and Paul Brainerd, happened upon the former Glenorchy camping ground in 2014 while visiting in the area for lunch. The site was for sale, and on a bit of a whim, the couple decided to put in an offer.
They were surprised to receive a call soon after to advise their offer was accepted. It was the beginning of what has been an incredible project that has set the standard in New Zealand, and around the world, in sustainable hospitality.
Not only that but also all profits from the campsite go directly to the Glenorchy Community Trust to support initiatives within the local community. The campsite has also created new jobs and new tourism businesses within the tiny township.
What's in Camp Glenorchy
Camp Glenorchy includes seven cabins, which can be configured to accommodate up to eight, four bunkrooms that sleep up to four, and eight powered motorhome sites. Our cabin for the night—‘Manuka’—was welcoming and warm. Like all buildings in the campsite, the cabins were built with the clever incorporation of recycled and natural materials.
For example, the wooden beams and wall linings come from demolished woolsheds as well as buildings that fell in the Christchurch earthquakes, even the cabin hooks and door stops are made from fallen beech trees.
But beneath this rustic charm lies some pretty clever technology to help reduce water and energy use. Underfloor heating, super-insulation, and a heat exchanging ventilation system keeps the cabins perfectly snug.
There’s even a touchscreen display unit in each cabin to help guests to learn about and manage their energy and water use and to see how their use compares with others on-site.
On the far side of the campsite, 432 solar photovoltaic panels make up the huge solar garden, which means surplus energy can be used within the campsite.
All the toilets within the campsite are self-composting, which generate virtually no wastewater, and I can assure you, they are completely odourless. Over a period of about 18 months, the waste breaks down into a 100 percent safe, soil-like material that can be used as a nutrient-rich plant fertiliser. Who knew?
At the heart of Camp Glenorchy are the shared spaces where visitors can come together to share their travel stories, the jewel in the crown being the huge outdoor fireplace and barbecue designed by local artist Dan Kelly and built by hand from ancient Otago scheelite stone and recycled timber.
As we sat next to the roaring campfire on a clear mid-autumn evening, chatting with guests from across the world, the fire roaring under a clear star-studded sky, it was clear why visitors to this part of the world describe it as paradise. I could have quite happily stayed there forever (or at least another few days!).
Alongside the scheelite shelter is a large community kitchen and dining area, which is well stocked with cooking utensils and is equipped with large refrigerators, cooktops, and complimentary tea, coffee, and milk. Perfect for hungry motorhomers in the mood to cook up a full-on feast.
And if you’re in need of supplies, head next door at Mrs Woolly’s Store, which is stocked with a little bit of everything—tools and hardware, children’s games and toys, warm merino clothing, artisan and gourmet foods, plus staples such as bread and milk. They also do a great gelato. Be sure to ask for the Full Monty sundae (sinfully good!).
Win a stay at Camp Glenorchy!
The team at Camp Glenorchy has kindly provided a fantastic reader giveaway of a three-night RV-stay in a powered motorhome site. For full T&Cs and to enter to win, visit the NZMCD competition page before 1 June 2018.
We’ll ask our lucky winner to provide a short review of their experience, which will be published in a later issue of Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations magazine.