Review: luxury Melbourne camping

When you hear the word camping, what comes to mind?

Well, this is what you may not think of: spacious, air-conditioned canvas tents, queen-sized beds outfitted with luxury linen, complimentary cocktails and snacks, breakfast delivered to your door and the city at your fingertips.

If this sounds like your style of camping, then St Jerome’s the Hotel is going to beright up your alley, which is handy, considering this luxury, one-of-a-kind glamping experience is located right in the heart of Melbourne’s city, atop the Melbourne Central building.

As someone who loves roughing it in the wilderness as much as living the high life in style, the idea of a luxury camping experience really excited me.

I clambered onto a city-bound train with my overnight bag, ready for a party, and was excited by the promise of free booze and food, of hanging out with other guests, and taking advantage of my complimentary game of Strike bowling and free bike hire. I also relished the notion of collapsing into my huge comfy bed in my luxury tent at the end of the night. And the thought of waking up in the morning, donning my hotel bathrobe and slippers and eating my breakfast hamper in bed, before doing some calming yoga.

While I won’t say I was disappointed, maybe I had my hopes up too high.

St Jerome’s the Hotel is the brainchild of hospitality entrepreneur Jerome Borazio, author of the trendy and popular St Jerome’s Laneway Festival and St Jerome’s bar (which closed down to make way for the Emporium shopping mall). So, armed with the promotion hype – which Borazio’s marketing crew must have received top-dollar for – I checked in to my tentwith high expectations.

Upon arrival, my companion and I enjoyed most of what was promised:the included Samsung tablet on which we enjoyed watching Friends, the seriously comfy bed donned in Linen House bedding, the little Esky with local craft beer and cider.

Later, we met with friends, who were also staying at the Hotel, and headed to the rooftop canteen for our cupcakes, cocktails and Grill’d burgers. Then we took our pouches of free tokens to Mesa Verde (a lovely little Mexican restaurant and tequila bar located in Curtin House on Swanston Street) to exchange them for more cocktails and some very tasty tacos – I highly recommend the bacon taco.

My biggest gripes were over minor issues, but for full disclosure, here they are:

  • don’t go expecting a full meal. The food portions were tiny and designed to be shared between two people (presumably to make you buy more)
  • the morning yoga isn’t held on weekends (apparently!)
  • regarding the breakfast hamper: fresh croissants aren’t too much to ask, are they?
  • we never got our fluffy slippers! I’m not sure why, but this is my biggest (and most irrational) complaint. We were told by staff that they aren’t included anymore.

Luckily, we had karma on our side. My partner and I had mistakenly been left two pouches of tokens (instead of one) in our tent, so we got to have one cocktail and taco each at Mesa Verde.

One thing was clear from when we checked in: St Jerome’s the Hotel isn’t a party spot. In fact, it was surprisingly quiet on the rooftop and we hardly glimpsed any other guests – despite being told by the staff that all 20 tents were fully booked for the night.

The bottom line is that you get out what you put in to St Jerome’s glamping. If you go expecting a party, ask a group of friends to go too, and organise something fun to do in the city. If you’re more the relaxed type, glamping is a special way to celebrate a low-key birthday or anniversary. It would also be an ideal place to bring a friend from out of town.

The tent, bed and inclusions would be enough to see me book St Jerome’s again, but I’d probably wait until the owners had picked up their game with the fine details and refurbish the hotel.

For those living in Tasmania and New Zealand, keep an eye on the St Jerome’s the Hotel website, because it is opening soon in Hobart and Auckland.

Written by Amelia Theodorakis

A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.

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