Under the impulse of the moment, we’ve bought a compact car and travelled with it once more for an entire year around Australia. Thereby, we got to known many of the Fifth Continent’s peculiarities. For instance, why a hotel was erected solely for the European employees of a missile test ground in the outback, about animals with several uteruses & vaginas, that Euros hereabout aren’t rolling, but hopping, about kilometre long iron-ore trains, of which the engine drivers sit in air-conditioned offices several thousand kilometres away, about huge cotton- and wheat-fields, about trains that drive on roads, about entire mountain’s that get removed, crocodiles sunbathing on campgrounds and many more oddities that added uniqueness to our Australian trip.
Ahead of our current stage, we’ve been lucky enough to have undertaken several long trips on the red continent already. Together, they sum up to more than 2½ years. This time, we planned only a short three-months trip. The car rental companies’ infinite terms however, prompted us spontaneously to buy an own vehicle again, as already during two previous longish Australian tours. Thus, we had to bear substantially smaller risks, whilst enjoying distinctively more freedom and self-responsibility.
With our compact car, a Nissan Tiida, our intended short trip grew, once more, to a whole year’s journey. Except Tasmania (which we visited without a car) and Queensland, we’ve toured, once again all of Australia’s federated states. We consider the coastal area between Sydney and Cairns simply too urbanized and too touristy. Instead, we’ve crossed the Red Centre again.
With a few exceptions, we turned our backs to many “must do” attractions, we’ve visited years ago. There were still plenty of lesser known, yet equally interesting sights. The vastness, the diversified landscapes and the fifth continent’s multifaceted flora and fauna managed to thrill us immediately once more. Australia’s animal kingdom turned out to be a climax again. Sooner or later, we could catch sight of almost every creature we still hoped for.
Certainly, we paused our travels again and yet again at naturist-clubs and -resorts. Though we didn’t experience Australia’s naturist grounds as popular as their European counterparts at all. Instead, we often encountered more animals than naturists. From kangaroos to euros, wombats, parrots and uncountable other bird species, right up to crocodiles. Furthermore, we could even observe whales from a clothes optional beach.
Australia, or officially: The Commonwealth of Australia, is the smallest continent. Despite having been here for altogether more than 30 months already, we always love to return. The Red Continent offers countless very exciting marvels and a good choice of naturist opportunities to rest and relax in between all the sightseeing. Due to its very diverse and omnipresent wildlife, the entire country somehow feels like a huge zoo. With its surface of 7,617,930 square kilometres, Australia is the world’s sixth largest country. The 25 million inhabitants, of whom most live along the coast, still make Australia one of the least populated nations. Sydney (pop. 5,1 million) is the country’s biggest city and Canberra (pop. 350,000) the capital. Australia became independent from the UK in1907, but still belongs to the British Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of the state.
As on most Pacific Islands, also Australia’s indigenous population declined sharply after the first contact with Europeans, because the Aboriginals had no immunity to disease brought in by the white man. For a long time, the white colonizers did not respect them as legal landowners. In contrary; everything was acceptable to get rid of the Aborigines. There was no law protecting them. We read stories of missionaries considering Aborigines as, and hunting them like animals, because they didn’t follow a Christian faith.
Australia’s indigenous people never integrated well into the new society. Until 1967, they were not even considered Australian citizens, and simply ignored by the census. Until 1970, many Aboriginal children, especially of mixed decent, were forcefully removed from their mothers. Churches, missions and the government wanted to ram faith and western mindset into them! Those unfortunate people are nowadays revered to as the “lost generation”.
Many of the first white settlers to Australia, were prisoners deported from the UK. As Great Britain intended to thin out its lower-class, even a minor trespass was sufficient, to get deported to this giant prison island. Many pioneers followed voluntarily in search of a new and better life.
Nowadays, Australia is a classic immigration country with settlers predominantly from the British Isles, the European continent and Asia. The country consists of 8 states and territories, with partly very different laws. For instance, selling a vehicle in a different Australian state than it was bought, can be a mayor hassle.
Aussies in general are humorous and relaxed folks. Furthermore, already the prospect of seeing some exceptional landscapes and unique animals, make visiting Australia’s naturist venues much more rewarding than a visit to Europe’s sophisticated naturist resorts, which might impress with top notch facilities, but there is not a lot to see apart from beach bums.
For overseas-visitors and naturists in particular, the Red Continent has much more to offer! Just go, bare it and have your camera ready to capture Australia’s exotic wildlife. If you’re lucky, it flies over your head, hops across a field or creeps along the ground right in front of your bungalow or motorhome…
Running Bare: retirement village and naturist hiking paradise
On Mai 13th, we arrived at Running Bare, a naturist village of a different kind. It is situated in New South Wales’ interior, some 20 km south of Narrabri and 550 km northwest of Sydney.
The reasons why visitors come to this somehow unique naturist retreat are quite widespread. Being naked is the only common tread. Surely, some might visit just for nude sunbathing and dipping in the pool, but most visitors rather come for indulging in physical exercise, for spending their sunset years, or just for grazing.
We were particularly delighted about Running Bare’s sheer size: 7,2 km2! This exceeds the combined size of CHM-Monta and Euronat by 36%. Though, unlike the two large naturist meccas on the on the French Atlantic Coast, which attract some 30’000 keen naturists day to day during peak summer, Running Bare is inhabited by only ~30 permanents and probably a maximum of another 30 visitors during the southern summer! During our stage, there were sometimes more marsupials than naturists present. Running Bare’s premises consist predominantly of forest with gum trees, mostly “yellow box”. In fact, most of the 720 hectares are untouched nature, made accessible for the benefit of a small, alternative crowd.
Infrastructure like pool, club-house, communal kitchen, BBQs, sports- & playfields, lodgings and pitches, are situated in a large forest glade. Eco-friendly, most of the consumed electricity is generated by big solar panels. Most visitors arrive with their own caravans, but we got one of the cabins. It was small but very nice and the kitchen looked great, though it was equipped “Aussie style only”. That means, the salad could be warmed up in the microwave but there was no bowl to mix it with a dressing. Luckily, the neighbours borrowed a few things like salad bowl, a pot and a broom.
We’re not sure whether the founders of this retreat intended it like that but Running Bare became something like a retirement community for naturists. Many of the about 30 lusty retirees don’t just idle away their time, they rather work hard, helping to improve and maintain their chosen paradise. All we talked to were convinced they live in Australia’s best naturist place. Apart from helping out, the permanents often sit together over drinks or food that is generously shared with visitors. Our neighbours Carol and Ross, spoiled us several times with cakes, baked us a damper (Aussie style bread cooked in a fire), and invited us, together with a few other folks, to jacker potatoes around a bonfire.
Communal working and living at Running Bare, is certainly enhancing life of the permanent retiree community. However, as we observed also with older folks in Southern Spain, age makes them a bit peculiar, so the community is divided into different sub-communities. However, as visitors it was easy to find contact to everybody, and we had even an unexpected reunion with Chris & Lloyd, a couple we had first met twelve years ago at a naturist club near Perth.
Running Bare is not only popular with pensioners, many (younger) folks visit because of the excellent opportunities for nude hiking. We liked the 12 km long hike along Running Bare’s fence, but also some of the shorter, only 3 – 8 km hikes. The unusual warm autumn weather tempted us to march in the buff several times daily.
The warm temperatures were certainly exceptional for the second half of May, the extremely dry climate however, is not. We learned that west of the Great Dividing Ranges, New South Wales receives almost no rain year around, that’s why this region is already considered part of the Australian Outback.
To locals, extreme droughts are a serious problem. Surely, for us na-tourists, it was just pleasant to see the sun daily. Furthermore, we enjoyed watching the many parrots, kangaroos and wallabys that visited daily late afternoon to feed on the irrigated lawns and bushes. To us, it was especially joyful to watch the females with a joey (baby) in their pouch. Running Bare’s permanents on the other hand, were rather frustrated, as the cheeky roos hopp over, or sneak under any fence into the nicely tended gardens, to enjoy a diet enriched with flowers, bushes and bonsai trees.
Australia: Narrabri, Outback NSW, ca. 500 km north of Sydney
Kiata Country Club: a nice naturist oasis northwest of Sydney
On April 29th, we reached Sydney’s suburb South Maroota, some 70 kilometres northwest of the CBD. Well, Sydney is in fact worlds apart and South Maroota is simply a hamlet with little people, but big plots of vacant land and lots of nature; just perfect to found a naturist ground. That’s exactly what a few energetic and proactive naturists did almost 50 years ago, when they established Kiata Country Club and that’s where we stayed.
In the southern Hemisphere, April is autumn (like Oct) and therefore, demand for naturist accommodation is naturally not too big. To our delight, Sydney’s friendly naturists were very flexible about our arrival time and even about the arrival day. Someone wrote: “Just travel on in your pace, it’s only important we know you’re coming sometimes next week. Here is the entrance code and on the visitors-board we’ll note, which rental van is ready for you. Make yourselves at home and somebody will take care of you, as soon we’re aware you’ve arrived”. That’s just the way we like it. Only a shame that not all resorts and clubs are as flexible!
We stayed in a big renovated onsite-van that had been hollowed out and newly furnished. Our holiday dwelling was situated near Taj Mahal, one of several “cooking temples”. The other communal kitchens bear names like sporting bottoms, or covered bottoms. As Taj Mahal is equipped with a little baking oven, we could bake up some crusty continental-style bread daily, sparing us again from the omnipresent toast! Each covered open-air kitchen also has a pleasant outdoor dining-area. Obviously, some birds found it inviting too. Groups of beautiful large Kookaburras (a powerful Australian bird specie), tried so aggressively to grab our food, we didn’t feel safe anymore and hid inside. Club members told us, those birds became so nasty, after some thoughtless contemporaries started feeding them!
Kiata has more than 200 members and many have a caravan, or even a proper house on the club’s ~65 ha grounds. A few people live here permanently. Apart from the house number, many of the dwellings also bear a funny name, like Sydney-bottoms, Orange-bottoms, Kiwi Bottons or “Whatever-bottoms”.
We loved to stroll around the extensive network of footpaths between the shady trees. They are mainly Eucalypt or gums respectively, and some have black trunks scarred from a bush fire. Very picturesque are also the two nicely landscaped artificial ponds, one for swimming, and another one functioning as water reservoir.
Even during the week, there was always someone around to chat, especially from the shareholders. Kiata is owned by about three dozen naturists, who invested a fair bit of money, to make the club such a nice one. Shareholders and “ordinary” members alike, help maintaining and improving the facilities. Some less popular, but still important jobs like cleaning toilets, are outsourced to contractors. We loved the generous ~15 person-jacuzzi above the nicely landscaped pool. Furthermore, there are various sports- and playgrounds, plus a big club-house waiting to be used.
Due to the exceptional warm autumn weather, Kiata got unexpectedly bustling over the weekend. There were not only summer-like temperatures of up to 28°C luring, the club organized also a communal meal, as they do regularly, summer and winter. The theme of the dinner party was “flashback food from the 60s and 70s”. We didn’t expect much and braced ourselves for something deep fried. However, we were very impressed with what the kitchen-team of members produced; it was rather French than Australian flashback food: French onion soup, chicken with apricot sauce, and steamed pear with home-made caramel-cream sauce for dessert; all very delicious!
As there isn’t a dinner party every weekend, the folks at Kiata need to go shopping once a while. South Maroota, a few kilometres outside the entrance gate, has a tiny grocery store. However, not only the bares find no more than the bare essentials there. For decent shopping, you have to drive to one of three convenient shopping towns, all within a 30 kilometres radius.
Pretty Windsor hasn’t got a castle, but an excellent choice of shopping and dining options instead. Furthermore, it is linked to Sydney-Downtown by metro, a ride that takes a bit more than an hour. We know Sydney from our previous trips to Aussie-land. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed visiting the city’s mayor attractions once again, especially the harbour-front (around bustling Circular Quay) with the foodie’s quarter “The Rocks”, the landmarks Harbour Bridge & Opera House and the Botanic Gardens.
Well, Kiata’s surroundings offer lots of sightseeing possibilities, even the Blue Mountains can be reached in a long day trip. The excellent facilities, the friendly members and the almost summerly autumn temperatures during the days made our stage so pleasant, most of our 12 days we didn’t feel the urge to do anything else than just wander around the large club-ground in the buff…
Australia: Sydney / South Maroota, 65 km northwest of the CBD
On April 12th 2018, we reached the Australian capital Canberra, respectively the friendly bares at ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Nudist club. It is situated on ACT soil between the NSW villages of Queanbeyan and Bungendore. Geoff and Christine, a member couple, met us at the gate with a warm welcome. To our honour, a Swiss flag was risen and the next day, the flag of Geneva blew in the wind. It turned out that Christine was based for several years for an NGA (Non-Government Organisation) in Geneva.
Canberra’s Naturist club is a very social affair with about 130 members. Mid-April equals about mid-October in Europe, but nevertheless, around 25 members gathered for the regular pizza night in the clubhouse. As pizza ingredients had not been on our shopping list when we stopped for groceries en route, we were simply being invited. So, we too, could assemble a pizza with the provided base and toppings, which was then baked in the club’s large wood fired pizza-oven. Everybody gathered around a big table and we enjoyed a very pleasant evening, meeting an interesting bunch of people, from young sheila’s to grumpy old men. To us, it was a perfect social circle, not too big, not too small, just right to get to know everybody. And furthermore, we really appreciated it very much that the ACT-Club is one of the more sober Naturist places we’ve visited in Australia.
The nice pizza oven is certainly not the club’s only peculiarity. Another one is a large, articulated bus, the members purchased at an auction from Canberra’s public transport department. Half of the bus had been transformed into a comfortable and modern guest accommodation with kitchen, a small lounge, and a comfy double bed. That way, we got a unique studio apartment and we really appreciated the original bus-benches on the dining table.
We heard, the second half of the bus shall be transformed into a family accommodation. It was just fun to be naked in a bus, and even more so, on the driver’s seat. But; we’re not sure whether we would dare to board one in the buff that still drives after a schedule! It was well equipped, and the few things missing were all available in the communal kitchen at the clubhouse.
ACT Naturist Club is small and personal. Everybody trusts everybody; visitors and members alike. Not only the self- service drinks at the club house are paid into an honesty box, but also the overnight fees. We loved the self-service capsule coffee-machine in the communal kitchen; it gave us an excellent start every morning.
During the week, the grounds got quiet, and one evening, we had everything to ourselves, despite the warm autumn-temperatures. However, there was no time for boredom: When walking the three-kilometre-long track along the border of the club’s 40 ha large grounds, we always saw dozens of kangaroos hopping around. It was lots of fun to watch those unique marsupials on our daily rounds. There were also lots of birds, from parrots to kookaburras and some small, incredibly nervous species, almost impossible to watch. Very impressive were also the uncountable gum trees, especially in the evening sun. As beautiful they are to look at, Australians dub them widow-trees, as they often shed a big branch.
Canberra’s bares are well organised, and visitors are always welcome. Even on midweek days, when nobody was present, there was always a member popping up to let visitors in, who had notified their arrival. Around ANZAC-Day, there were some 10 interstate visitors, and the two of us. Midweek, there were often some of the very enthusiastic members visiting for the day, just to work and to make their club an even better one. A new pool and a wood fired sauna had recently been completed. A sun room and more of the very reasonably priced visitor’s accommodations are under construction.
The club could already celebrate its 42nd anniversary in 2018. Some of the founding members are still very active, like John and Heather. He is one of the former presidents, and still works hard for the club. Heather told us, at founding she was only 21, when she suddenly became the secretary, not knowing what she had to do! It certainly needed lots of courage to start a naturist club 42 years ago, but the insistence of a bunch of people knowing each other from a nudist beach payed out. Finally, the ACT government gave them a piece of land, and a grant to start building a club ground. What Canberra’s passionate bares made of it, is very impressive and we are ever so glad, they shared their little paradise with us for a fortnight…
Our hosting-members Geoff and Christine were absolutely right; while checking us in, they said with a smile in their face: “We will see, how long you end up staying, almost everybody stays longer than planned.” Indeed, our intended 5-10 days, grew up to two whole weeks!
Australia: Canberra (ACT), between Queanbeyan (NSW) and Bungendore (NSW)
Helios: a naturist club in Melbourne’s countryside
Our destination was Helios, a pleasant naturist club in Gembrook, about 60 km southeast of Melbourne. Ahead of our first stage at Helios, some 12 years ago, we unintendedly caused big troubles to the club. They decided to take our reservation, despite not having a cabin, suitable for a fortnight stay! However, the committee took our request as a reason to go ahead with a project that had been in cold storage for a long time. So, within a few weeks only, a ramshackle old cabin had been transformed into a shiny new one! We felt quite pampered.
