Jill's notes from the road: Staying Over

By: Jill Malcolm

Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide

We were among friends: gnawing at a loaf of bread was Nellie the goat; in the trees, tui and bellbirds gave voice; kereru swooped about like diminutive fighter jets; chickens jabbed enthusiastically at a patch of damp soil, and two russet-coloured weka padded past pretending we didn’t exist. There were, at that cold time of the year, very few humans.

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It was the off-season at the Jacksons Retreat Campervan Holiday Park on SH 73, West Coast, and the only other Homo sapiens among this menagerie were the owners of this exceptional camping ground, Darren and Toni Inger.

The couple has been on this spot in the shadow of the Southern Alps for the last three years and has created one of the most compelling commercial camps I’ve found in New Zealand.

Nature provides the terrain between the rearing peaks of Bold Range and the braided Taramakau River, and on the forested flanks of the mountains, the Ingers have sculpted 6.5 hectares of sloping land into terraces of flax and alpine grasses, each site with its own lawn and picnic table. They added state-of-the-art amenities. The pin-neat bathrooms have underfloor heating. Modern cooking facilities have been installed in the ‘barn’, where there is a dining area like a small cafe and a lounge furnished with the comforts of home.

An innovative addition to the facilities is a large barn-like building where motorhomes and caravans (and tents) can shelter from the weather. Each of the eight private bays has water, 240-volt plug-ins, and a panoramic window so the view of the environment is not lost.

Darren and Toni bought the land three years ago and live in the original farmhouse. Although it was a camping ground then, it was nothing like it is now.

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The couple understands the needs of travellers. They left their corporate jobs in Auckland 15 years ago and sailed around the world for the next 12 years. "When we came back from that adventure, we were different people," Toni says, "and ready to move onto the next thing. Developing a camping ground somewhere was one of our options."
When they saw this remarkable spot tucked in under the mountains, they knew this was it.

The Ingers have installed a pantry on-site where they sell basic needs
for travellers and their own eggs, home-made bread, and seasonal vegetables from their garden.

The camp deserves its five-star Qualmark rating but it’s the environment that wins the highest praise. Apart from the looming mountains and the wide valley, a marked, 40-minute walking track leads deep into the rainforest to a glowworm grotto and a sizeable waterfall. The weather behaved the night we stayed, and the night sky was astounding. It took hold of my soul and transported it into a glittering multiverse of stars—a sight so enormous even the trees were stunned into silence. All I heard was the sound of my own breathing and in the distance, the haunting call of a morepork.

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