I wake to the whirr of air-con and from my four-poster bed see it’s a sunny day, the steel-blue sky sets off the rows of vines a few hundred metres from my door. It’s not really a door but a tent flap. Last night I left it up so I could drift off to sleep gazing at the stars.
Walking up to the Balgownie Restaurant for breakfast along a path between bell tents and old gum trees, a couple emerges from their tent in white bathrobes and head towards their mobile bathroom.
Poor things, I think; I’ve got my own private bathroom, back in my safari-style home, which is located at the end of this tent village of white and khaki, laid out among old grapevines on the Balgownie Estate Winery near Bendigo.
I rarely gloat, but I feel I can afford to be smug. I’ve done my time as a camper, under self-erected canvas and flimsy nylon tents in the bush with the heat and the flies. This time I’m relishing a glamping extravaganza for two whole nights.
Balgownie Estate Winery celebrated 50 years last year. It was back in 1969 that founder Stuart Anderson, a Bendigo pharmacist, planted the first Shiraz vines.
However, the swish accommodation that includes five luxury safari tents, 10 bell tents along with seven bricks-and-mortar rooms in the Homestead, is just over a year old.
Glamour camping is definitely on the rise – there are a dozen or so permanent tents sites across the country, in wilderness areas, close to beaches and even within Sydney itself (Taronga and Cockatoo Island), but these, I strongly suspect, are the only ones with views over vineyards. And what soothing views they are, especially at dusk when surveyed from the deck with a glass of wine in hand.
Come morning and there’s likely to be a mini-mob of roos munching the grass metres from your deck.
Here, “luxury” isn’t just a bandied-about adjective. The safari tents are huge and stylish – lounge area roomy enough for sofa and table and chairs, kitchenette with sink, mini-bar and microwave and then there’s the commodious four-poster bed not only swathed in flimsy muslin but romantically bedecked with fairy lights. The bathroom is “outback chic” right down to the separate shower enclosed in corrugated iron. But what makes me gasp is the claw-foot freestanding bath on the terrace. That’s a show-stopper and it comes with its own modesty screen to hide the bather from other glampers. This is such a romantic touch I’m not surprised to learn that newly-weds choose this accommodation after their nuptials among the vines.
The bell tents are none too shabby either and I’d be perfectly happy bedding down in there. Each has a gorgeous bed (and a sofa bed in the larger tents), wicker chairs inside and also on the deck, air-con, Wi-Fi and plenty of space to stand and move around.
You can BYO a few nibbles or order a cheese platter to graze on while watching the sun go down. There are breakfast, lunch and dinner at the restaurant (and free wine-tasting). And historic Bendigo is just up the road. Just remember to leave the bathrobe in the tent.
Balgownie Estate is at Maiden Gully, 10 km from Bendigo, which is an hour’s drive from Melbourne via the Calder Highway.
Qantas Link operates direct flights between Sydney and Bendigo.
Balgownie Estate has Luxury Safari Tents, bell tents, homestead hotel rooms and two one-bedroom cottages. Room-only rates start at $155 a night (bell tents) and $245 (luxury safari tent). Packages can include dinner and/or hot air balloon trips. See balgownieestatebendigo.com
Article published on Traveller by Caroline Gladstone
Travelled as a guest of Balgownie Estate Winery and Bendigo Tourism.