This time, the club caused us unintendedly a small problem. Nobody seemed to be in charge of responding to our short notice demand (10 days ahead) to spend Easter at Helios. As common in member operated clubs, everything relies on volunteers. Coincidently, the public-relations manager was on a business trip overseas, and his deputy had a short notice business assignment in another corner of Australia! Well, finally we were lucky; just after we had given up any hope to spend Easter “au naturel” and ventured into the Australian Alps instead (despite everything being booked out between good Friday and Easter Monday), someone from Helios finally confirmed they have a cabin for us available. We were ever so glad. Crossing very heavy Easter traffic, we arrived at the naturist club in Gembrook on March 30th.
We loved to walk around Helios’ 100 acres-estate of bushland and forest. A well-maintained boardwalk leads through a lovely section with gum- and fern trees, which gleam magnificently in the late afternoon sun. Many planks bear the engraved names of those members helping to pay for the boardwalk. Almost 200 member-/families have a caravan or a cottage and spend almost every summer-weekend here. As in most Australian naturist clubs, many members are immigrants, among them some Asians, but predominantly Germans and Dutch. Several with German roots told us, they had applied for membership already before boarding the ship to Australia. It must have been keen naturists like those, who founded the club in 1958. In June 2018, Helios could already celebrate its 60th anniversary.
We were agreeable surprized about the number of younger folks at Helios. A committee member told us, the club was a bit overaged until a few years ago. Then, they got some changes underway to attract young couples and families and this was obviously a success! Already the generous facilities, including sports- and play-fields, barbeques, a sauna, two jacuzzies, a swimming-pool and more, make the club very attractive. Social events are regularly held in the large club-house and if no function is going on, members and visitors alike, socialize regularly around the fireplace.
On the weekends, it was quite lively at Helios. Also during the week, the club-ground was still far from being lonely, due to the big number of feathered and quadruped visitors. Wildlife abound, we encountered kookaburras and parrots, and along Helios’ boundaries also Kangaroos - once even a few dozen. Quite often, a wombat roamed around our cottage during the night. There is also a small risk of meeting less desired creatures, like poisonous spiders or snakes. Luckily, likewise most members, we’ve encountered only the uncountable “snake emergency kits” distributed all over the grounds. Australia’s biggest treat to humans are anyway rather the biggest joy of overseas visitors; the uncountable kangaroos and wallabies - nice to watch, but responsible for many car accidents!
Helios is situated in the Dandenong Ranges, with 633m tall Mount Dandenong being the highest peak. Several small nice villages invite for outings. Scones with jam and whipped cream is omnipresent. Among the region’s biggest attractions is probably the Puffing Billy, a well preserved narrow-gauge railway, operated by a group of volunteers. This train runs from Gembrook to Belgrave. For those, who might want to visit Melbourne with a day-pass by public transport, Belgrave (only half an hour by car from Helios) is ideal to catch the metro. For our part, we just stayed at Helios and enjoyed a peaceful and sunny week. This gave us enough time to forge our plans travelling Australia as “wandering bares”….
Australia: Gembrook (Vic), ~50 km southeast of Melbourne
On January 10th, we arrived in Robe, a popular holiday resort village in South Australia. Bustling holiday resorts are not really our thing during peak season, but as Robe boosts two naturist resorts, inviting to disrobe, it was just inevitable to visit one for another nudie break! Funnily, the two naturist heavens are situated next to each other: Sunland is long established and closest to the naturist beach and Lake Saint Claire.
We decided for Sunland, where we had already stayed 14 years ago, when it was the only choice. To our big surprise, we were welcomed by the same owners who founded Sunland in 1974. Pat is meanwhile a formidable 85 years old, but still extremely energetic – it seems naturism keeps her young, not only at hearth. Luckily, the owner’s two daughters, and also their partners, are keen naturists as well, so one of the two couples are acting as caretakers.
Sunland is a pleasant, large naturist ground with altogether about 150 ha in size. We loved the extensive possibilities for walks, be they in the forest, or on the sand-dunes that were meanwhile a fair bit re-cultivated. Therefore, the biggest one, nick-named Big Bertha, looks now quite different than during our last stage. Before reaching the wide sand-beach, a sign warns of cars and 4WD traffic along the beach. It recommends sunbathers to put a red flag next to the towel, in order to be seen by the 4 wheeled beach cowboys. To us Europeans, traffic on Australia’s beaches is the biggest annoyance. At least, along the naturist beach, there were not that many cars. Along a textile beach nearer to Robe however, beach traffic is another story. We were told by an enthusiastic local: “Wow, I really love the atmosphere in Robe during peak summer with some 2,000 cars along the beach”!
Though the naturist section in front of Sunland stretches for only 500 metres, you can walk for many kilometres in the buff, if you have a sarong or there-like with you, to cover quickly up, when a vehicle is passing. Even if the beach was lonely, we were never all alone, as parrots, and sometimes also flies and horse-flies abounded. However, the latter were easy avoidable by keeping away from the washed up sea-grass and succulent plants.
Colourful parrots and other birds awaited back at the campground, as did some wombats after dawn. Likewise, on most Australian naturist grounds, also the fauna at Sunland, spoiled us with a specie we hadn’t seen before: Here it was a lizard called Bearded Dragon.
We stayed in one of the onsite caravans, of which some have onsite facilities. As we arrived on short notice, we got the owner’s private caravan. This was very nice, and not really small, but we felt a fair bit cornered. Every motel room provides several times more space. We’re certainly not born for camping, even if it’s clamping!
Sunland is a very popular and well-equipped naturist ground. On New Year’s Eve, they’ve had about 150 people staying. Ten days later, when we arrived, there were still some 40 – 60 guests present, which is quite a lot for an Australian naturist resort. Socializing is high on the agenda. We, however, had to give a miss to Morning-tea, as it interfered with our admittingly rather late breakfast, and we also gave a miss to the daily Happy Hour, as it makes us happier to socialize with the Australians outside happy hour.
Sunland is a perfect place to escape the Australian heatwaves, as the weather is much more moderate on the coastline around Robe. And if it gets too cold, a sauna and jacuzzi invite to warm up, as a pool invites to cool down on hot days. We were impressed about the large campers-kitchen in the well-equipped clubhouse.
Apart from the extensive network of well-marked waking tracks, we also appreciated to stroll around Sunland’s very own golf course. It’s an 18 hole bush golf, though, the holes are in fact substituted by numbered building bricks. Well, with so many Wombats in the vicinity, a classical golf course with holes isn’t working! Those “rocks on 4 legs”, as wombats are dubbed, just dig the holes deeper and wider, to use them as burrows. However, those smart, cute animals take revenge for the fake holes: They use precisely the building bricks that substitute the holes, to deposit their cubed droppings on them!
Well, with such a lot to do and so many animals to observe, our time at Sunland passed in a flash. Our initial intended few days soon became almost two weeks. We like this little paradise and it was great to come back to disrobe in Robe again.
Maslin Beach: Australia's first official clothes optional beach
As Adelaide boosts itself having Australia’s first official unclad beach (also signposted like that) – Maslin Beach – it was just natural that we ended up there.
The long, shallow beach flanked by a fascinating multi-layered sandstone cliff, makes Maslin beach a real beauty that easily outclasses the nearby textile beaches. In 1975, when Adelaide’s town hall officially declared Maslin Beach as the city’s nude beach, it was probably selected because of its troublesome access below a sheer cliff. However, as naturism became more and more widespread and more popular, the town invested to construct a generous parking lot, an excellent, concrete access path, and even toilets and showers for the naturists.
During this trip, Maslin Beach was the most popular beach to bare it all, we’ve seen in Australia. In fact, it was the first naturist beach we’ve encountered more than 2 other beachgoers. On our three pre-Xmas visits, there were always some 50 – 100 other naturists present, meaning lots of space for everybody, who enjoyed this picturesque beach. It’s probably a combination of Maslin Beach’s sheer beauty, and the more liberal attire of (German influenced) South Australia that make this beach so popular…
Australia: Adelaide (SA), ca. 40 km south from the CBD
Ten Mile Lagoon: Esperance’s pretty naturist beach
Esperance’s turquoise beaches are a feast for the eyes and luckily, the town has reserved a stretch of white sand for those, who like to enjoy nature au naturel: Ten Mile Lagoon is a beautiful beach, protected from the crushing waves of the open sea by a turquoise-blue lagoon. In such a beautiful environment, it’s just natural to enjoy it “au natural”. Already the drive there, along the equally beautiful textile beaches, is breath-taking. The kilometre-long clothes-optional section is located about 200 meters west of the parking lot. A real dream-beach with very few people. The nudist section of Ten Mile Lagoon is also accessible from the Eleven Mile Lagoon. From both parking lots, a long wooden staircase leads over the cliff to the water.
The access from Eleven Mile Lagoon to the naturist beach leads for a short distance over a large smooth rock. It's a bit further, but the beautiful, enclosed Eleven Mile Lagoon makes the detour very rewarding. Furthermore, at this end of the naturist beach, we were also spoiled by seeing a pod of dolphins playing in the waves. Hence, our stage at Esperance and our visits to Ten Mile Lagoon, topped our Western Australia trip perfectly off.
October 14th had been a bit wet, but the weather forecast predicted brilliant sunshine for the next three days, with temperatures rising up to 28° degrees Celsius. Naturally, we deemed this as perfect, to spend a few southern spring days at Sunseekers, an inviting naturist club in the Perth Hills. It’s the only naturist club outside of Switzerland, we’ve ever become members. Ahead of our fife weeks stage in 2006, Sunseekers proposed us a one-year membership, as this was the most economical option for such a long stage. Back then, we needed a naturist break during a longer trip around Asia, this time however, our (initial) intention was to stay only a few days, before continuing our trip around the red continent.
Just outside the gate, we were already “welcomed” by a big number of kangaroos. A female with a joey, how a baby kangaroo is called, stood just next to the entrance gate, and a couple of dozen roos were grazing on a meadow across the road. Meanwhile, we were used to meet more (exotic) animals than naturists, even at popular clubs like Sunseekers. In Australia, the clothes free lifestyle is by far not as popular, as in Europe!
Sunseekers is a quiet, forested bush-oasis in the Perth Hills, some 30 kilometres from the city centre. The suburb of Manduring is only 7 road kilometres away and there we found all major supermarkets.
Many of Sunseekers ~150 members own a small simple hut or a caravan where they spend their weekends. The club’s facilities include a large swimming pool, several sports- and play grounds, and an impressively large brick club-house, where up to 4 (four) functions are held each month. Upon arrival, we could choose between two lodgings: the small cabin in which we had stayed last time (still equipped with the little baking oven we had left then), and a much larger, but rather rustically equipped cottage, the club just “inherited” from a deceased member. Even though it wasn’t connected to tap-water, there was a kitchen with two hotplates and a small baking oven. There was also as a sink, of which we were several times assured that it is connected to the sewer: “It’s by far the easiest to get some hot-water from the nearby washhouse and use the sink in the cottage for the washing up.” Well, when we drained the sink, the water splashed first onto the kitchen furniture and from there into our shoes… The little surprises at member operated clubs are just part of the experience that add some further spice to the alternative lifestyle!
Sunseekers is a very well organized club. Two member-couples live permanently on the ground and serve alternate as caretakers. We’re still in contact with Jytty & John, the caretakers during our visit 12 years ago. Now, they invited us to their home in a suburb, and we also met up at the club again.
As temperatures were rather low during our first days, there weren’t many people at Sunseekers in the middle of October. Though, as the quicksilver rose to almost 30 degrees, even midweek, more than a dozen members popped up. Not unexpectedly, sundowner was held, but we found it more rewarding to do the short ~750 metres walk around the ground, having a chat with other happy-hour philistines and watching out for wildlife. We’ve missed the goanna that was present during our stage, but several times we’ve met a little “bandit”, an animal we had never seen before: a Bandicoot, a cute, little marsupial. At first, we thought it’s a little shy, but at least since it started to stand up not only next to our mineral-water bottle, but also next to Brigitte’s chair, we knew this little creature is rather cheeky than shy!
We got already quite used to seeing kangaroos at naturist grounds and also Sunseekers had a fair share. Especially cute was a female with a young joey. Obviously, the baby kangaroo only just started leaving its mother’s pouch and made its first clumsy attempts to bounce around. Though, it always hopped back into the mother’s pouch after a few minutes, it was very sweet to watch the little bugger jump, stand wobbly upright, bend backwards like a banana, or scratch itself.
Well, with so much animal entertainment, our intended 4-5 days at Sunseekers, became a fortnight stage. In between two periods with brilliant and hot weather, we had also a week of overcast sky and a few downpours. However, in Australia’s south-west, precipitations remain normally rather short, no comparisons to European cloudbursts! Moreover, after we had had 7 months of almost permanent sunny and warm weather, the little rumbling of the Weather-Gods gave us time to catch up with our travel-diary and to bring some order into our uncountable good-weather pictures. After some final sunny days and temperatures of up to 30°C, we left Sunseekers once more with very good memories.
Our favorite strip of sand near Exmouth, was the clothes optional Mauritius Beach, just a couple of kilometers from our lodging. As this beautiful, long naturist beach was barely visited, it offered a lot of space for the few ones, who dared to bare it. As is often the case on Australia’s West Coast, there are frequent slabs of limestone-rocks between the sandy beach and the water. Now and again, we were able to observe turtles, or even whales, directly from the turquoise beach. It was extremely impressive to see these giants of the ocean slowly approaching. What we noticed first, were often the whales' blows, in fact, the warm, humid (and smelly) breath of those krill-eating sea mammals. If we were lucky, the whales re-surfaced a few times near the shore on their migration southwards. Thanks to their size, they only move slowly, so they are much easier to observe than dolphins.
Pretty Pool Clothing Optional Beach: really pretty
Also Port Hedland spoiled us with very pleasant temperatures of around 33°C. So, it happened naturally that we went to the local naturist beach. Already from far away, "Pretty Pool" beach with its tidal sandbars, is a feast for the eyes. The official clothes optional section is particularly picturesque. The beautiful scenery is enhanced by the changing tides. You see mangroves, sand dunes, oyster covered rock-arches, red, porous rock and last but not least, a lovely wide sandy beach. Pure nature; just perfect for naturists.
Alone for this beautiful beach with its varied seascapes, it’s worth mutating to nudists. It’s also a fine spot for passionate photographers and every time we’ve visited, we had almost sore fingers by the time we left. Despite the pleasant temperatures, we had the beach four August days almost to ourselves. The locals consider it only warm enough for the beach, once the mercury raised to 40°- 45°C. Only one other tourist couple enjoyed the idyll of this beautiful stretch of sand as well.
At the beginning of August, we reached Broome, a rather unappealing town of 14,000 inhabitants, plus season-dependant, thousands of tourists. The town consists of a cluster of houses and an airport-runway literally through the centre. Broome rose to fame thanks to its pleasant dry-season weather, conveniently taking place during the southern winter. Furthermore, there are fantastic endless sandy beaches with turquoise waters teeming with fish. The most famous is Cable Beach. Its “ordinary section” stretches 5km from the main access to the south. There are Life-savers and you can hire sunbeds and sun shades.
More famous, are the remaining 17km to the north that are declared “clothes optional”. Prior to our arrival, we were already aware that the status of Cable Beach’s clothes optional section had somehow become disputed, due to the arrival of “mass tourism” in Broome. The up-side first: North of the rocks, Cable Beach is still officially declared as clothes optional. The share of naturists, and the overall vibe on the nudist section however, changed dramatically.
During our first stage at Broome 25 years ago, the village attracted a predominantly alternative crowd, inhabitants and visitors alike. Strong coffee, naturism and other forms of alternative lifestyles, were just an integrated and inseparable part of Broome. A few hundred meters north of the rocks, naturism was the norm, and tourism was slowly developing, attracting predominantly folks visiting for the alternative vibe. Nearly half of the people, who stayed at the same backpacker’s place where we did, were regularly seen on the beach without a stitch on.
Only on the 17 km long "cloth optional" section, it’s allowed to bring the car, but not to the small patrolled beach. Therefore, the real Aussies didn't have an option: they had to go to the nudist beach, although most of them could hardly bear it, that others bared it all. During our visit 12 years ago, we’ve noticed, that more and more 4WD vehicles were driving down to the beach. However, back then, naturism was still popular at cable beach and respected by non-naturists. Surely, the odd textiles tried to get some shots of the nudes from the hiding of their cars. Once, Brigitte reconciled that a lady tried to capture the two of us secretly. Brigitte jumped in front of her and said: “We don’t have a problem being pictured naked, but please don’t do it hidden”: The lady was so much taken aback, she didn’t take her unexpected opportunity!
