For some, the word camping sends chills down the spine. If you’re anything like me, camping conjures images of sleeping on the ground, not showering for days, no electricity (and therefore no phone, laptop, TV…) and general discomfort. So when a friend suggested camping in Byron Bay on NSW’s far north coast, over the Christmas break, I approached the trip with trepidation.

I shouldn’t have worried. We weren’t just camping, we were ‘glamping’ – staying at the Flash Camp pop-up hotel in Byron Bay, which is to regular camping as a 5-star hotel is to a cheap motel. As we pulled up to the entrance, taking in the luxury set-up and relaxed vibe, I knew I was in for a treat.

After all, the concept was conceived with people like me in mind, says Cameron Arnold, CEO of Flash Camp.

“We realised there were a lot of people that had never experienced camping and would only do so if there was a certain level of comfort - so we thought we would cater to this market and offer pop-up hotel accommodation and services in really unique and high-demand locations around Australia,” he explains.

Flash Camp's spacious canvas Flash tents are specially designed for the Aussie heat
The spacious canvas Flash tents are specially designed for the Aussie heat.   Image: Elise Hassey

Byron Bay is certainly in high demand over the summer, and the Flash Camp pop-up proved to be an oasis away from the bustling town. On arrival, the friendly receptionist greeted us with a much-needed glass of ice-cold Antipodes mineral water, and showed us to our tent. The spacious canvas Flash tents, specially designed for the Aussie heat, are furnished with a comfy double bed, or pair of singles, and decorated with homey linens, Armadillo & Co rugs, and cushions and throws by Pony Rider.

Flash Camp's spacious canvas Flash tents are furnished with a comfy double bed, or pair of singles.
Tents are decorated with Armadillo & Co rugs and cushions & throws by Pony Rider.   Image: Chris Searle

And don’t worry, internet addicts, there’s a solar-powered charging station in each tent, and you need only ask at reception for the wi-fi password.

Once we’d settled in, it was time for a short walk to nearby Tallow Beach, a seemingly endless stretch of gleaming white sand and crashing waves.

Unlike Byron’s Main Beach, which is teeming with tourists, Tallow Beach is nearly empty, with plenty of space to stretch out and soak up the sun, liberally slathered with SPF 30+, of course.

Tallow Beach is a seemingly endless stretch of gleaming white sand and crashing waves.
Tallow Beach, a seemingly endless stretch of gleaming white sand and crashing waves.   Image: iStock

We made sure to head back in time to catch dinner at the Harvest pop-up restaurant, open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at Flash Camp. At the share table dinners we feasted on mussels and roast beef, 12-hour lamb shoulder and chilli mud crab, wood-fired sucking pig and Byron Creek Farm chicken, accompanied by a range of delicious sides. Harvest’s produce is handpicked from its own gardens or sourced in the region, and the chefs’ creations are inspired by seasonal and local flavours.

Breakfast was provided every morning, also by Harvest, who put on a sumptuous spread of pastries, toast and preserves, and fresh fruit with yoghurt and granola. But you had to get in quick to grab the most coveted of sweet treats - the almond croissant.

Harvest pop-up bar
The Harvest pop-up bar.   Image: Demetre Minchev

A daily Allpress coffee cart was on hand for those of us who couldn’t do without our caffeine fix, while a bar popped up every evening from 4 – 9pm with beer, wine and a range of cocktails, such as the Harvest 75, a local take on the classic G&T with Ink Gin, Halliday Farm tonic syrup and Tilly’s bush lemon limoncello.

It was easy to while away the days at Flash Camp. We relaxed in the deckchairs set up for guests under shady umbrellas in the communal area, played board games and ping-pong, took full advantage of the bar, and made frequent trips to Tallow Beach.

Flash Camp communal area
Pull up a chair & relax.   Image: Elise Hassey

We did, however, manage to make our way into town to experience what Byron Bay had to offer. Fortunately, Flash Camp has bikes to rent, so we set off to explore the CBD, which has no end of cafes, restaurants, bars and shopping to enjoy.

And if you’re not the sort to eat, shop and lie on the beach for hours on end, Byron Bay and its surrounds offer plenty of activities. Surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkelling, diving and stand-up paddleboarding are all available. The coastal headland walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse is a must, particularly at sunset or sundown when the views are especially spectacular. Venture further afield and there are a multitude of delightful towns and villages to explore, such as Newrybar, where you can visit Harvest’s permanent restaurant, deli and bar, and scenic treks, waterfalls and swimming holes abound.

The coastal headland walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse is a must, particularly at sunset or sundown when the views are especially spectacular.
The coastal headland walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse is a must, particularly at sunset or sundown.  Image: iStock
Main Beach at Byron Bay.
Main Beach at Byron Bay. Be sure to explore the wreck.

Of course, Byron Bay isn’t the only place you can experience the luxury camping experience offered by Flash Camp. Last year, the company had a successful run at Kakadu National Park. It also set up shop on Clark Island overlooking Sydney Harbour, partnering with restauranteurs Three Blue Ducks for a pop-up restaurant and bar. They followed that up with the Byron Bay pop-up, and all three will be returning in 2017.

Flash Camp has come a long way since Cameron first came across the idea of glamping in 2012. “I read an article when I was on a Virgin flight about what they were doing at Glastonbury Festival in the UK and thought it would work really well here,” he explains. Cameron teamed up with Ben Hutchings of Paperbark Camp and Brandon Saul, a promoter at Falls Festival, to form Flash Camp and by the end of that year, they were offering luxury camping accommodations at the 2012/2013 Falls Festival in Byron Bay.

Flash Camp set up a pop-up hotel on Clark Island
Flash Camp set up a pop-up hotel on Clark Island in Sydney.  Image: Elise Hassey
The Clark Island Flash Camp overlooks Sydney Harbour.
The Clark Island Flash Camp overlooks Sydney Harbour.  Image: Elise Hassey
The 2015 Flash Camp pop-up for Mercedes Benz.
Flash Camp also does corporate events, like this pop-up hotel for Mercedes-Benz.  Image: Elise Hassey

Soon Flash Camp was popping up at other camping festivals, such Splendour in the Grass. Then came the opportunity to expand into the corporate and event sectors. At the end of 2015, Flash Camp set up a pop-up hotel at an event for Mercedes-Benz. Cameron says the idea of a pop-up hotel works because it “enables far more flexibility to tailor experiences at different sites and events all over the country”. He adds, “No two are the same, yet we offer a consistent level of service and quality each time.”

In fact, they’ve proven so popular that Flash Camp has had “enquiries right across the country from all levels of corporate, government, councils and event operators”.

Cameron says, “In order to expand with this demand, we've designed a licensing arrangement for our brand and are actively seeking interested parties. We are already in discussions with organisations and venues in every state.”

Head to flashcamp.com.au to check out new locations, inquire about corporate events, or register your interest for the next pop-up hotel.