Going back to Camp Knox | A trip down memory lane
Thousands of Knox Boys had the opportunity to spend time at Camp Knox from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, and most have fond memories of a few days each year spending time in a remote environment, bunking in the cabins with classmates for a few nights, ropes courses, canoeing, having classes in the wilderness and the many other cultural activities they were exposed to during their time at Camp Knox, including the ghost stories about Bar Island and other islands nearby.
So how did I end back at Camp Knox 47 years after I was first there?
Birthdays not surprisingly, come around once a year. My wife decided, following lots of research during the ‘COVID Lockdown,’ that she would like to spend her birthday at Marramarra Lodge, which is located on the Hawkesbury River. Living in Sydney, my wife’s logic was that Marramarra Lodge was within the Greater Sydney Area. Therefore, it was far less likely for us to be banned from traveling to it in November for her birthday party.
I never realised Marramarra Lodge was on the Old Camp Knox site, because I just agreed with my wife’s logic and for those who know me, I could have been in Greece, given my desire to chat to other people while travelling on the boat to the site. However, when we arrived and as I scaled the steps, I thought to myself that it was all very, very familiar.
Welcome back to Camp Knox!
Well, the ghost stories about Bar Island still remain however, the old Camp Knox is now very, very different, as it has now been completely renovated and re-developed into Marramarra Lodge, a fabulous five-star resort and apparently quite a few Old Boys have returned to the ‘Old Camp Knox’ with great surprise as to what is there now.
While the bunk houses and most of the main buildings remain, the entire complex has been completely renovated and each old bunk house is now a beautifully refurbished room with a king size bed, sofa, table and chairs, balcony with lounges and a stunning stone bathroom with louvre windows, so you can enjoy the wilderness while showering, should you wish to do so.
Large ‘Glamp tents’ have been built to provide 28 rooms of accommodation, which aside from their ‘tent construction’, replicate the bunk rooms renovation however, as an added advantage, when staying in the tent houses, you can clearly hear the birds each morning, as they wake with the dawn and the wind rustles and flutters and puffs the canvas roof and sides to make you feel like you are completely immersed in nature. With an unimpeded view of the Hawkesbury River to wake to, you can draw the blinds and just laze on the balcony, head down to the boat shed and kayak around the still waters for an hour or so, or just trek around the trails.
Gone are the canteen style meals and rather a five-course degustation dinner with matching Australian and French wines is served in the old dining area, which is now more like a three-hat restaurant. For breakfast you can choose from freshly cold pressed orange juice or their cold pressed juice of the day, beautiful pastries and a wide choice of breakfast main meals and champagne, should you wish to indulge. Lunch consists of two options and a dessert. All meals are included, as are all beverages and the mini bar in the room, is replenished daily.
The old classrooms are now a billiard room, gymnasium and Day Spa (a treatment is included) and there’s a nice outside pool area to lounge around and take the occasional ‘dip’ to cool off, with a poolside beverage service, should you so desire.
In the billiard room they also have five or six large photo albums with heaps of photos of both boys and girls who stayed at Camp Knox, so if you do visit and you did stay at Camp Knox, you may even see photos of yourself or your friends.
It is a fabulous resort with impeccable service and great activities, so you can choose to cycle, kayak or paddle board over to Bar Island and around the oyster beds, trek through the bushland and yes, some of the old canoes are still there. No, you can’t do the ropes course however, a lovely afternoon river cruise with champagne and oysters is included and there are also other activities to choose from.
A trip down memory lane
It was wonderful to be able to go back and recall experiences at Camp Knox and in a significantly more luxurious property, albeit that in my case when I was at Knox, it was just a few weekend day trips on a working bee, after the property was first purchased however, my son had six trips there and loved the experience each time.
Apparently, the neighbour who purchased Camp Knox from the school insisted that he was tired of loud noise from children and some of the boys who supposedly secretly encroached on his private spa, so when he sold the property to the current owners, he insisted that no children be allowed to stay and as a result the Lodge is ‘adults only’. Not that this rule seemed to bother any of the guests staying there with us who had children, as they just considered it as ‘time for ourselves’ and so there were birthday and anniversary celebrations, honeymooners, or just those who wanted to experience privacy and the wilderness.
It’s not the same if you visited when you were younger and rather than an experience, it is now an indulgence and a very enjoyable one.
Marramarra Lodge extends a warm thank you to article author, Rob MacDougall, a Knox Old Boy who stayed at the lodge in November 2021.