Whereas Cable Beach in the past, was dominated by grey nomads, backpackers and other real travellers, Australians and foreigners alike, nowadays it’s Joe Sixpack with his family seeking “sun, fun and nothing to do”. Naturally, they might like to peek at some nudes, but would never ever dare to bare it all! As the “clothes optional beach” is now predominantly occupied by textiles with their 4WD vehicles, only a few die-hard naturists still dare to bare it all. Most who do, hide close to the dunes, but rarely somebody goes for nude hikes along the beach. Luckily, high tide is a big blessing to naturists. Cable Beach is most beautiful at high tide, when passage of the rocks at the entrance is not possible with vehicles. Fortunately, the textile 4WD cowboys have forgotten how to walk to the beach; in contrast to the naturists, who then enjoy the beautiful beach all by themselves and also go on beach walks ...
Cable Beach is also famous for its sunsets and camel rides along the beach. An Australian naturist couple told us, they were asked to move further north, or to cover up while the camel trains pass, to protect school children from seeing naked people. However, during our stage, this was no problem at all, as only European children had summer leave. They’re used to see naked people, as European parents rather let their infants roam around naked, than telling them, how sinful it is to do so, and Continental European youths are used to nudity from watching tv or visiting saunas!
Top End Naturist Recreation Retreat: big and full of surprises
On July 18th, we’ve continued from Darwin 60 km southwards to TENRR, Top End Naturist Recreation Retreat respectively, how it’s named in full! Never mind the long place name, we had been here already long ago, and we came back, because we loved the long nude hikes within this naturist ground with a long history.
Well, we were given the same cabin we had stayed in 12 years ago, and it was still in good nick. With some 60 – 80 naturists present, TENRR is among Australia’s most popular naturist grounds, at least during the dry season. During the wet it’s probably a pretty lonely affair, if it’s open at all. However, now in July, the place attracted many retired naturists from the southern metropolises, who spent a big part of the southern winter here. Additionally, there were a few “younger” southerners, seeking a warm holiday in the sun. Some just prefer lazing around their caravan or cabin, but most joined the regular animations and social gatherings like aqua-gym, darts, games, happy hour or BYO communal dinners. Well BYO communal dinners is an Australian uniqueness, where everybody brings and eats its own food, not sharing it!
To us, TENRR’s biggest assets are the nude hiking trails. The 100-hectare yard with only ~40 pitches offers an excellent network of hiking trails between bushes and trees. The longest one follows more or less the border-fence and adds up to an impressive 4 kilometres. However, together with many worthwhile detours, our naked round-loops accumulated more often than not, rather to 8 kilometres!
The nude hikes at Top End Naturist are not only healthy, they lead through a very diverse landscape with unique flora, and an extremely hard-working fauna! Quite a few impressive termite mounds, built by compass- and cathedral-termites, are dotted near the walking paths. The biggest of these termite-built skyscrapers are taller than 5 meters.
TENRR’s fauna has more to offer than just tiny ants. Also here, we were spoiled with more than parrots and kangaroos! Several times, we’ve spotted a Pazific Baza, a beautiful bird of prey, of the subspecies’ falcon. Our highlights however, were two animals so well camouflaged, we would never have seen them on their trees, if some friendly fellow naturists wouldn’t have pointed them out: Two frilled neck lizards, an adult and a young. We had always hoped to encounter this impressive lizard somewhere in Australia, and here, we were finally lucky. As well camouflaged a frilled necked lizard is, as reliable it can hang around the same trunk, once it found the tree of its dreams. The couple, who had their caravan near the two frilled neck lizards told us, they had seen the bigger one on the same trunk for more than two weeks now. Even the regular visits of curious humans like us, didn’t chase those cute animals away.
TENRR is a well-equipped, popular place. Jean & Garry, who founded it 22 years ago, know what naturists are looking for. Apart from nude hiking, the place offers also a nice swimming pool with lots of shade to linger around (at 35°C, nobody looks for full exposure to the sun), a garden chessboard, sportsgrounds, a generous clubhouse and more. Only some contemporary things like recycling containers, or payment any other than cash, are missing. No worries; just bring a wheelbarrow full of silver coins. TENRR is a very nice place, it’s worth every cent indeed!
Australien: Darwin River (NT), ~60 km south of Darwin
BRUJUL: unexpected encounters in a new nudist retreat
On July 3rd, we made it almost to Australia’s northernmost tip. Some 40 kilometres south of Darwin, we took a few turnoffs and five kilometres further, we reached our destination: BRUJUL, a new and welcoming nudist retreat in Australia’s tropical climate zone.
Bruce & Julie, BRUJUL’s owners are keen naturists themselves and run their little paradise with devotion. Julie gave us a very warm welcome and showed us the new, bright cabin, we’ve arranged beforehand. However, when Heinz asked, whether the kitchen really doesn’t come with hotplates, he must have sounded very upset! Our landlords decided that Swiss Na-Tourists probably can’t deal with a fully equipped Aussie style kitchen, consisting of microwave and BBQ, but no hotplates! So, the very next day, Bruce & Julie brought us a couple of brand new hotplates and told us, they’ve decided to equip all cabins likewise. Honestly, BRUJUL’s studios are extraordinarily well equipped, even the kitchen. Most locals either use the BBQ, or Microwave a take-away meal, while on holiday. If Aussies cook properly, it’s normally for a big group of friends, and the kitchen we had, was equipped with a few sophisticated food processors.
BRUJUL is a lively naturist ground – for Australian standard! 60 to 80 guests are plenty hereabout. It’s a place, where many retired Australian naturists annually spend a few months to escape the southern winter. Here around Darwin, on the other hand, they only know wet and dry season. The dry lasts from about May to October and is characterized by sunny days with temperatures around 30° to 35°C. In comparison, wintering in Southern Spain is actually fridge-like only!
Around sunset, many of the winter escapees meet regularly in the semi-open club-house for happy hour and games. However, as we’re very happy without happy hour, we rather went wildlife- and nature watching. Regularly, we strolled along the border fence track, which is less than a kilometre-long. As this is rather short, we normally made several laps. There was always something to see. We were smitten by the many screw palms, a pandanus specie whose lance-shaped leaves grow in a cork-screw line. After the old leaves dried off, the stem appears like a giant screw.
Sure enough, we were also spoiled with regular wildlife spotting. We already got used to most Australian naturist places almost warranting sightings of kangaroos and different birds, including colourful parrots. However, at BRUJUL, such ordinary encounters where dwarfed by two creatures we hadn’t met before on a naturist ground: a freshy and a salty! As unbelievable as it sounds, several times we almost tipped over a small crocodile, basking well camouflaged on the track. In Australia, nobody opts to flight, just because of a small young crocodile. Admittedly, everybody runs, but just to grab the camera! The Aussies told us that one was probably a freshwater- and another one a saltwater crocodile. However, both where so small, we had much more respect from the barking dogs of some permanent tenants. One croc must have felt exactly the same: it opted to take flight as fast as it could, after another naturist arrived not only with her camera, but also with her two toy poodles!
We’ve enjoyed ten very relaxing days at our nice, motel style unit at BRUJUL. The uncountable Australian naturists, who recommended us this place, were absolutely right: already the pleasant personality of the owners Bruce & Julie, make a visit very worthwhile. They’re both naturists by heart and do the upmost they can to keep their visitors happy. A new, bigger pool is already initialized. Once a while, they organize also special events like nude golf tournaments or nude boat tours. We can’t promise croc sightings at BRUJUL. However, within about one hours drive, there is a wide selection of wetland boat tours, where croc sightings are (almost) warranted. There you will meet the really big mates you wouldn’t like to see at your naturist-ground!
Aotearoa, as New Zealand is called in the Māori language, stands for “the land of the long white cloud”. Coming in from some tiny Pacific island nations and territories, New Zealand felt like a continent. However, strictly defined, also New Zealand, situated ~1,500 km east of Australia, and 1,000 km south of New Caledonia, is just another remote South Pacific archipelago.
For the sake of convenience, the white settlers called the two main islands, separated by the 23-km wide Cook Strait, North Island (Māori: Te Ika-a-Māui, 113,729 km²) and South Island (Māori: Te Waipounamu, 151,215 km²). Lesser known, there are more than 600 additional islands belonging to Kiwi Land, most of them within 50 kilometres of the two main islands. The realm of New Zealand also includes the islands of Tokelau (a dependent territory), plus the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand) and finally, the Ross Dependency, which is a territorial claim in Antarctica.
New Zealand’s main islands are situated exactly where the Australian and the Pacific tectonic plates meet. The North Island lies at the brink of the Australian plate, the South Island partly on the Australian, partly on the Pacific plate. That’s why the country is prone to regular earthquakes.
New Zealand became fully independent from the UK in 1947 but is still a member of the British Commonwealth. The country is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Some 75% of Kiwis, how New Zealanders call themselves, are of European decent, ~15% Maori, ~12% Asians, and ~7,5% Pacific Islanders. Of those questioned, 48% call themselves Christians, including 6% who don’t belong to a church, and 42% don’t confess to a religion at all.
On previous visits, we’ve explored the land of the long white cloud by buying a car, and selling it after 6 to 9 months, while staying at Naturist- and Backpackers-places along our way. This is certainly the best way to visit this extremely beautiful country. However, this time, we used New Zealand predominantly as a convenient base from which to fly to some other South Pacific islands, and to digest (in the buff) what we’ve experienced (while bearing that we had to wear it), on those remote, breath taking and culturally highly interesting island nations.
Sure enough, we wouldn’t be the roving spirits, if we wouldn’t take the opportunity, to revisit some of New Zealand’s sights. So, apart from digesting our south pacific experience and lingering in the sun, we re-visited parts of the North Island with a rental car.
New Zealand is still a clean and green country with a big diversity of natural sights: from stunning coastlines to fern-tree- and kauri-forests, volcanoes and mystical thermal wonderlands. New Zealand remains a very attractive destination indeed, drawing a great number of nature lovers from all over the world.
Furthermore, European naturists will be pleased to discover, how accepted the nude lifestyle is amongst the friendly New Zealanders. Not that naturism is popular among Kiwis, in contrary, but as long as they don’t have to bare it themselves, they don’t mind, if others bare it all, like many immigrants, and numerous overseas tourists do.
New Zealand has an excellent selection of naturist clubs, resorts and beaches, where visitors are always welcome. Choices are so many, even visitors with more time than money, won’t have the time to visit them all! Already Auckland has some 20 naturist beaches listed, the Northlands boosts another dozen, and there are plenty more clubs, beaches and resorts on the North-, as well as on the South-Island. Just grab a ticket and start discovering New Zealand. It’s a diverse clean and green destination with lots to see and to experience and many opportunities where you can just grin and bare it…
Auckland Outdoor Naturist Club: a green oasis to relax
After more than six months of intense travelling, we looked for a suitable place to complete our travel diary and to take a break from everyday travel. After mingling for half a year with the extraordinarily friendly, but due to the influence of missionaries meanwhile extremely prudish Pacific Islanders, we looked for a place, where we could bare it all again!
We remembered Oranui, a naturist club in West-Auckland, where we had already stayed 12 years ago. Meanwhile, it rebranded itself to AONC – Auckland Outdoor Naturist Club. However, the club is still situated in the suburb of Ranui, the Oranui games are still held annually, one of the highest points within AONC is still called Oranui Heights and the club’s largest rental cottages is also still called Oranui. Oranui is a Maori word, meaning the top of a sunny hill. It was December 28th, when we arrived at Auckland Outdoors. It wasn’t sunny all the times during our 4 weeks in the middle of the southern summer, though it was always warm enough to roam around naked.
The club’s location in the suburb of Ranui is just far enough from the city’s hustle and bustle to relax, but close enough to be visited by public transport. The nearest bus stop is 300 meters away, or the metro train station 750 meters (Ranui). If we walked half an hour, we reached Henderson. This suburb boosts another metro station, a good choice of restaurants and a huge shopping-centre, where we found much more than we needed. If we realized that we shopped too enthusiastically, we took a taxi, if not, we were sometimes lucky that a club-member picked us up on our way back, just before we collapsed under the weight of our lavishly filled shopping bags...
Once we were picked up by a member with a car plate, many European naturists would pay extra money to get it: FKK…, the German abbreviation for naturism. Here in New Zealand, it’s just a meaningless, computer generated number, sticking on the cars of about 1,000 Kiwis, most of whom would never dare to visit “such a place”.
AONC is a very well-equipped club, it is a green oasis in the middle of an urbanized area. Sure enough, when the club was established, it was in the middle of nowhere. However, as Auckland grew quite fast, new housing developments and even a school yard were built just behind the club’s planted bamboo fence. That’s New-Zealand; most Kiwis wouldn’t bare it all, but they don’t have a problem, if others do, and certainly not, to have a naturist club as neighbours. During our first stage twelve years ago, we’ve noticed some Asian immigrants from the neighbourhood sneaking into the club; not to gawk, but to harvest the bamboo-shots from the fence!
AONC’s members and visitors alike, can take advantage of the club’s superb facilities and spotless clean washrooms. There is a swimming- and a paddling pool, a large sauna and two Jacuzzis. Furthermore, a large covered BBQ area, sports-fields, playgrounds and a generous club-house with library, pool- and ping pong tables, living room suites, communal kitchen and more can be enjoyed by everyone. We loved also the nice bush-walk, setup through the woods belonging to the club. There are lots of fern trees growing on the nicely landscaped grounds. More than once, fantails were flying around us and even sitting on our arms. Unfortunately, they didn’t have patience to wait, until we took a picture!
Around the turn of the year, as most New Zealanders, also most club members were on holiday. Therefore, AONC was dominated by pensioners, some staying at the club all summer, a few even year around. This doesn’t mean, nothing happened. Members come from all walks of life, and some bring special talents along. As one member occupationally handles fireworks, the club celebrates New Year annually with a big, lavish display of pyrotechnics. It was also very interesting to watch, how the fireworks were setup on the lawn, and fired from a switchboard at midnight.
We were not the only overseas tourists staying at Auckland Outdoors. At times, there was almost a small traveller’s community creating a hostel like atmosphere. Most visitors overnighted in a small camping bus they rented to tour the country, others pitched up a tent. We stayed at one of four rental cabins. All come with a sofa and a small kitchen. Furthermore, ours was equipped with a baking oven, so we could enjoy freshly baked up bread, instead of toast.
After the end of the holiday season, more and more of the “younger” club members visited, especially during lunch time, after work, and on weekends. We never ever stayed at such a multicultural naturist club as is AONC. It might be a bit exaggerated to say, the club’s few Maori members were almost the only purebred New-Zealanders, but Kiwi born members were certainly a minority. During our stage at AONC, we’ve met not only immigrants from countries like Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, or the UK, but also from Iceland, Russia, the US, China, India, Sri Lanka, South-Africa, Fiji, French Polynesia and so on. To us roving spirits, it was just great to mingle with such an international crowd.
Auckland Outdoors Naturist Club offered us just the perfect environment to complete some self-imposed work, shape our onward travels and to recharge our batteries after an intense period of travelling.
In short: AONC is a well-appointed, year around open club-ground. It lies near the city centre of Auckland, but still worlds apart; just what na-tourists look for.
New Zealand: Auckland (Ranui), ~20 km east of the city center
Katikati Naturist Park: a perfect farewell from New-Zealand
After a good fortnight of touring around the North Island, we had still 11 days left, until we were due to leave New Zealand. This gave us enough time for another holiday within our holidays, before we continued to new adventures.
Some 30 kilometres west of Tauranga, and only 2 ½ hours south-east of Auckland Airport, we’ve found a perfect retreat: Katikati, a nice naturist ground outside the namesake village.
As several of our friends put it, already the name Katikati promises joy, and our stage was very joyfully indeed, as during our first visit twelve years ago. After the founding couple sold it for reasons of old age, the resort is now under new management. Ami and Tom, a Swedish/Kiwi naturist couple, run the place with devotion, just the way that all holiday makers are happy.
Katikati Naturist-Park is a very well equipped, year around open naturist oasis amid kiwi orchards. The Uretara Stream links it to the namesake township, some 4 kilometres away. Katikati boosts an excellent choice of dining and shopping opportunities, including a large Countdown Supermarket.
At Katikati naturist-park, we’ve enjoyed the many facilities that can be used around the clock: swimming-pool, sauna, two jacuzzies, covered open-air ping pong tables and even a “Place de la Petanque”. A clubhouse provides living room suites, billiard tables, a library with books, movies and a TV.
We hired a nice kitchen-equipped cabin, but as on most campgrounds in Kiwi-Land, there is also a generous communal kitchen where we regularly used the baking oven. Everything is kept spotlessly clean and well-tended. As pets are banned from Katikati there is neither dog poo.
