ON the way to Wisemans Ferry, in beautiful natural bushland along the Hawkesbury River, is one of Hawkesbury’s best-kept secrets.
Set on a 48-acre block of private land at South Maroota sits Kiata Country Club - and just like any great holiday-style resort, Kiata boasts multiple dwellings to accommodate members and guests, and offers a heap of activities so visitors can while-away the days.
The only difference? Kiata is a nudist resort, and its 250 members flock to the premises to socialise with like-minded individuals, all in their natural state.
The resort’s exact location is not advertised online (you must be granted permission to enter) and is set behind the security of a pad-locked gate.
When members visit Kiata, they can leave the pressures of everyday life behind them. Most importantly, it is somewhere they can feel secure.
Kiata claims to be one of the largest nudist clubs in the Sydney basin, and also one of the oldest. It will be celebrating its fiftieth year in 2020.
Pitt Town resident Sandy, 66 years old, is a member of the board, and has been visiting nudist clubs with her husband since the late nineties.
“Some people say ‘naturist’ but we prefer nudist. Kiata has around 40 sites to rent, and our visitors are families right through to retirees,” she said.
Kiata is set on a private property, which is owned by the board. Though it’s a nudist club, it celebrates people in their natural form, rather than being sexual or sensual.
“A lot of people lump sex and nudism together but it’s more of a social thing,” said Sandy.
”I think I’ve always been a bit of a nudist at heart! It’s the freedom. You don’t even think about it - you don’t give it a second thought. And you don’t have to do as much washing!” she laughed.
She and her husband were members of a club in Toowoomba in Queensland before moving to the Hawkesbury, and found out about Kiata online.
“We found out about an open day and attended. It was a freezing October day and everyone was rugged up! We loved it. We joined and have been coming ever since. It feels secure, and that’s very important,” she said.
“A lot of people don’t realise you put a jumper on in the Winter - we’re nudists, we’re not stupid!” she chuckled.
George, 64 years old, lives in Maroota and is also a member of the board. He said safety and community are important aspects of the club.
“My wife and I used to go to nudist beaches, and she was nervous a club might be all about swingers and perverts. But it’s more secure than a beach. We joined in 2008 and never looked back!” he said.
“A lot of single women feel safer here than on a nudist beach. We all look out for one another. There’s a code of behaviour and a child protection policy, and we really support our individuals’ privacy.
“I know everybody around me. We’ve had police, barristers, doctors, garbage collectors, radio engineers, all walks of life! You realise you’re no different to everyone else.”
While some members prefer to stay around their cabins and watch TV, there is also a big social element of the club. “We have live bands, dancing, and karaoke - some people say they’d never do karaoke, and we’re doing it nude!” George laughed.
Rosemary (67) and Irwin (72 ) are retirees from Mudgee. They both enjoy the social elements at Kiata, including the monthly pizza nights around the outdoor pizza oven, and they all chip in for regular working bees to maintain the facilities.
“We’re more social nudists,” said Irwin. Rosemary said she enjoys the security and atmosphere of the club: “It’s such a supporting and friendly group.”
Fellow board-member Bob said a lot of people make life-long friends at Kiata. “There are nudist clubs in Canada, France, all over, and their members often come here for their Winter and vice versa, and promote our respective clubs,” he said.
“You go to Europe and it’s a whole different thing - it’s more normalised over there. It’s even more acceptable to the masses in New Zealand than here - they have nudist areas on one side of the beach.”
Club member Greg - a Hawkesbury local - said everyone’s free to be themselves at Kiata. He said he had always enjoyed being nude since he was a kid - it always seemed more natural and comfortable.
“People aren’t worried about body image here. We have all shapes and sizes, and weight doesn’t matter. We almost feel embarrassed that we’re the only ones who get it!” he laughed.
“I think society often sexualises nudity. But I think people just don’t have anything to relate [nudist clubs] to. They say ‘ok, you’re nude, but what do you do?!’
“Well, we lock the gate and try to keep our problems outside. For us, it’s a couple thing. I dragged my wife along and she wasn’t too keen to begin with - now she’s secretary and president of the social club!”
Penrith resident Jane is in her forties, and got involved recently through her friendship with George. She has teenage children, and said “everyone is so welcoming” at Kiata.
The facilities at Kiata include a large outdoor pool with a sundeck and bush views, multiple camp kitchens and shower blocks for those staying in caravans, as well as a tennis court, children’s playground, and a dam for swimming.
There are also indoor and outdoor spa areas, a clubhouse complete with wifi, a full kitchen, fireplace, a pool table, a small library, board games and a dart board.
Kiata is having an open day on Saturday, March 10 - new/prospective members need to apply at attend and bookings can be made online at kiata.com.au.
The crew is also working on putting together a nude art night at the Norman Lindsay Gallery in the near future.