So, how did you spend your Valentine’s Day? With dinner and flowers? With a box of chocolate and Netflix? Well, I spent it on an old hippie commune with my brother…
In fact, the community celebrated its 45th anniversary the weekend before we arrived! Canopy Camping and Escapes set us up at the Hexagon in Fox River on the west coast. New Zealand’s coast is absolutely beautiful, and you never have to look away from it while looking out from The Hexagon, our glamping home for the night.
After we unintentionally met our host, Jed Smith, at the Fox River Sunday Market hours before check-in, we were so graciously shown around the area by his partner Jodene. But first, we ate some tasty Thai cuisine at the market for lunch! The Market takes place every Sunday during the summer. It’s a fantastic place to gather, hang out with your neighbors, check out the crafts, or grab some grub.
The History. The old commune, Katajuta Farm, lies in an area once known as Brighton, a small gold-mining town on the beach in the 1860s. Jed’s parents were some of the original founders of the hippie commune and, today, Jed’s father is the only original hippie residing on site. We did get to see the house that began the community, and subsequently, it was the house in which Jed grew up. In such a unique atmosphere, it only makes sense that he’d grow up in a unique house: a house made from the caboose of a train! I kid you not. Take a look…
After a morning of exploring, it was time to check into The Hexagon. Initially built by an astrologist over thirty years ago, this off-the-grid rustic retreat is, you guessed it, shaped like a hexagon.
Elegantly furnished with a queen sized bed, couch, table, and hanging rocking chair, this hexagon is quite comfortable. Because it is an open-air building, a “princess net,” or mosquito net, is set up over the bed for ultimate protection. You can choose to close your doors at night, however, you’d miss out on falling asleep to a nice breeze and the sound of waves crashing.
As this is a true glamping experience, the facilities are basic but extensive. The camp-style kitchen comes fully stocked with dishware, olive oil, seasonings, and dressings. While there is no refrigerator, Jed provides a cooler with ice packs to keep cold anything you might need.
For cooking purposes, you are provided with a Weber Baby BBQ and a two-burner camp stove.
Since you’re an honorary hippy while staying at The Hexagon, try to be extra aware of feeding the earth, and contributing to the compost system by putting all compostable items down the…compost toilet (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?). The compost toilet has a very “outdoorsy” feel and is emptied after each stay. The shower is roomy and open-air, situated next to the kitchen, and has more than enough hot water!
This is a true retreat, as there is no cell coverage or WiFi. The Hexagon is, however, powered by solar energy; there is plenty of power for charging needed electronics or using the fairy lights.
While people would normally go to Fox River to reach the Ballroom Overhang, we enjoyed getting to experience the local attractions:
First, we got to see the original bridge of the town. It is a timber truss bridge that, while no longer deemed safe for cars, is perfectly fine for the average pedestrian or bridge-jumper.
Once over the bridge, we turned left to find a cave that is known to have beautiful glow worms after dark. Unfortunately, we were too tired to make it down for nightfall.
From there, we went to the Teorumata Cave, a sea cave occupied by travelers from the earliest of days in Paparoa National Park. Hippies used to gather and throw huge parties in this cave. Could you imagine?! The views from the cave, and of the cave itself, are truly beautiful.
If you’re coming from the Nelson/Abel Tasman area, as we were, be sure to make a quick pitstop at Nelson Lakes National Park. We first stopped at Kerr Bay for this shot:
Since we weren’t up for hiking, having had a long day of hiking the day before, we then drove up Mt. Robert Road in St. Arnaud for an overview of the entire lake area. It was beautiful!
Once on the West Coast, one of New Zealand’s key tourist spots are the Pancake Rocks and the Blowholes in Punakiaki. This unique spot is located just an eight minute drive from The Hexagon. These stacked limestone formations, resembling pancakes, are beautifully juxtaposed against the sea. You only need to devote a solid thirty minutes to explore the Pancake Rocks area.
The Hexagon is completely secluded. So secluded, in fact, that Jed will take all of your luggage up on an ATV because The Hexagon is a fifteen minute walk from where you can park your car. Soak in the fire bath, listen to the birds chirping, roast some marshmallows under a camp fire, and take in a beautiful sunset right from your own balcony. Should you need anything, Jed and his father are just a walkie-talkie call away.
The hippie mentality is still running strong over at The Hexagon and Rustic Retreats. They’re living off the land, minimizing their carbon footprint, and continue to provide an incredible experience for all that are open to connecting with the land in this natural, outdoor retreat. Their philosophy and passion has kept this hippie community strong. Go and find that inner-hippy in you!
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**Special thanks to Jed, Jodene, Canopy Camping and Escapes, and Air New Zealand for sponsoring our journey. As always, all opinions are my own. Photographs taken by David M Gallo Photography.