The grounds are nicely landscaped, with big lawns and many shady trees. There is a very inviting mini-golf course which gave us a daily challenge. Despite our improving skills, hole number four remained a tough nut to crack! However, with the sun kissing our bums, it was pure joy, to try it again and again. Less challenging, but just beautiful was to sit on the shore of Uretara Stream that magnificently flows along the naturist retreat. It’s stony and rocky shores look very picturesque and in one section, you will see eels, if you feed them…
The atmosphere at Katikati is very pleasant. It has a few permanents, but the place is predominantly popular among holiday makers, Kiwis and overseas visitors, singles, couples and families alike. Many spend a few days or rather weeks here, and thanks to the variety of playgrounds, no child gets bored.
The cabins and onsite-vans filled up daily, so we were lucky that we had booked ahead. The pitches however, were predominantly packed over the weekends. Our stage at Katikati naturist retreat was a perfect and sunny farewell from Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud.
New Zealand: Katikati, ~30 km northwest of Tauranga
After dictator Franco died in 1975, the Spanish society, especially the younger generation, started to break many taboos from the old times. Some of those were reversed and became constitutional rights soon thereafter. For example, nudism is not punishable any more since 1978, but a Constitutional Right. (Surely) we hadn’t seen anybody naked outside the nudist area and the beach, but this very liberal approach means in practice, that everybody has the right to be nude in any public place (like beaches, rivers, lakes, open fields, paths, roads, streets, plazas, parks, etc.), but not in private places (like restaurants, shops, etc) as they have their own regulations.
We think that it is this tolerant and natural environment that encourages so many young Spaniards to go naked to be even with nature. We preferred the summertime, because then we were surrounded by Spaniards; by the lively Spanish way of life, which was even more appealing than we had imagined…
Natsun in Vera Playa: Holiday Apartments in a real nudist village
Natsun in Vera Playa is owned by Jan and Hedy, a Dutch naturist family with two children. They operate it very personal (and at moderate prices). We stayed at the three storey building called “ELCANO III”, which offers Natsun’s most sophisticated accommodation options. Most apartments are facing south. Only a nicely landscaped large pool separates the building complex from the beach.
The apartments are very generously sized, some 4m wide to 13m long, with a large balcony facing the sea. The interior is very functional, with Spanish style furniture and many decoration elements. All apartments are equipped with glass ceramic stove and a big fridge with a good size freezer compartment, perfect for a long stay. We considered the impressive 1mx2m table with 6 comfortable wooden chairs in our (and most other) apartments a big asset.
What makes Vera Playa so special? It’s the openness and tolerance of the Spanish society. The “naturist urbanisations” of Vera Playa are integrated borderless into neighbouring “textile” urbanisations. The main road leads for 1.5km along the naturist urbanisations and only the main access road into the “naturist quarters” has a sign indicating “Zona Naturista”. Neither the beach, nor any of the roads leading from the nude to the prude sections of Vera Playa, has any signage indicating that the naturist area ends (or starts) here. Just next to it is the Shopping Centre “Centro Hispania”, which allows good views to the neighbouring nudist area from its car park and rooftop terrace.
In Vera Playa, naturists and textiles obviously mingle very well with each other on the beach. The stretches 500 m north and south of Natsun are mainly used by naturists. A few hundred meters further south it’s fairly mixed and then it gets more and more textile. Beach walks are very popular among everyone and nobody cares if those wearing bathers walk a few hundred meters into the naturist section, as naturists walk a few hundred meters into the textile section. This is totally accepted and nobody stares, it’s totally natural for everybody. Surely, there are some teenagers wearing bathers in the naturist section, but other teenagers are sunbathing fully naked in the middle of the textile crowd and also here: NOBODY stares at them and nobody tells them to wear more or less.
We frankly enjoyed our stay at Natsun in Vera Playa in any respect. It is certainly one of the better naturist places we know. Nudity feels very natural here, just the way it should be. This is also thanks to the openness and tolerance of the Spanish society.
There was nothing to complain, although the weather was almost boring: just sunny every day! To us, the best time at Vera Playa was between April and November. We preferred the summertime, because then we were surrounded by Spaniards; by the lively Spanish way of life, which was even more appealing than we had imagined!!!
Again, we arrived in France, where we once more intended to spend the summer, wearing most of the time no more than our birthday suits. Well, as naturists, naturally we do not see any other reasons to wear clothing than to protect ourselves against the elements or the risk of injuries. Nude welding for instance, is not as much fun, as it would appear in a Mr. Beam sketch!
It’s just a shame that most of the millions of Europeans who enjoy nude recreation regularly, don’t share with their friends outside the naturist ground, how natural it is to them, and how much they enjoy it. If all naturists would share their passion, probably it could only be a matter of time until naturist-ghettos become unnecessary and everybody could strip off everywhere and every time the weather would allow. If nobody would be disturbed, or attracted by the sight of a naked person, the world would certainly be a more natural one, and many of the problems related to sexual harassment would thereby evaporate as well.
Instead of moaning until this dream (illusion?) becomes reality, we better enjoy the diverse naturist-grounds around the globe. France, with more than one million naturist-holidayers annually, is probably Europe’s prime destination for nude recreation. Despite having visited many French resorts, there is still a fair share waiting to be discovered. Though we intend to revisit some favourites, our nude summer will again focus on places we hadn’t visited before.
Early June we left the Mediterranean and undertook the long drive eastward to the Provence, Alps Maritime Region. After leaving the rat race on the freeway, we got into increasingly beautiful scenery, as we approached the mountains. Late afternoon, we arrived at our next destination, Domaine de l’Origan. It is situated 600m above sea level and surrounded by forest-covered mountains. This naturist ground sits above the Var Valley, a couple of kilometres from the village of Puget-Théniers.
The 35 ha big holiday resort is laid out on a quite steep estate. The campsites and rentals are distributed over different sections, some on the terraced hillside, others on top of a flattened hill. Altogether, there are about 200 sites, evenly divided into pitches, sites for permanents and rental accommodations, which include chalets, various mobile-homes and furnished tents.
Our reserved chalet was well situated and offered, likewise to Origan’s mobile-homes, some rather unusual luxury, like reverse-mode air-conditioning and TV with international channels, and an inevitable microwave oven. Instead of the latter two, we’d have preferred to get four, instead of only two gas-rinks and beds that wouldn’t have been surrounded by walls on three sides. On the other hand, we really appreciated the electric boiler; to us much better than the gas appliances that are common in accommodations on most campgrounds.
Origan is quite well equipped. Apart from a sauna and pool, there is also a large hot tub and (in peak season) a toboggan, how a cork-screw waterslide for children is called in France. The sanitary blocks offers a bit more comfort than many, on other campgrounds; here you’ll find hairdryers and toilets with paper in each cubicle, plus comfy toilet seats.
Origan’s Restaurant is well decorated and very cosy, plus there is a big new covered terrace, where dinner-dances are held regularly. Though the choice of dishes is not that big, they cook excellent and serve generous portions. In the basement, there is a wellness-centre and next door, a small souvenir shop that opened during our stay. For food, you find all the basics and more in the small “épicerie”. The limited selection of fruit and vegetable still includes some exotics like Mango or Topinanboure (Jerusalem Artichoke), a delicious vegetable, even we, had never eaten before.
The couple who runs the shop is very friendly and organize fresh trout, or communal BBQ evenings at regular basis. As other staff members, they can often be seen lingering at the pool, when off duty.
Though the sea is 60 kilometres away, nude cruises are arranged every now and then. They start from the glizzy Côte d’Azur, with its famous cities Nice and Cannes.
Discovery can also be had within Origan, and surely, it doesn’t require clothing. For the energetic, there is a two hour’s nude hike. It starts with a step ascent, and rewards with spectacular views over the Var Valley. If you feel like going down to the river, this is possible too. From Origan, a stony path brings you in 15 minutes to the shores of the Var River. It’s of a grey-blue colour, typical for mountain rivers. During summer, there is not that much water flowing down, but judging from the width of the riverbed, with its large gravel islands and the huge boulders, the stream must be quite powerful at certain times. It’s nice to wander over rough and smooth, and then refresh under the nearby waterfall, or in the cool manmade swimming hole, situated in a quiet branch of the river. The naturist area on the water is quite large. It’s more suitable for a foot massage than to comfortably sunbathe on a towel, since there’s almost no sand; only stones and boulders. Some naturists might find it a bit disturbing that the river is visible from the railway line and from the main road. However, it’s too far away to recognize anybody through the trees and drivers will anyway not have time taking their eyes off the road.
Three donkeys reside at Origan too, and as they often get spoiled by holidayers, they might come begging onto your terrace or into your tent. At times, they manage to escape and then an employee will tie them to a car or electric vehicle upon finding them, and thus tow them back to the camp.
Due to Origans compact heart, it’s easy to get in contact with other guests, who come not only from all over Europe, East and West, but also from as far away as Russia, the Ukraine, Indonesia and even China. The atmosphere is very natural indeed, but on weekends, Origan cannot deny its proximity to Nice. We don’t think, the rich and famous come here, and if so, we wouldn’t recognise them anyway. Nevertheless, many Niçois arrived in convertibles. Around the pool, you couldn’t tell them apart from other naturists, except for those who had beautified their bodies with silicon. Nevertheless, as soon as they walk away from the pool area, it’s another matter. Most Niçois, men and women, have developed a special skill, how to tie a sarong or a flimsy accessory artfully around the hip, in a fashion that it covers, and displays their private parts at the same time. And that way, they all move about.... It’s all relative: If you talk to people from Nice, they’re very friendly and all accentuate that they, above all, come to Origan, because they find the atmosphere here so much more natural than on any naturist beach along the Côte d‘Azur!
Castillon de Provence: between temples and a stunning green lake
Castillon de Provence. It’s situated near Castellane, embedded in a stunning mountainous landscape. Though we were now on 1’000 metres above sea level, the surrounding peaks were not as high, as near the last place. We sighted Castillon de Provence’s biggest asset, Lake Castillon, already on the way. It’s a big artificial lake, with incredibly turquoise water. We stopped to picture it, as soon as we caught sight of it, and were looking forward to bathe in it. While crossing the dam, we were closer than a kilometre to the naturist beach, while we still had about 10km to loge, before we got to the entrance of our chosen destination. Castillon de Provence is accessed on a good, but narrow and steep road. With a car, there is no restriction to drive there any time, but those who tow a caravan or trailer, have to descend before 1 P.M., or to ascend after 2 P.M., to avoid getting jammed.
It was mid afternoon, when we moved into our wooden cabin at Castillon de Provence. It didn’t have a bathroom, but was otherwise very well equipped. The modern kitchen had four gas rinks, and a boiler for hot water. The 15m2 cabin had a smart layout, with a sofa and plenty of cupboards, partitioning off the double bed. As from most rentals and pitches, we were overlooking a large meadow, and had vast views to the mountains. Most sites are rather sunny, but have some shady trees nearby.
The 47ha camp ground, with bushland and meadows gay with flowers and butterflies, is landscaped in a way that it offers ample space for the ~100 pitches and the 30 rental possibilities, ranging from well equipped furnished tents, to a variety of mobile homes and chalets.
The spotless amenities include a small swimming pool, a sauna, two cottages; one for children and another for youths. The biggest playground is illuminated at night, and smartly situated next to the restaurant, so parents can supervise their gang, while sipping coffee. There is also an outdoor fitness centre, and several modern and squeaky clean ablution blocks. It’s a pity, you have to bring your own toilet paper (and plush seat). On the other hand, there is no need to bring a table, as every single pitch is equipped with a large wooden table with benches.
Castillon de Provence is owned by a Dutch naturist family. They run the place together with the help of many working-holidayers. The owners know how, to run the place, and implemented some innovative ideas. The restaurant for instance, delights its guests every evening with a different concept. On some evenings, there is theme night, focussing on some foreign countries specialities or traditional French fare, on others, announced as “à la carte”, they please mainly those who like French gourmet cuisine. Though, those who choose French fries as side-dish, get only a touch of haute cuisine. Real fine food is only served, if you choose vegetables as side dish. The “little” difference between the side-dishes is hereabout much bigger than it sounds!
As a counterbalance, something quick and simple is available once a week, or twice, if a sports event is screened, pleasing some guests, but disturbing others. The owners realize that fine food and football don’t go together, as it attracts different people. Eating at the restaurant is always very sociable, as meals are served on communal tables, even if it’s “à la carte” and diners arrive at the time of their liking, but you have to book it ahead. Everything is orderly organized at Castillon de Provence, and almost everything else must also be booked ahead, it doesn’t matter whether it’s for free or for a fee.
The small convenience store has limited opening hours and choice, however, it’s big enough that it gives you several possibilities to assemble meals, including frozen fish and fresh greens.
Castillon de Provence is situated in a mountainous area, favoured by tourists for their many beautiful sights. One of the star attractions; Lake Castillon, can be reached with a pleasant 30 minutes nude hike. A wide, but stony pathway leads directly from the camp ground, situated on 1’000 metres above sea level, down to the naturist beach, on 880 m. The path is fine for walking with proper shoes, yet rough enough, to discourage the not so sporty from driving. Along the way, you get rewarded with stunning views of the turquoise water, and the surrounding mountain ranges; you will be smitten.
It was the end of June, and we were delighted to find out that the water temperature was already very pleasant to swim; warm, though still refreshing. Every now and then, the colour of the water surface changed, depending on wind and weather. It’s wonderful to while the time away, and wearing anything else than your birthday suit would almost be like disturbing the peace of nature.
Walking back up, you’ll see an assembly of temples and golden statues on a hillside. They belong to the Aumists “holy city of Mandarom”, literally guarding with AUM (OM) just above the naturist colony. Aumism is a sect that incorporates symbols and temples of all big faiths, notably Buddhism. We learned a bit about it on a conducted tour, but the sober truth can better be gained from Wikipedia or other sources. Aumists believe, the sect’s founder will resurrect, and exactly of this, Castellane’s local authorities seem to be afraid – why else would they have placed a concrete sarcophagus on his grave?
Totally undisputed and adored by everyone, is the Gorge du Verdon. This major tourist magnet can be found just a few kilometres from Castillon de Provence. With 25 km in length, and up to 700 metres depth, it’s Europe’s biggest canyon. There would be much more to see around Castillon de Provence. Due to the exceptional warm weather, we were pleased we had visited other major attractions, like the purple red Daluis Gorge or the fascinating high mountain passes further inland, already from where we stayed before.
Bélézy feels very different in autumn than in spring. The area with the deckchairs around the big pool looked now almost as busy as a beach in Rimini, but: it was dead quiet! Hundreds; mainly pensioners, were lazily sunbathing and reading. Nobody talked. Everybody seemed to enjoy, that children had to attend school on this time of the year. Somehow, it felt that even the excess noise of turning newspaper pages, would disturb this crowd. The large playgrounds in the centre of Bélézy were deserted, there were no more animations and the tourist information was closed.
Again; it felt very different to our previous stays in spring, and also to our most recent visit in April, when children, adolescent and adults alike, were happily playing or doing sports on the fields. Communal BBQ’s were arranged to bring people together, later socialising all through their holidays. It seems that maybe the Management purposely optimizes conditions for those who like to be active and socialise from spring to the beginning of September and after that, for the remainder of the season: for those who like it peacefully quiet. Therefore, in the midst of September, no animation and no communal BBQ’s were offered anymore. We know from some friends, that Bélézy had still been very lively in the beginning of September!
The restaurant at Bélézy still served good French food for a competitive price. The shop which closed on September 20th, sold many items at a discounted price, but still stocked some fresh fruit every day. Fresh bread was still available at the reception after the grocery store closed a few weeks before the end of the season (probably because so many “campers” carry half of Aldi & Lidl’s range in their caravan from home.).
Shopping and dining is also very easy outside Bélézy. The village of Bedoin is only an easy 20 min. stroll away and it has an excellent Shopi-Supermarket and several good restaurants. Every Monday a market is held, presenting a true feast for the eyes and the palate. We also visited some charming villages in the Provence district, many offering some more superb dining options and often great scenery along the way. After ten very sunny and mild days, we left Bélézy end of September.
Domaine de la Sablière: distinctive rocks towering over a small river
Sablière with its many possibilities for walking “au naturel” remains one of our favourite places. The ground is situated in an impressive valley, just 7 km outside Barjac. It’s nestled along and above the left shore of the small Cèze River. The two distinctive rock outcroppings guarding the river opposite the main beach are certainly one of Sablière’s biggest assets. A large natural pool invites for bathing. Children and adults alike, swim to the opposite shore, sunbathe near the small natural cave or jump down the rocks.
The many camp-sites, rental-units, the pools and also the restaurant and the shop are perfectly integrated into Sablières otherwise very intact nature along a steep astonishing river valley.
