Bendigo glamping at its vine-est

Glamping table and chairs

Peter Wilmoth

Posted October 10, 2019

Have a starry night experience at Balgownie Estate’s five-star glamping retreat.

That old joke about enjoying sleeping under the stars – preferably five stars – took a new turn some time around dusk on a winter Monday evening at Balgownie Estate Winery Retreat and Vineyard, Bendigo.

It was at that moment that I fell hard for camping or, to be more correct, its more comfortable cousin: glamping. There I was, sitting on the front decking of my tent overlooking the winery’s chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz vines and settling into my second chardonnay, debating whether to enjoy the wine and my cheese platter in the outdoor bath, or just do the Out of Africa thing on the deckchair with a book. I opted for the drier option.

Six reasons glamping is better at a winery

You don’t need to set up your tent

I’ve never been an enthusiastic camper – too much equipment needed, too much work involved and facilities that are, ahem, not appropriate to my comfort-focused soft city lifestyle. But camping at a winery – now that’s a different story. Balgownie Estate Winery, Retreat & Restaurant, two hours from Melbourne, has 15 permanent tents dotting the winery grounds.

You have your own private amenities

There are three styles available: the Safari Tent, the Bell Tent and the Bell Tent Twin. The Safari option, which I stayed in, has an eco-friendly outdoor bathtub for a soak/view double, along with a couch, four-poster queen bed, kitchenette and my own bathroom inside the tent.

Glamping bed

You have power (and coffee)

This is more like it, I thought, as I pushed the coffee machine button on an afternoon heart starter. The last time I went camping there was no fridge in the tent and certainly no bathroom, and coffee capsule machines were 25 years away from being invented. This is camping I could get used to.

You can get up-close-and-personal with grapevines 

Outside the sun had slipped away and in front of me were the vines eight months from harvest, their outline silhouetted against the gunship grey Victorian sky. Like an open fire or the ocean, vines to me are good – even hypnotic – to stare at, so I did for a while, pondering how much calm descends on you so quickly when you’re literally embedded in the countryside. It was time for a wine tasting followed by a delicious wintry dinner.

You can drink wine (and sleep) under the stars 

At midnight it was time to get back to the oasis, which seemed an appropriate time to crack open a bottle of cab sav. I’d seen the vines, now I needed to taste them. Again. 

Even the journey from restaurant to our tent was fun. There’s something marvellous about wandering through the Australian bush after dinner with a torch to find your lodgings, unzipping the front door and pretending you’re Denys Finch Hatton, the mysterious adventurer played by Robert Redford in Out of Africa. 

Table and chairs outside a glamping tent in the sun

You can get back to nature from the comfort of five-star accommodation

Sleeping out under the stars is meant to have some mystery about it. My previous camping experiences certainly did – like the mystery surrounding how to start a fire after a night of rain. I much prefer being mysterious on dry decking and with adequate canvas shelter. Next day there is something evocative – even romantic – about waking up, making a capsule coffee and seeing the mist gently hovering over the vines.

The camping bar’s been raised to a pretty high benchmark. (Read this article for a full guide to Victoria's best glampsites.)

(Kids welcome and extra beds are available on request for the Bell Tent Twin and Safari Tent).

RACV member benefits in the Goldfields

Peter Wilmoth was a guest of Balgownie Estate Winery, Retreat and Restaurant.