It’s one kilometre from the reception down to the pool area and another one to the shop and restaurant. Another few hundred metres more and you’re down by the river Cèze. Sablières natural atmosphere makes it also perfect for first time naturists and for everybody who likes big grounds in natural surroundings.
Domaine Lambeyran: a Guinness Book of Records listed naturist ground
After one week in a very small ground, we continued 45 minutes up the rood to Lodève. Here we got compensated with the other extreme: Domaine Lambeyran, Guinness book listed, as the world’s largest naturist resort by size. Despite the estate’s 348 ha, there are only about 150 camp sites and 10 rentals, ranging from caravans to simple chalets and mobile homes.
We moved into our mobile home “Bambi” where we had two small bedrooms adjoined to a kitchen-living room. We liked the generous 10 m2 covered terrace, and the shady site. As it didn’t have a bathroom, we used the nearby sanitary block. All of them are clean, neatly tailed and equipped with toilet seats but loo paper was a BYO affair.
Though Domaine Lambeyran is huge, its campsites are assembled over three main areas. Those are connected with good roads. The former farm meadows were flattened out, to provide everybody with an even grassy pitch. The many old trees were supplemented with tall poplars, to divide sites. Those who sleep in a tent, might appreciate that there is no street illumination. Also noise isn’t a problem, as there is plenty of space for everybody and Lambeyran attracts in general a rather quiet clientele. Even during peak season, the place is not crowded and animations are held once a week only.
Surely, during high season there were also families with children, but by far not as many, as on other naturist sites. Is it because of this that the well maintained paddling pool wasn’t filled before July 21st? However, there is an unusually large swimming pool where you can have refreshing dips, as well as vast views over Lodève and the surrounding ranges.
Even though the camp ground is well signposted from town, it lacks clear indication about it being a naturist ground. Obviously, non-naturists rarely know the mentioned abbreviation “FFN” (which stands for “Fédération France Naturisme”) but the symbol for camp ground. Therefore, non-naturists turn up quite regularly, after taking the 4km long access road. The owner and his staff have addresses of textile camps ready and make sure, only naturists get in here. However, even during the hottest time, clothes never melted off the owner, nor his receptionist..
The centre of Lambeyran is situated in a horse shoe shaped valley. The forested hills surrounding the camp ground, all belong to the large domaine and offer vast possibilities for nude hiking. Different, more or less well marked round loops, within the boundaries of Lambeyran’s estate, amount to an impressive 30 kilometres of hiking possibilities. For hunters and gatherers, we would recommend the countless narrow and partly steep paths through the woods, where collecting scratches is almost certain. For the less adventurous, there is a tractor trail, we dubbed hiking-autobahn that leads very smoothly upwards for about 8km. Part of the pleasure of nude hiking here, is also that you don’t have to carry anything along. After 6km the tractor trail comes close to a road for a short distance. Here, Lambeyran recommends wearing “a slip”. Well, we’re not sure whether approaching car drivers wonder more about nude hikers, or possibly even more about women walking by in briefs only.
When we got close to the road for the first time, we didn’t have any cover up with us. Realizing that we really get into plain view of the street, we hid near the bushes until we couldn’t hear any car, and then run as fast as we could. After 60 metres, there were again bushes to hide, and we happily continued our nude hike in comfort. Apart from other naturists, we often met the owner’s twelve horses or passed a group of cairns on our tours of the ground. There are also donkeys, sheep and wild boar roaming around, but they always hid on the estates inaccessible parts. Hiding, were usually also roe deer, and little snakes and lizards, however, a few times we caught a glimpse of one. Butterflies on the other hand, were abound, especially where it bloomed, be it on the side of the track, or on the meadows, gay with flowers. Furthermore, the chirping sound of uncountable cicadas was filling the air almost all day long.
Most walking paths offer vast views and even after marching for 5km you see down to the campground often, and think, you’re only just above it. If you reach the hill crests, you’re actually on 750 metres above sea level, meaning 300 metres above Lambeyran’s main building. Up there, you get rewarded with great vistas, from the western hiking routes, all the way to Lake Salagou and on clear days even to the sea, some 50km away.
On most days of our stay, temperatures rose to about 25°C and when they rose higher, we postponed our walk until late afternoon. However, nude hiking is in any case most comfortable, because the cooling effect of sweating only works properly, if the breeze reaches your body, instead of wet sticking clothes.
By mid-September we arrived at Port Leucate on the Mediterranean. The friendly receptionist of Agence Oasis handed us the keys to a well appointed terrace house, which we had arranged a few months ago.
The municipality of Leucate is divided and spread over four distinctly different village-areas, each of which resembles a township by itself. The only village grown naturally, is Leucate Village in the north, a couple of kilometres away from the sea. The other three are purposely built holiday villages along the beach, named Leucate Plage to the north, Port Leucate to the south and in between: an entire village just for naturists. Situated between the strand and an inlet, it consists of several holiday villages with apartment complexes and terrace houses.
Altogether, “Le Village naturiste de Port Leucate” consists of about 1500 privately owned dwellings. A fair share of them can be rented through different agencies, like Oasis. Some are also being rented out directly by owners, though the asking price is often higher than what you’d pay through the agencies, even more so during off-season. As the agencies are keen to do business all season long, the pricing is naturally very competitive and on top of it, they are on the spot for help and advice.
Development in the naturist area started in 1974 and new holiday villages have been and are still being added since. Aphrodite and Oasis are the biggest developments. Aphrodite is very French, but still has a fair share of foreign owners and holidayers. It consists mainly of one and two storey buildings and many of the apartments have been altered or extended by their owners. Many of those apartments along the inlet overlook the small boat harbour, which belongs to the naturist resort as well. The centre of Aphrodite consists of several small shops and restaurants grouped around a square. They include butchery and a superb bakery, which we visited daily. We enjoyed it, to have those shops nearby, but as we stayed in a neighbouring urbanisation, we opted to pay an administration fee to obtain a key, sparing us a detour to get there, as every holiday complex is fenced off, except along the beach.
The apartments at Oasis are predominantly owned by German and Swiss nationals, just as its sole restaurant, though we could have easily endured more French character and life around us. The holiday village is nicely landscaped and the apartments, mainly in three- and four storey buildings, are rather large and modern.
To us, Port Leucate was a perfect finish of our tour around several French naturist resorts. We enjoyed it very much, that Oasis and Aphrodite were anything else than dead, even in October. We left on October 8th, just a day before the bakery was due to close, but the small Casino grocery store remained still open for another two weeks. Surely, its offerings got gradually reduced. It’s all relative; it still sold several times more items than any of the stores in the resorts we had stayed during peak summer!
We spent the first two May weeks at l'Eglantière, a nice naturist resort near Castelnau-Magnoac, some 20 km north of Lannemezan. With 45 ha it’s a rather big place with lots of space for holidayers. The 120 campsites were not that well occupied yet, but the approximately 30 mobile-homes and chalets proved very popular. We stayed in a well equipped and very new mobile-home with a covered terrace, a large bed (1.6 x 2.0 m), as well as an electric boiler, something we appreciate much more than the usual gas appliances.
By the way, Eglantière’ mobile-homes are not only exceptionally well equipped, but also exceptionally honestly marketed. Ours was stated with a surface of 25m2; exactly the size stated in the Manufacturers data-sheet and the result of Heinz’ effort to size it, just by curiosity. Other naturist grounds often quote the size of the same mobile-home model as 30m2, and sometimes even 31.6 m2! The covered part of the patio, the thickness of the walls and other uninhabitable bits are often generously added by square metres.
As the season was just coming in swing, Eglantière’s shop was not yet open. Though, as almost everywhere in France, fresh bread could be ordered. It was quietly being delivered every morning straight to our terrace, without interrupting our sleep.
Eglantière’s restaurant started with a new chef and he prove to be into real gourmet cuisine. What he prepared, was of excellent quality, nicely presented and easily matched the offerings of some rewarded restaurants but at a lower price, much better than what you’d expect on a camp ground. Communal meals were organized weekly; once a semi-BYO-BBQ, and once a delicious dinner, focusing on local fare.
L’Eglantière is owned by a local family, enthusiastically and personally run by Isabelle and Xavier. Activities are often communicated in person, instead of only posting them on a black-board. On mother’s day, Isabelle went around distributing roses to every woman on the ground. A swimming pool, some play- and sports-grounds, as well as a sauna complement Eglantière’s offerings.
As during our previous visit ten years ago, we enjoyed the extensive network of walking paths within the domain. The river Gers flows for more than a kilometre across the grounds, which consists also of meadows and forests. It seems, not many people ventured up the hill into the woods, as we saw roe deer every time we went up there. It was great to hike in the raw around this very natural place.
ARNA: very natural, very happening and very quiet at the same time
On July 20th, we continued to Arnaoutchot, in short ARNA. Also this is a very attractive naturist resort in a pine forest right on the French Atlantic Coast. It’s located near St. Girons, roughly halfway between Biarritz and Mimizan. We had stayed here last year and liked its unique atmosphere so much that we wanted to come back.
What makes Arna so special? With its capacity of 4.000 holiday makers, it’s big though not anonymous at all. The predominantly alternative and ecologically thinking crowd of guests create here a very natural atmosphere, meaning: designer-ware, high heels and city behaviour (if existing) are purposely left at home and one is pleased to be able to spend the vacation fully naked. Here, nudity is the most natural thing in the whole wide world and if it should get cold for once, people just cover up with something warm. While returning in Summer, we discovered that meanwhile even some of the stall-hawkers at ARNA's large weekly market got bitten by the naturist-bug. A few served their clients while wearing nothing but an apron.
Upon arrival at Arna, we were heartily greeted by many faces we knew from last year. You easily get to know not only your neighbours but also people you meet during various activities, on the beach, around the pool or in the restaurants. Children and adults alike, can have a quiet time if they want to but there are countless animations, sports, excursions and performances to participate or simply to look on.
We value the vast naturist beach on the Atlantic coast as Arna’s top attraction, together with the very inviting group of indoor- and outdoor-pools, the well stocked grocery shop, the mobile fish monger and the weekly performances on the open air stage. Others might give more importance to the sports- and playgrounds, the surf school, the large market that is held weekly, the wellness & beauty centre, the disco or the reasonably priced restaurants.
Arna's vast naturist beach is certainly the crowd-drawer, though it poses also the biggest risk to the many holiday makers. Luckily, the live-savers do an excellent job, and bathers who get in trouble can normally be saved, often even before a reanimation is necessary. However, those who swim outside the supervised areas, expose themselves to a very high risk.
Animations and performances at ARNA are made up to perfection. With an open air stage equipped like a city theatre even the open podium is choreographed to excel, including a wide array of costumes. ARNA Show is a peculiarity that adds uniqueness to this popular naturist resort. Professional artists are employed to teach the uncountable children and teenagers at ARNA the necessary skills, to perform on the professionally choreographed weekly show on the resort’s fully equipped stage. It’s impressive to see what (young) people can learn within a few days, if they get the proper guidance. Those performances certainly lift the young people’s self-esteem. On the beach, the vast majority joins into the naturist spirit, and of course, the positive group experience gives those youngsters the desire to come back to ARNA as soon as possible…
More professional are only the dance- and show groups contracted every Wednesday night to please Arna’s crowd. Those professional artists are sometimes from a neighbouring country, but mostly from France. However, France is not that small. This year’s cultural highlight was certainly the performance by a dance group from French Polynesia. The men and women of “Haiva i Tahiti” were all Pacific Islanders, tattooed and most with long black hair. Their Haka Dances, which terminated with making big eyes and sticking out the tongue, were the real thing indeed, just as we had experienced in the Pacific!
Arna’s facilities are plenty and everything is top notch, as the new and very modern ablution blocks. Considering the many holiday makers and the many things happening at Arna during high season, the peace and quiet around our mobile-home was amazing. Sometimes we felt, we were the noisiest, as we often chatted with acquaintances.
It was a perfect choice to spend the peak season at Arna. We loved our daily extensive walks along the vast naturist beach. Moreover, we enjoyed the relatively mild and dry weather, considering the rather wet and chilly conditions the rest of Europe had to endure this summer. With its pleasant natural “all over atmosphere”, Arna outshines many naturist resorts we know and it has certainly moved up to the top of our list of favourites.
La Jenny: a unique naturist village among pine trees
On August 3rd, we’ve continued southwards. After only 60 km, La Jenny, the next big naturist resort along the French Atlantic Coast was waiting to host us for a two weeks stage. It’s not just another naturist ground, La Jenny stands out with its unique concept of being a naturist resort without offering any camping facilities at all, just proper accommodation distributed over ~750 Chalets. The colourful cottages, scattered around a big yard of pine forest along the Atlantic Coast, are all very charming. None is really cheap, neither to buy, nor to rent. Unfortunately, uniqueness has its price, but as we like the concept with lots of space between the proper little houses, we felt it’s worth paying the extra bucks! Some of the cottages are quite luxurious, many have vast terraces, but our finances made us to contend with a small granny flat with a sofa bed. Lucky us, we got a balcony that outsized our apartment by 50%!
Surprisingly, once we’ve paid for our apartment, everything inside La Jenny seemed surprisingly cheap. The supermarket offered the same promotions as any village shop, visiting butchers and fishmongers offered excellent, not overpriced quality meat and fish. Fresh and affordable oysters were being sold several times weekly and the restaurant offered everything from cheap snacks and pizza to real “Haute cuisine”.
The huge, landscaped pools are definitely an attraction, as is the nudist golf course with six holes. But La Jenny’s main attraction is certainly the naturist beach.
If it comes to naturist ethics, La Jenny is not that much of a charmer. The only place where the naturist ideals are observed by everyone, is the pool complex. During the daily morning gym, even the animator wore an atrocious bikini top. No wonder that most attendees wore tracksuits or bathers and the few ones who bared it all felt like in the wrong movie! A striking contrast to the naturist sites we’ve visited in Australia and New Zealand, where visitors were few, but the naturist ideals were always observed by everone.
CHM Montalivet: the founding spirit of naturism transformed into modern times
On June 30th, we’ve continued to the French Atlantic Coast, where we had a booking for five weeks at CHM-Monta, just outside the (holiday) village of Montalivet. What emerged as the cradle of naturism in France, if not even in Europe, is now a contemporary naturist holiday centre with top notch facilities.
With more than 15’000 keen naturists present during peak summer, CHM-Monta is certainly one of the world’s most popular naturist centres. Surely, Australia has definitely some larger naturist grounds by size, but with only a couple of dozen naturists present during peak times, like Xmas in July or New Year. There is no comparison to the vibe at CHM-Monta, where not only uncountable adults, but also thousands of children and teenagers frolic in the buff on the beach during peak summer. In stark contrast to many other naturist centres, the naturist ideals are upheld and observed in exemplary manner at CHM-Monta. The place attracts large numbers of genuine naturists keen to live nude, not only to (sun)bathe naked! The beach is marked “Plage 100% Naturiste” and likewise the 28° C warm, heated pools, supervised by naked lifesavers.
CHM-Monta does not only attract with its vast naturist beach and its unique naturist spirit, but also with its business. Almost everything you can expect in a village of ~15’00 people can be found @ CHM-Monta. Some 25 shops and restaurants are offering good products in exchange for money. There are shops like supermarkets, butcher, fishmonger, bakery, hairdresser, hardware-store, ATM and much more awaiting clients.
Domaine Laborde: even more charming thanks to new owners
On June 6th, we’ve reached Domaine Laborde, a lovely naturist site, right on a border creek between the Départements Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne. The ground is nicely landscaped, and many of the buildings doted around the 25 hectare estate, incorporate a pigeon tower. Spread over farm- and woodland, guests find two small but scenic ponds, a swimming pool, two thrilling toboggans, as well as an indoor pool with sauna and hamam and of course a restaurant.
We love this place near Monflanquin also, because it’s in easy driving distance to the mayor sights of both regions. However, Domaine Laborde is so relaxing, often it’s just too tempting just to undress and unwind.
Laborde’s receptionist told us an anecdote about a temporary manager who had been helping out a couple of years ago. As former caretaker of a textile campground, she thought she can run Laborde exactly the same way. But the naked clientele didn’t enjoy so much rejoicings and embraces and some naturists even opted for flight!
Luckily, the owner realized that all he had built up during 30 years can be destroyed in no time, if somebody unfamiliar with naturism runs his paradise. So, he sold it to a true naturist couple, Jack & François, who run the place with a lots of devotion and enthusiasm ...
Upon our arrival mid-September, Le Couderc was still very well occupied. All rentals were taken, as were some 80% of the pitches. No wonder; this family run business offers even during the absolute low season more, than many renowned nudist sites do during peak season. In October, when most other places are already in hibernation, the number of guests dwindled, but Le Couderc still offered little less than during main season. The popular, very good and not overpriced restaurant remained open until the very last day, as was the bar with its wood fire and the small grocery store. It is a matter of course that the swimming pool, sauna, steam bath and jacuzzi were being heated daily until 9 pm and this to the end of October. Only the pizzeria and the snack bar closed a few days before the season ended on October 26th.
Even by European standard, Le Couderc’s off-season services are just outstanding. What a striking difference to the Australian resorts where we had stayed less than a year ago – even during peak season, there is neither demand for a grocery store nor for a restaurant – whereas at le Couderc, the restaurant still filled up with 25 diners or more nightly.
Similarly, the popular open podium was still on the weekly agenda. In peak summer, guests are queuing to perform something. Then the stage is open air, with the audience sitting on a big lawn. In colder times, like now in autumn, the stage is in a big barn with a bar and fire place. We learned that many of Le Couderc's guests, are professional artists from the Netherlands. Naturally, in off-season, people get fewer; whether spectators or artists. Never the less, from the three podium nights we witnessed, the last two were more cheering. It is absolutely impressive to experience, how an ad hoc band can play such top class music. It was always like a free concert and spectators sang and danced along. Furthermore, on the second October weekend, there was even a live-concert of a famous band.
Spontaneously, at the end of summer, Le Couderc had decided to prolong the season from October 15th, to October 26th. As mentioned above, all services were kept up and alive, amazingly consequent until the very last day, indeed. We could almost not believe our eyes when we saw that animations for children were being resumed on October 21st, after three families had checked in on the weekend. Whereas most competitors ended their season a month ago and terminated animations for youngsters end of August, Le Couderc still did all it could to offer full service for the few remaining naturists. The holidaymakers still present have certainly appreciated such outstanding services. Sauna, Haman, Jacuzzi, (Happy Hour) and the Restaurant prove very popular until the last few opening days. Can you expect a better service at the end of October?
At the beginning of August, we arrived at Heliomonde, a large naturist ground at the doorstep to Paris. Surely, at the reception they speak English, but we preferred to exercise our French with the humorous staff. We had discovered Heliomonde two years ago and came now back to stay for three weeks. Again, we had reserved a small chalet.
Heliomonde offers a restaurant, a popular pool, several sports- and playgrounds, as well as a superb indoor complex with sauna and hamam that could all be used at no extra cost. Considering the beauty of the place and the excellent facilities, it’s a shame, most tourists use it as stop-over, or base to visit Paris, only. The recreational value qualifies Heliomonde easily to spend an entire holiday. Parisians are fond of it for a long time and flock here to spend relaxing weekends. About 350 families own bungalows and come whenever possible.
Despite its proximity to Paris, Heliomonde is situated on a forested 47 ha plot, surrounded by pastoral countryside. There are many excellent paths through the woods, some of which are three metres wide, others just narrow trails. As cars are only allowed on the site for arrival and departure, all paths are ideal for nude hikes. A two- and a three-kilometre round loop are marked, though there are many more tracks to be discovered. We don’t know how many kilometres we walked but the soles of our shoes almost got holey there.
Surprisingly, the two roe deer we once spotted were not in the undergrowth but between cottages. Caravans and mobile-homes are only a few, as most permanents own a wooden chalet, of which so many are dotted around the forest. Their shapes and decorations are very individual and we got the impression that the character of many changes annually, as most owners are do-it-yourself enthusiasts.
Even though we had chosen Heliomonde for its proximity to Paris, we finally visited this city only once (by train), as it was almost too nice to leave this naturist ground. Heliomonde was a discovery in its own right and its location makes it only more attractive.
Italy isn't a prime destination for naturism and what we read about public nude beaches, even those near naturist resorts, didn't sound very inviting! However, in dept searching on the internet revealed a couple of places in Northern Italy's interior we wanted to give a try.
Villaggio Naturista Le Betulle: naturism on the outskirts of Torin
Only 20km north-westof Torin, we reached another one of Italy's few naturist grounds; Le Betulle, situated next to the village of La Cassa. This 12ha estate, a former club ground, has recently been converted into a commercial naturist village. It offers some 80 sites for permanents, another 80 for visitors, as well as about 20 rental accommodations. Among them are various bungalows, mobile homes and on-site vans that offer almost the standard of a chalet, as they all have wooden awnings with fitted kitchen and flat screen TV's. For our 8 day's stay, we got one of three nice wooden chalets with covered terrace.
Back at Le Betulle, it was very quiet for the time of the year and the size of the ground. Not even on the weekends, we realized many permanents showing up, only a few foreigners were dropping in for a few days and the Dutch couple next to us, even for two weeks. The big pool was already open and the many sports- and play grounds could be used. Internet-access was available in some communal areas and who prefers to read a book, will find a large library. Later in season, there was to be a big restaurant, BBQ area, sauna, jacuzzi and bread delivery.
We didn't make many excursions but there would be plenty of opportunities in the surroundings. To see Turin from a distance, you don't need to wear anything, but those who want to see it properly, don't need to drive far. Furthermore, there are impressive mountains and picturesque valleys in abundance throughout Piedmont. Sampling the culinary treats of this region, deserves several outings too and luckily, there are some good restaurants nearby. On a market-day, we visited Lanzo Torinese, a charming village that is also famous for its old devil's bridge, which looks quite peculiar with its stone arch in the middle.
To us, Le Betulle is a well equipped naturist ground, with lots of sightseeing opportunities in the vicinity. It's extremely relaxing during off-season, but can also be suitable for a family-holiday during peak-summer.
Campeggio Naturista Costalunga: naturism with a personal touch
Costalunga is a small camping resort near Sassello. The 2ha ground offers 40 pitches, two mobile-homes and two small bungalows that were currently getting their finishing touch. Upon arriving, we opted for one of the well equipped mobile-homes that come with a large living-kitchen area.
Costalunga is run very personally by Paolo and Enrico, with the help of Enrico's parents. It's a former club ground but some four years ago, the two young guys took over. They invested, improve(d) the facilities and run it now commercially. They just bought more land and were currently adding a few more camp sites. The ground was already much more lively than we had expected for this time of the year. Quite a few naturists profited from the sunny sites, though shady ones can be found as well. There is a generously sized pool surrounded by plenty of space for sunbathing and a Wi-Fi Hotspot next to it. Parents might appreciate the playground for their little ones next to the pool. Groceries, a Gelateria and restaurants can be found in the nearby village of Sassello.
Daily, Guests can have dinner together with Paolo and Enrico, who both speak excellent English. If you order dinner, you can expect about five excellently prepared courses of traditional Italian fare and an interesting chat with the very sociable owners.
Costalunga is embedded in pastoral landscape with many hills. Nude walks within the ground are limited to a few hundred metres, but on the other hand, the ground can be used as a base to visit some attractive sights on the Ligurian coast and in the nearby Piedmont region. Costalunga is a beautiful intimate place, perfect for people who want to relax and spend a few quiet days or weeks. To us, it was just what we needed for a few days rest, after an intense period of travelling.
Croatia is one of Europe's youngest countries. For more than a thousand years, it had been disputed between the Roman-, Byzantine-, Ottoman - Habsburg-and Austrian-Hungarian-Empires.
After WWII, the country became a republic of Tito's Yugoslavia. Croatia's declaration of independence 1991, together with its ethnic cleansing, ended in a 4 years long civil war with Serbia. Only on November 12th 1995, it ended with the treaty of Erdut. By mid 2013, Croatia had become a member of the EU. This "moved" the country from the Balkan to the centre of Europe. However, political tensions among the 4.3 million inhabitants of the 56'542 km² are still high. Therefore, foreign investment remains limited. Despite this, Croatia has become the fastest growing tourist-market on the Mediterranean. So we intended to give this market another boost, first by discovering the Istrian Peninsula primarily as naturists, then the rest of the country primarily as tourists.
Already Tito had discovered tourism as a big cash-cow. He realized that the great coastline with its crystal clear water is a big asset, and discovered nude-bathing as niche-market with huge potential.
Within a short time, some 20 naturist-resorts popped up on Istrias 100 kilometres of coastline alone. They had a capacity of accommodating 100'000 holiday-makers and Croatia became the world's most popular naturist destination. During the civil war, the biggest part of this business was lost, mostly to France. Many vacationists stayed with "La grande Nation", as they found better quality accommodation, at much more competitive prices, especially during off season. French supermarkets offered also a much better choice and quality, simply the way Western-Europeans are used to. Eating out was different too: Surely, French restaurants would never ever offer dumping-price meals. Many didn't mind to pay the price, as they could spoil themselves with real "menus gastronomique", instead of boring and cheap Tito-Epoch grub.
Meanwhile, tourism in Croatia caught up, facilities, and still more food, improved. Some naturist centres went textile, but the entire coastline, especially Istria's still boosts a very high density of naturist-resorts (commonly called FKK like in Germany). An abundance of often very large, well appointed resorts attracts hundred thousands of nude sun seekers to the Istrian Peninsula. More naturist resorts and countless nudist beaches can be found on the many Croatian Islands in the Adriatic sea, as well as along the coast, all the way south to Dubrovnik. Many naturists pilgrimage annually to Croatia just to worship the sun along the fascinating coastline, and to indulge themselves daily with local specialities, from simple and cheap, to fancy top class gastronomy. However, Croatia has much more to offer, than just beach, sun, and fun...
Solaris: end of season at a pleasant naturist resort
On September 27th , we changed back to the north of Lim-Fjord. We wanted to experience Solaris, a naturist resort on the Lanterna Peninsula, where we visit for the first time. Initially, we intended to check it out already in the beginning of September. However, Solaris is the only Croatian naturist resort we found that has off-season prices that really deserve to be called off-season prices. Consequently, all apartments were booked out long ago, and this until September 24, ten days before they went hibernating. So we took the chance to stay here at least during their last week. We chose a spacious unit in the newly renovated part of their two-storey apartment blocks.
Only the 128 B&B rooms were not let anymore, but the bigger part of the 156 apartments, were still taken. The pitches on the campground that can accommodate 4.000 "campers", was thinning out, apart from the beach front locations. Those pitches do not only offer the best sea views, but each is equipped with a large brick-built BBQ, and a grass covered sun shade, besides electricity and water. We got the impression, Croatian resorts are competing each other in providing an excess of luxury. Otherwise, Solaris felt much more down to earth than Valalta. Again, you can walk along its entire 3km of coastline. As almost anywhere in Croatia, the sharp edged limestone on the waterfront had to be altered to create a beach suitable for bathing and sunbathing. Similar to Koversada, Solaris found a good compromise between making it accessible but still leaving the natural appearance. Holiday makers find a good choice of sunbathing terraces, tiled with natural rocks and manmade gravelled beaches.
On its 49 ha, Solaris offers many sports- and playgrounds, as well as a nice swimming pool. From the attached restaurant you can overlook the pool and the sea. As on the beach, sun beds and sunshades can be rented. We had been talking to people who come here for years, eating in the same restaurant day after day, and sunbathing always in the same spot. Solaris perfectly understands this primordial need and offers one-week packages that include rental of a sunshade, 2 sun beds plus a RESERVED spot on the beach.
As the season was ending, three of the four restaurants were already closed. Luckily, Solaris' guests are allowed to enter the adjoining textile resort Lanterna with a magnetic card. Several additional restaurants and a network of nice walking paths can be found around this huge holiday village. Other than that, some more eateries could be found in, or on the way to Tar-Vabriga, but foodies may prefer to go the 12 kilometres to Poreč.
The sun and the sea were still inviting to enjoy naturist life and we walked daily along the 3 km stretch of Solaris' beachfront. The tidal inlet on the southern end was particularly charming. To us, it was entertaining to see how quick the caravans disappeared from the camp ground. Well, quick is relative, and many didn't really disappear! Some owners of caravans rented an apartment for a few days, to have enough time to stow all their camping gear into the trailer.
Many holiday makers didn't take their summerhouse on wheels home. For Istrian farmers, towing thousands of caravans with their tractors away, and storing them over winter, got a reliable business. Then they're looking forward to collecting another fee, when they bring the trailers back to the camping, the next season.
One of the three grocery stores at Solaris was still open every, and all day, until the end of season. The choice of bread and cakes was amazing but other than that, the store didn't really offer what you need, to cook a wholesome meal. Or in positive words: this shop was better than those in the other Croatian naturist centres we have been visiting!
We couldn't believe that the reception was open 24 hours until the very last day. Despite this, when they close they close. October 4th was Solaris' closing day, we had to leave by 10 A.M. not 10 past 10; there was no way around!
Koversada: a comfortable yet naturally kept naturist ground
Koversada near Vrsar, was our first chosen destination on the Istrian Peninsula, where we arrived on September 5th. Exactly as on its website (and of most other Croatian Resorts'), it's a bit confusing who is in charge of what. Often a large parent-company (in this case Maistra) runs a wide range of holiday accommodation; from textile to clothes-optional or naturist, and from rustic campgrounds to five-star hotels. If the wind changes, the money still goes into the same pocket.
We had a booking for an apartment, and therefore, the main- and camping-reception at the entrance referred us to a second office, inside the resort that's in charge of managing apartments only, a third is in charge of the smaller "half-board-rooms". We were very happy with our newly renovated, very well appointed apartment.
Koversada is a large and very naturally kept naturist ground on the mouth of the Lim-Fjord. The 90ha estate offers around 400 apartments and hotel rooms, plus a few thousand pitches. We arrived rather late, but as we had been there 15 years ago, we thought it would be easier to eat at one of the restaurants inside. Well, we thought. However, if a thunderstorm caused a power cut and only a few emergency lights are on, you might pass several restaurants without seeing them. On the next morning, you just wonder how it was possible to overlook what now looks like an obvious and good choice.
Now it was sunny and warm and we started to explore Koversada. At first, we were astonished how busy and lively the place still was. Somehow it almost felt like we would have arrived back in peak summer, and this on Sept. 6th. Not only pensioners, but lots of younger people and children were frolicking in the sun. The pleasant walk along Koversada's coastline and around its little namesake island, is almost 4 kilometres long. A 200m long bridge connects the island, which is reserved for the few holiday makers that really camp with a tent. The island is also very popular for swimming and sunbathing.
As all over the Adriatic Coast, the water is extremely clear and inviting for bathing. However, it is so clear because the shore isn't sandy but rocky. Mother Nature blessed the Croatians with an island dotted coastline that is extraordinary to look at, though almost inaccessible for swimming, as it's dominated by sharp edged limestone. In order to become a popular summer holiday destination, here and there, the coastline got altered a little bit with the help of jack hammer and concrete. At Koversada, this was done with moderation. Most of its extensive coastline is now suitable for bathing and sunbathing though limestone is still visible almost everywhere. In places where the waves don't reach the craggy rocks, soil and plants get hold and create pretty little stone gardens.
In most places where Koversada's water front has been altered, it was "tiled" with flat natural stones of different shapes. Almost the entire coastline within Koversada can be walked on and unlike in Baldarin, where we stayed in June, the front row is public. Campers have to place their caravans, motor homes or whatever, a few metres behind the beach front, so any of the 5,000 other holiday makers can enjoy the seafront anytime and anywhere. Apart from the many sunbathing terraces, several lawns are reserved for worshipping the sun, lazing in the shade, reading etc. Furthermore, there are many sports- and play fields for the young and the old. With the help of a concrete dam, a large bay has been partitioned off, and enriched with a sand floor for easy swimming. Koversada has also a harbour with anchor buoys and a wharf for those holidaymakers who bring their own boat.
Swimming and walking around such an extensive ground makes one hungry. At Koversada, you find several shops, including an excellent bakery and two Konzum supermarkets. Though they looked well stocked, their choice was very limited at closer look. Together with the still rather cheap restaurant prices, this might also a reason, why most holiday makers to Croatia opt to eat out and that's what we did too. Economical half-board can be booked, but that's buffet-style. We like to choose a different restaurant every day. There are four additional restaurants, plus several daytime beach bars within Koversada, but as they had sports TV running inside, we deemed them only an alternative when we could sit out on the terrace. Luckily, the pretty village of Vrsar is only 15 minutes' walk from the entrance to Koversada, and there are uncountable restaurants lining the marina. Many aimed at those tourists looking for a cheap feed washed down with booze. But who looked carefully, could find some better options.
We got the impression that the restaurants in Poreč, some 10km down the road, were generally of higher quality. The many tourists from Italy may have influenced the offerings, and in a few restaurants, the tendency goes already towards gastronomic dining. The mother tongue of many Istrian citizens is Italian and therefore, they grow up bilingual. Most Croats working in tourism, are anyway linguistically gifted and can easily talk to visitors from all over the world.
We couldn't believe how bustling it still was in the middle of September, in Poreč, as well as in Vrsar. Both places have really charming medieval old towns, where hordes of shop keepers hope that the tourists look as fondly at the rubbish they sell, as they look at the historic buildings. In each town, there are still some fishing boats in the picturesque harbours, though most fishermen realized, they earn better bucks by catching tourists. Dozens of boat trips are offered daily, and the skippers have a good array of reasons, why you should book their trip. We're not sure, whether "naturist sightings" were also promised, but uncountable full boats passed near Koversada all the time. More official, were sunset cruises with sightings of dolphins. Once we were lucky to see a good many of those fascinating animals jumping just off Koversada's beach. What a wonderful world!
On September 15th , we set off to rediscover another naturist ground, we've been visiting 15 years ago: Valalta. Though, the road distance between Koversada and Valalta accumulates to about 35 kilometres, the beeline between the two is actually less than 700 meters (not even half a mile). The beautiful, ten kilometres deep, Lim-Fjord separates the two popular large naturist resorts.
On its 120ha, Valalta can accommodate up to 6.500 holiday makers. Some 2.000 of them can enjoy the luxury offered by one of the 620 apartments, B&B rooms and mobile-homes, the others have to contend with "simple" camping. However, all things are relative. At Valalta, even "simple" equals an "excess of luxury", whether naturists desire it or not. We don't expect everybody to like it, but we highly recommend a few days stay, as it's so different from any other naturist resorts we had seen - and we had seen a fair number. Valalta feels like a five star hotel where guests are allowed to camp in the extensive backyard...
We couldn't believe, how much the place had changed since our visit in 2000. Then, it was aiming at German and Austrian commoners, who were attracted, because it was almost like home, but sunnier and cheaper, and they could bathe naked. All guests were expected to be of German mother tongue. Valalta's own brewery somehow drew the wrong clientele.
The legalized drug is still made here, indeed, but the attached "Biergarten" opens now only once a week for a few hours. Nowadays, all notices are posted in Croatian, German, Italian and English. Most guests still originate from Germany and Austria, though Valalta became also popular among Italians, Slovenians, Dutch and many other nationalities. The former basic eateries altered from canteens, where you got nothing but grilled meat, fries and swiss chard to sedate restaurants. In some of them, also creative cuisine can be found. Think about beef-filet in spicy chocolate sauce, or for dessert: asparagus coated in white chocolate.
Altogether, Valalta has 6 Restaurants, plus 5 snack-, ice-cream-, and drink-bars. In most bars, clients have the option to enjoy their order either on a dry table or barstool, or a wet one, placed inside a swimming- or paddling-pool! If a drink or snack drops into the water, no worries. All pools attached to a bar are emptied nightly, and refilled every morning! Even end of September, all 11 restaurants & bars are up and alive. Every evening, a live band was performing at one restaurant!
You're absolutely right, naturism is not about dining, it's about nude living, or as Valalta probably defines it; about nude bathing and sun-bathing. Therefore, apart from an inaccessible 1 km stretch, its entire 5 kilometres of (former lime-stone) coastline are landscaped like a hotel-pool. Bathers chose whether they prefer to enter the water either from a tailed or cobble stoned concrete platform, or from one of the numerous piers and moles. Alternatively, there are gritty or fine grained manmade beaches, and large, terraced sunbathing areas.
Sure enough, Valalta's landscape architects know that parents want to educate their children about lime-stone-rocks. Therefore, in three tiny sections, they were left almost intact, meaning flattened out, so that deckchairs can be placed on them. Of course, the precious clientele is not meant to bring their own loungers. Consequently, thousands of sun beds and bamboo-sunshades are placed along Valalta's 4 kilometres of accessible coastline!!! Those who prefer to sunbathe offshore, find a good number of wooden rafts anchored in different bays. That this is far too boring for children, is well known. Hence, about a dozen floating bouncing-castles and a toboggan-waterslide are placed in two bays. Besides, there are numerous ordinary playgrounds too. For big children, there is a large marina with a hefty boat crane. Here, hobby captains can have their toy repaired and many choose to overnight on their boat instead of camping.
Those who prefer manmade bathing possibilities, can find about a dozen pools of any size and depth. Some contain fresh-, others saltwater. Around all of them, it's again packed with uncountable sun-beds and sun-shades. To avoid boredom, a good dozen of activities can be joined daily, even at the end of September. Should a little accident happen, the precious holiday maker does not need to worry. Valalta has its own pharmacy, as well as its own medical practice with several medics! We don't know, whether patients can choose between a traditional doctor, a medicine man, or a homeopath. Now in off season, regular doctors' consultation were "reduced" to two hours in the morning, plus three in the afternoon. Above and beyond, there is always 24h emergency service!
Almost anything at Valalta is provided as you would expect it in a five star resort. The only notable exception is the grocery store. It appears modern and big when you first enter, though you soon find out that in reality, the choice is quite limited. No better than in any other Croatian resort - most holiday makers choose anyway to eat out.
For burning the built up fat reserves, a wide choice of sports-fields is at disposal. Besides, you can walk around the extensive naturist ground and up, on a gravel road leading high above Lim-Fjord. Two wooden view towers offer quite sensational views over the camping, down to the picturesque fjord and the sea.
To make sure, holiday makers get the upmost of peace and quiet, dogs are banned all over Valalta. Motor traffic is smartly reduced by the rule that normal motor vehicles are only allowed to drive in and out of the resort. Within, you have to resort to electric vehicles, bicycles or manpower. We were amazed, how popular the place still was in the second half of September. In fact, the uncountable deck chairs, not only around the pool, but also along Valalta's entire 4 kilometres of seashore, proofed so popular, it was almost impossible to take some pictures without involuntary statists! We had to wait for the odd cold day, and the last minutes, before the pools closed!
Though school holidays were over, there were still families and certainly more young couples than you normally see on a naturist place. People walked everywhere, be it to the daytime activities, or to the restaurants that filled up nightly. We sometimes wondered how early some people set off for dinner. They probably wanted to enjoy the sunset from their table or go dancing afterwards. Live entertainment always stopped at 11 P.M., considering others who wanted to sleep. Given that the resort was still pretty busy, we had a very quiet time. Ironically, we had heard the sound of Valalta's nightly music more often, while we stayed at Koversada on the opposite shore of Lim-Fjord.
Off-season accommodation at Valalta was not that cheap, but as there was only a modest price difference between the smallest and the largest mobile-homes, we opted for the latter. It was really well equipped, including air-con, two bathrooms and TV. To rescue us from the temptation to put our own house in order, neither a broom nor any other cleaning equipment was provided. At Valalta, apartments and mobile-homes are cleaned daily. As common in a 5-star Hotel, your rubbish disappears with the cleaning lady. It doesn't stop there; the extensive network of paved roads is being swept with the company's own street cleaning vehicle!
Needless to say, guests who prefer camping, are provided with superior sanitary facilities. All new sanitary buildings are divided into generous private "convenience-apartments". Behind the private "dwelling door", campers find a hallway and three partitions, all equipped with designer appliances: one with a toilet, one with a sink and one with a shower! To give little children early training for independence, tiny triple compartments with smaller designer appliances are provided - but who hasn't heard crying little ones, who locked themselves in?
We're not sure, whether those luxury sanitary facilities were implemented for the benefit of naturists, or just to improve Valalta's 5 star rating even further.... Most naturists we know, would prefer big communal, and family friendly shower halls with much elbowroom, where you don't have to queue because somebody shaves or pees.
Once you're neat and tidy, you might want to visit the historic town of Rovinj, only five kilometres from Valalta. Similar to Poreč, also Rovinj attracts hordes of summer holiday makers, as well as busloads of world heritage site chasing tourists. The picturesque town occupies a hill that actually is a peninsula. A bold church on the hilltop guards over rows of tall town houses that reach all the way down to the waterfront. Rovinj has also a nice fishing harbour, but at least during summer, the fishermen are more after tourists than after fish.
To our big pleasure, Croatia and especially the Istrian Peninsula offers now a wide array of exquisite dining places. Though simple and cheap meals are still available, competition and demand created by ever more pretentious locals and Italian visitors, gave first class eateries a real boost.
Meanwhile, Rovinj and its surroundings, can be proud to have several Michelin-starred restaurants. The Austrian edition of the gourmet-bible Gault Millau, includes some of the empire's former possessions, like Croatia. It lists 20 awarded top-class eateries on the Istrian-Peninsula alone.
Our Lonely Planet Travel Guide remarks that the fanciest restaurants on the Istrian Peninsula are almost a bit decadent. To some naturists, decadent is also what they might think about the luxury at Valalta. Simple naturist life and five-star resorts are somehow in contradiction. However, it seems that Valalta managed to find a clientele who seek just that: Nude living in a posh environment with extravagant services.
Baldarin: a naturist resort in a picture perfect location on Croatia's Cres-Island
Long ago, we had joined a naturist sailing trip along Croatia's coast. During this week long sailing adventure, we were smitten by the clear water and the beauty of the islands in the Adriatic Sea. With that abiding memory in mind, we thought it would be great to stay on a naturist ground on one of these islands to dive into the loneliness and the splendour of the region.
Though we expected, and wanted it to be lonely, we were still surprised, how lonely our chosen island of Cres really is! As we traversed it from north to south, we passed only a handful of tiny villages along the 80km stretch of road. In fact, the 66km long and 2-12km narrow island (406 km2 big), has only about 3'200 permanent inhabitants, of which almost 2,900 live in the village of Cres.
On the southern tip of the island, we reached our destination, FKK Camping Baldarin, near Punta Križa. It's not a place for purists, be they naturists or textiles. Some 20% of the ground are reserved for the prudes and the remaining 80% for the nudes. Only a small fence divides the two sections, and it's easy to walk from one to the other. Dress codes are only consequently obeyed in the shop and the restaurant. Otherwise, bathing costumes are sometimes abound in the naturist section and at other times, the nudes sunbathe stark naked in the textile section.
Most visitors to Baldarin, probably don't come here for a classic beach-holiday in the first place, but rather to admire the natural beauty of the craggy coastline along the deep blue water. Many choose one of the tiny campsites, right on the sea front. There, they spend their holiday contemplating on taking a break from everyday life. Thereby, they never get tired of looking at the limestone rocks along the coast, the change of wind and waves, the view to the neighbouring islands, and the boats sailing through the incredibly blue water.
Many front-row pitches can be found on the forested camping, but some people prefer, or have, to retreat onto one of the campsites in the woods. Of course, those naturists from the back rows would like to go to the sea from time to time too. However, if all sea-front pitches are occupied, it's sometimes hard to find one of the few accesses squeezed between the sites. Many additional access paths behind the sites, are in practice inaccessible, though officially, they have to be left open to everybody. Caravans and Motor homes obstruct the sight and occupy the entire sites. Furthermore, we got the impression, the privileged pile or hang all sorts of gear and towels around them, then sit there all day guarding their luck, to ensure nobody "looks it away".
As we like to move around, we always exited the rocky limestone coast on another path than we entered it. More often than not, we felt people were bothered by our passing, according to the looks they gave us.
Baldarin's forested 20ha estate offers some 400 pitches, plus 30 rental possibilities. The latter are owned and managed by Gebetsroither, an Austrian company specialising in holiday rentals on campgrounds around Europe. Some 20 on-site vans and 10 mobile homes are available at Baldarin. We chose one of the very well equipped mobile homes, complete with Air-con, TV and a large fridge-freezer. When booking, we were not aware that the mobile homes stand on extra large plots. Our location was really generous and occupied almost 5 of Baldarin's normally rather tiny pitches.
There is a rather large supermarket on the campground. If everything that had been available for a day or two, during our two-weeks stage, would have been available all the time, it would have been easy to assemble a full-value meal. However, as in the good old communist times, more than just a few things were always sold out, without being replaced the next few days. Sure enough, the newly delivered replacement articles could be almost the same to those already stocked en masse, just not what the clientele was looking for. Consequently, clients started to squirrel new products away, as soon as they hit the shelves. Only cakes were always plentiful, if loveless presented. They were cheap and good, though not necessarily the healthiest diet... Driving out for a better shop was only an option, if you didn't mind driving 40km on a slow road just for the better selection, as prices were hardly more competitive.
Eating out was certainly easier! The dishes are simple: meat grilled to perfection, or fish grilled to death. Then there's always chard and potatoes. Luckily, we felt the seafront-restaurant inside Baldarin was far superior over the other three we tried outside the camp. Anyway, Foodies shouldn't expect anything fancy and our friends told us, why French naturists usually only come here once. After that they'll say: "il y a rien a bouffer ici!" (there is nothing to gorge on here). Germans seem not to be so picky, as long as the price is right. Together with Austrians and Slovenians they were the majority of guests at Baldarin.
Luckily, we later discovered that gastronomic offerings in Croatia on the whole, are much better, away from this remote corner of Cres. Those who look out, can meanwhile eat as good as "God in France", and those who prefer, can still find "good and cheap".
As amazing, as the coastline around the camping is, as hostile it is, to walk on the shore. It is of sharp edged limestone, and keen bathers can only enter the water comfortably on a few specially prepared places. Because of the edgy rocks and the presence of sea urchins in several places, Baldarin's guests do their feet a favour, if they wear water shoes for swimming. There is neither a pool, nor a sandy beach, only some manmade sections with coarse gravel.
Luckily, our friends Annie & Herbert, who live in the French part of Switzerland were presently here too. They camped with a small tent near the beach. As they come to Baldarin for some 35 years, they know Cres Island very well, and we were happy that they showed us around. One afternoon, Herbert took us out with his zodiac, equipped with an outboard engine. That way, we got a different view of the coastline with its many small bays. The colour and the clearness of the water was just breathtaking, as all over the Dalmatian Coast.
Herbert told us that nude bathing is common and accepted in the southern part of Cres, and practiced in many coves. Five Finger Bay was one that sank deep into our memory, because it was the only one with fine sand and also shallow water, perfect for swimming. After learning that this beautiful Bay (Meli) can also be reached in less than an hour by foot, we set off to find the way already the next day. Part of the path was carved as firebreak between the low bush land, therefore hot and rough, but we didn't need to wear anything at all. We hiked there three times, also to compensate for the limited walking possibilities inside Baldarin and swimming in the blue bay was always our anticipated reward.
Many regular visitors think it's getting almost too commercial now. Sure enough, they enjoy the modern toilet- and shower blocks, and the WiFi access, but they regret bygone times, when Baldarin only had guests visiting with simple tents. Nowadays, the vast majority "camps" either with a caravan or a motor home. Judging by the size of the pitches, Baldarin was obviously designed to accommodate tents only. If it would still be used like this, everybody could easily walk around the ground and access the sea anywhere. However, today's modern large "camping equipment" (with, or without wheels) does just not match the cute little spots. As in a real village; a few lucky ones occupy the seafront and the mob must be thankful if the others let them partake once a while...
Many visitors to Baldarin bring a small boat along and that's probably the best way to experience the quaint (and lonely) bays in the Adriatic Sea. We're very glad having been able to explore the astonishing seascape around Baldarin from the shore, as well as from our friend's boat.
Our destination in Hungary was Camping Naturist Berény in Balatonberény, where we arrived somewhat late on June 21th. Being the oldest naturist ground on Lake Balaton, Berény boosts many big mature trees on its 5.5ha estate. It has generous lawns reserved for sunbathing. The 117 grassy pitches for caravans and motor-homes, are divided by hedges, and wide paved or gravelled paths. Real campers can pitch their tents up on one of two camping meadows with space for a maximum of 100 tents. Guests travelling light can choose between 17 motel rooms, 3 apartments, 3 holiday cottages, 6 mobile homes and several on-site vans. We had chosen an extra large mobile home. As it was an older UK model, it was cosily (over-) furnished, complete with an upholstered 3-piece suite. Anyway, it was well maintained and supplemented with a new covered terrace.
As Hungary is a predominantly flat country, it's often windy, which can cause waves on the lake. This might be the only little nuisance, but otherwise, a dip in Lake Balaton is pure pleasure. Dogs are universally banned from Lake Balaton; one man's joy is another man's sorrow.
The lake bottom consists of nothing but sand and the water gets pleasantly warm in summer, sometimes up to 30°C, as the average water-depth is only 3.25m. The peculiar greenish lake, with a maximum length of 77 km and a maximum width of 14 km, is (by surface) Central Europe's largest lake.
Situated on the south-west shore of Lake Balaton, naturist ground Berény charms with its round wooden pier of almost 30m in diameter. It's popular for sunbathing or drying after swimming. Thanks to its shallow water, Lake Balaton is a paradise for families. Especially around Berény, you can wade out from the shore for more than 100 meters, until you reach the pole that indicates a water depth of 1,20m.
Not only in the area of the naturist camping Berény, but along the lake shore in general, big sections are reeded. Lake access seems to be public in most areas and therefore, owners of big villas have to contend with the second row!
Berény is one of the few naturist places, situated literally at the doorstep of a village. Inside the ground, you find a small shop, a beach-bar and a self-service restaurant. Never the less, if you go out, it's only 100m until you find another restaurant and to the village centre of Balatonberény, it's barely 10 minutes walk. In the small village and on the public beach, some 10 restaurants and 3 little supermarkets are keen to get clients. Most foreign holiday makers resort to the restaurants, as the choice in the supermarkets is rather limited and prices for products known to western Europeans are rather high, in stark contrast to the pricing at eating places. What you have to pay for three jars of decent jams, could buy you a full-fledged 3-course meal for two in a restaurant. It's not "haute cuisine", but what you get is a wide selection of traditional Hungarian home cooking. In comparison to our last visit 15 years ago, nowadays it's much easier to find healthier alternatives to the long established deep fried stuff.
Locals are also the majority of guests at our place, Naturist Camping Berény, especially among day visitors. Berény functions also as public naturist beach, and this proves extremely popular among Hungarians and foreigners alike. Many of them stay in nearby holiday accommodations, but like to take advantage of Berény's large naturist sunbathing lawns, and the pleasant lake access from the unique round pier.
During our stage, most of the vacationers who stayed a few days or weeks at the naturist campground, originated from Germany, Austria and various Eastern European countries. End of June, the season was not in full swing yet, though Berény was much more lively than the nearby textile resorts. Those who allow the sun to kiss the bum, seem to enjoy a longer summer...
FKK Grosscamping Sabotnik: naturism on Lake Keutschacher
The southern shore of Keutschachersee (Lake Keutschach) is almost completely reserved for naturists. They are pleased to find four naturist grounds (from west to east): Müllerhof, FKK Gross-camping Sabotnik, Klein-Camping, a public nudist beach and Kärntner Lichtbund, a club ground. To the very east, there's a large textile camping, a Lido, and the town beach, to please those who prefer to show off their bathing costumes.
As we're fond of big grounds with lots of space to roam around, our logical choice was FKK Gross-camping Sabotnik, the largest retreat for the nudes. It's 9ha ground is nestled along some 500m of lakeshore and pleases visitors with several large bathing piers with benches and ladders to access the water. The reed between the piers creates a very peaceful setting. Large tree framed meadows near the lake shore invite for sun bathing, though they were a bit swampy in places.
Altogether, Sabotnik offers about 650 large pitches of which 280 are occupied by permanents. Furthermore, there are 10 on-site van's for rent and 24 B&B rooms. Across the road, a separate section of the camping is reserved for people with dogs, but the four legged friends are not allowed to access the lake.
Other commandments include a ban on driving and dish-washing between 13-14h and an obligation to wear clothes while visiting the shop and restaurant. At both, the personnel was extremely nice and helpful. Though Sabotniks store was not that big, it was well stocked, and offered some take-away snacks, as well as hot and cold drinks.
We stayed at a B&B room in the main building. Therefore, we were eating out every day. Luckily, the restaurant at Sabotnik was really quite good. It offered a wide selection of well prepared dishes at very competitive prices. The reception provided us also with a list of recommended restaurants around Lake Keutschacher. It's a pleasant one-and-a-half hours walk around the lake (7.5km) and you can reach some 10 restaurants by manpower.
FKK Müllerhof is just next door to FKK Sabotnik and as they don't necessarily consider each other as competitors, but rather as contestants, Müllerhof's restaurant figures even on Sabotniks list of recommended eating places. So one night, we went to check it out. Sure enough, we spied around a bit upon leaving Müllerhof, to see the differences. The ground seemed more manicured, all in line: sites and flowers. We couldn't believe they had even more commandments and regulations to obey to than at Sabotnik.
All in all, we had spent six pleasant days at Lake Keutschacher. FKK Grosscamping Sabotnik is a lovely natural oasis right on the lake, offering all the services, sun seekers look for. And, if sight-seeing is on the agenda, the Carinthia Region is just on the doorstep and waits to be discovered.
Rutar Lido: a very quiet naturist retreat in Carinthia
On August 19th, we arrived at Rutar Lido, a well equipped naturist ground in Eberndorf, east of Klagenfurt. There, we moved into a luxury mobile-home with two separate bed- and bath rooms. We were going to share it with our Austrian friend Gusti. Brigitte had met her 28 years ago in Australia. Then, the "two girls" hitchhiked with backpacks, yet today, the ladies appreciate more comfort.
On its 19ha, Rutar Lido offers a wide range of accommodation, from year around open hotel rooms to basic camping huts. Altogether, there are also some 700 flat pitches, of which about 300 are occupied by permanents. The resort is situated only about a kilometre from the village centre. Therefore, naturists can easily walk to mingle with the villagers, and many villagers can easily spot the naturists from their homes. In Austria, no sight-proof fence is required, nobody cares. Anyway, there's nothing special to see; just people bathing and sunbathing in and around some swimming ponds.
Especially Gusti was a bit disappointed that the bathing ponds appear bigger on Rutar Lido's brochure than they are in reality. However, at closer look, possibilities for swimming are plentiful. Two ponds are just natural habitats, one is reserved for dogs, but the largest pond is for bipeds only. A peninsula and a bridge divide it in two sections.
Who prefers swimming pools over natural ponds, finds two large open-air pools surrounded by deck chairs and, separate winter and summer indoor-pool. Furthermore, there is also a covered outdoor pool-set with four smaller basins of various temperatures, among them an impressive 18m2 jacuzzi. Whenever the weather was less than perfect, the adjoined sauna could be used for free. The aqua complex offers lots of luxury, yet in a very functional design. Also rather rigid, were the rules about quiet lunch- and night hours, or the conditions to qualify for a small discount.
A weekly church service was held at Rutar Lido's own chapel. After fulfilling that duty, it was almost time to go to bed. Disbelievers, who chose to eat out instead, had to park their cars outside reception upon return, as the gate closed already at 9 PM, when guests are meant to keep the peace.
During our stay, Rutar Lido's clients were mainly old age pensioners. Families seem to shy away, which is a shame for such an exceptionally well equipped naturist centre.
The management proofed itself, how changes can sometimes do miracles. When we arrived on August 19th, the restaurant was run by a host who was more interested in selling as many drinks as possible than in cooking. We had never seen many guests there. On September 1st, Rutar Lido's owners took over the restaurant by themselves and suddenly, it was full every night, despite the number of guests having decreased a lot in the meantime.
Die neue Zeit: where the philosophy from the founding days is still alive
The ‘ONS Naturist Club’ "die neue zeit" is a very traditional affair; it still keeps the NO Alcohol, NO nicotine and NO meat rule.
We hadn’t been back here for the last 8 years but to both of us, it immediately felt much more natural than most naturist places we had been visiting overseas. On this sunny weekend, several hundred, if not more than 1’000 people were visiting, many families with children. Naturists here sunbathe, walk around, go swimming, play boules, volleyball, badminton or some other sport.
Some members and visitors were socializing in the “drug free” vegetarian restaurant “Café des Philosophes”. Others were joining the many lectures on offer: about re-incarnation, spirituality and alternative lifestyle and so on... Soon thereafter, many can be seen in the very popular sauna, engaged in serious discussions about the lectures they had enjoyed before, trying to re-shape the world...
Rules and regulations are not really to our taste, but the alternative atmosphere this creates here, is much more appealing to us, than the socializing with “booze and talking bullshit” culture, we often experienced overseas.
Just at the time we thought the warmth of spring was definitely taking over, winter temperatures were back. Exactly now, we had this year’s first reservation in a naturist ground. It was April 6th, when we arrived at Flevo Natuur, a naturist ground 50km east of Amsterdam. It had frozen during the night and it was still a chilly 5°C when we stood at the reception. Never the less, it was Easter weekend and the ground was packed with naturists who had probably buried their faint hope to peel off.
Though the Netherlands are not famed for Mediterranean climate, Flevo Natuur is open year round. Consequently, they have to offer facilities, which make it attractive to visit, if the weather bears the risk of freezing, rather than tempting to sunbathe. The amenities include a large, beautifully decorated indoor swimming pool that somehow resembles a tropical adventure pool. Furthermore, there are three large saunas, of which at least one is heated all day long. Not only the swimming-pool, also the saunas proofed very popular with families with children. Some visitors probably appreciate it that one sauna is declared “silent zone”.
Surely, Flevo Natuur has also amenities that serve in the first place the needs of little visitors. Apart from playgrounds, there is even a petting-zoo with deer, pigs, sheep, goats, geese, hens, and so on.
The naturist holiday park is located on Flevoland that is an interior island of 1’419km2, reclaimed from the Zuiderzee. After the 32 km long Enclosure Dam (Afsluitdijk) was completed in 1932, the water was slowly pumped out. Ten years later, the first reclaimed area was inaugurated: “Noordoostpolder”, followed by “Eastern Flevoland” in 1957 and “Southern Flevoland” in 1968.
Naturists are not the only ones brave enough to live 4 metres below sea level. Meanwhile 400’000 residents inhabit the Netherland’s youngest province. For the time being, six municipalities have been built, of which three are rather big towns, all entirely designed on the drawing board. Nevertheless, most of the new gained land is used agriculturally. To our delight, many farmers cultivate flowers, not for the flowers themselves, but for their bulbs. As mostly tulips are planted on Flevoland, the blooming period is a bit later than where narcissi and hyacinths are farmed. Normally, the best time to see blooming tulips are the last two weeks of April and the first week of May. Though we were one week early, we found the first blooming fields already a couple of kilometres outside Flevo Natuur. As we drove on minor roads up to Noordoostpolder, we saw many fields that were just about to bloom.
We visited the charming village of Urk, which is an oddity in itself, as it used to be a fishing village on an island. Today, it still lies on the sea, but at the coast of the new polder, how artificially dried land is called. There were more tulips to be seen around Noordoostpolder as well. Several “tulip routes”, up to 80km long, were marked and invited to discover a true mosaic of colourful tulip fields.
Back to Flevo Natuur: it belongs to the municipality of Zeewolde, which ironically had been founded 10 years later than the naturist ground, which can celebrate its 45th anniversary 2023. With 35 ha in size and at least 1’000 bungalows and camp sites, it’s set up like a little Dutch village, with plenty of water canals, including a swimming pond, supplementing the indoor & outdoor pools. There are 250 to 300 permanent residents that enjoy the service of a shop and a restaurant, which remain open year around. We really appreciated the big selection of breads and the generous opening hours.
We rented a mobile home that was rather like a small house. On 45m2 there was a generous lounge with upholstery, a big kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom. The well appointed house was very cosy and we were glad it had central heating. Due to the persisting cold spell, with temperatures between 0°C and 9°C, we only sat out in the sun for some 15 minutes. However, the saunas, the indoor pool and its location among tulip fields, made our stay at Flevo Natuur very rewarding, despite the Arctic April weather.
Centrum Naturystyczne Cezar: year round naturism in Poland
Mid-July, we arrived at Sauna Cezar, Poland's closest equivalent to a naturist resort. The owners, a Polish-Dutch couple, opened this place in Bielsko-Biała in 2003. It's mainly an indoor centre with a very large sauna, spa and swimming pool. On warm days, deck chairs on a large terraced lawn above the main building, invite to get an all over tan. Families with children will appreciate the various playgrounds, while adults may prefer the billiard table, the small sports field, or the BBQ hut above the sunbathing lawn. Sauna Cezar is popular with Polish families and couples, who make for 95% of the customers. Most come as day visitors, and as the centre is open until midnight daily, many opt to visit after work, be it summer or winter. They also appreciate the freshly prepared counter-meals of very high quality. It's a place, where you feel that you're in Poland.
The small charming place, offers some possibilities to stay overnight; a few pitches for tents, a few for caravans, 3 camper's rooms, 2 hotel rooms and 1 apartment. Overnighters pay the entrance to the naturist complex only on days when they visit it - on sight-seeing days, you pay for the overnight stay only.
We had reserved Sauna Czesar's large luxurious apartment for 10 days, and we liked it, as well as the location of the centre, very much. We were situated on a hillside at the edge of a mansion district. The fit can reach a good number of excellent restaurants, grocery stores and even a shopping centre on foot, the lame go by car or public transport. Yet, nothing is far away.
When we booked at Sauna Czesar, we were not aware that it's situated in such a beautiful, though not touristy region. It was a real stroke of luck. We truly enjoyed the good choice of creative restaurants in the vicinity and we were pleased to find heavy brown bread available everywhere in Poland.
Summer-Tourist season is very short in Scandinavia. Apart from a few weeks between end of June and the beginning of August, we had most sights almost to ourselves. July is different; all tourist businesses are open and running, some popular attractions are so overwhelmed by tourists, it’s hardly possible to tumble over. Only a few kilometres away from such sites, peace reigns as usual and also the Scandinavia naturist grounds, offer good opportunities to get away from it all.
It was a perfect decision to spend a whole year in Scandinavia. Experiencing this region not only with pretty hot, but also with freezing cold temperatures - not only with bright nights, but also with rather dark days - not only with a glimpse of time, but with plenty of it, helped us to understand the peculiarities of Scandinavia. We can well imagine coming back, be it in summer at 30°C for a naturist holiday or in winter at minus 30°C for a tour with an ice-breaker...
Nora is a picturesque village with many nice wooden buildings that are so typical for Sweden. Our travel guide (Lonely Planet) mentions that Nora is “... clearly confident in its ability to charm the pants off anyone”. When we had visited this January, we had admired the houses in the snow, but the minus 25°C were definitely too cold that we would even think about taking anything off at all…However now, it was another story, and we didn’t hesitate to take everything off while we stayed in Nora – not only because of the charming village, but rather because we discovered there is a nudist club.
Gustavsberg Naturist ground is situated on the shores of Lake Norasjön, only 2km north of Nora’s village centre. We stayed in one of their 20 economical rooms available in two big club houses. The rooms are small and functional, but the communal facilities are spacious and very comfortable. Huge living rooms can be enjoyed, and the terraces offer fantastic views over the campsite down to the lake. Each house has a communal kitchen, where every room has a large fridge and freezer compartment on dispense. Two computers and a printer are another goodie provided for guests, and wireless internet can be received all over the large campground.
As on most Swedish naturist grounds, also at Gustavsberg in Nora, a Midsommarstången is risen, as part of the midsummer celebration. So, here we saw all the preparations but we were, for this occasion, keen to watch traditional dancers wearing traditional costumes, rather than birthday-suits!
Therefore, we drove out to experience a traditional midsummer celebration. To our surprise, there was no festivity in Nora itself, but the tourist office advised us about several historic sites, where people gather and dance. So we picked the midsummer celebration at Siggebohyttans Bergsmansgård, some miners buildings that have been turned into a museum. (The Trees were only allowed to survive in 2020, as the May celebrations were sacrificed to the corona pandemic!)
Gustavsberg Naturist Camping is a club ground owned by “Naturistföreningen Bergslagens Solsport”. During summer, many members stay on the ground permanently. They take turns maintaining the facilities and keeping the ablution block spotless clean. Even those members, who are physically not the fittest anymore, help whenever they can. Sometimes, the big lawn is mown daily.
The playgrounds recreational facilities, as well as the rafts and two piers for bathing, were mounted again, just in time before the crowds arrived. As the lakes freeze every year, all floatable facilities in Scandinavia have to be brought ashore annually, before winter comes in.
As a self imposed rule, club members should not occupy more than half of the ~8 cottages, 20 rooms and 100 campsites. The others are reserved for casual guests; locals and foreigners alike. The club made the experience, that it creates a much better atmosphere on the grounds, when the permanents regularly mix up with holiday-folks. The atmosphere is great indeed.
Gustavsberg is very popular among foreigners as well. Its superb lakeside location reminds somehow on the very essence of Sweden, which we could experience at this lovely location in its two most extreme forms: during winter, we wore thermal underwear and enjoyed the view over the frozen lake at minus 25°C, whereas now in summer, we sunbathe stark naked and jump for cooling dips into the 25°C warm lake!
Gustavsberg was now very lively and everybody engaged in activities like sunbathing, swimming, playing sports or sweating in the lakeside sauna. In compliance with Sweden’s ‚allemansrätten’ (everyman's right), those who enter the grounds just for swimming and sunbathing, but not for an overnight-stay, don’t need to pay an entrance fee.
We appreciated it very much that Nora’s centre is only a pleasant 20 minutes stroll away. Here we found not only some very well stocked supermarkets and a good selection of restaurants, but also Nora Glass. This is a local institution selling three different flavors of home-made ice-cream that change daily. We felt, Nora was even more picturesque during winter, but now in summer, it was rather the naturist club that charmed our pants off...