Bellwether Wines, Coonawarra review: This hidden gem is the perfect stop halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide

The Place

Like John Williamson's 'Home among the gum trees', Bellwether is set among the blonde, grassy plains of the Coonawarra wine region with the Limestone Coast's trademark ancient red gums (their sweeping branches said to protect the vines), with a sheep or two and a kangaroo. Central to the grounds is the shearing shed built by Chinese immigrants in 1868 en route to Victoria during the Gold Rush. It was a working shed until 2009 when it was converted into the boutique eco-winery you see today. With grapes selected from vineyards around Australia, owner Sue Bell creates exceptional wines on site, and with her friendly team manage a restaurant for guests and a rustic performance space. Its huge, socially-distanced grounds have glamping tents plus sites for regular campers.

The Location

One of the first wineries to hit on the Adelaide side of Riddoch Highway, Bellwether is a no-brainer for wine-lovers as a base for wine tasting trips. The Coonawarra's wineries are found along this stretch of road, the region's famous terra rossa soil forming a narrow, cigar-shaped strip 27 kilometres long, renowned for its  cabernet sauvignon. Crucially, it's also the halfway point between Melbourne and Adelaide, making it an excellent spot to break up the journey.

The Space

The former woolshed is an eclectic and inviting space, with the winery and tasting room separated by a large kitchen. Large family-sized tables and wooden chairs rest on Turkish carpets, with wine barrels filling one side of the room and the rest interspersed with remnants that pay homage to the building's former life as a shearing shed. Outside, a shared kitchen and several spaces for bonfires encourage interaction with other guests; as does the bottle of wine with every booking. Adding to the charm and character are vegetable gardens and sunflowers, a few random sheep, a couple of quiet dogs, a small herd of highland cows and a friendly donkey called Gerado.

The Room

The glamping tents keep to the theme of the shearing history, with shearer's cast iron beds, thermal woollen quilts and underlays from Minijumbuk in Naracoorte to keep things warm, while tents are made from breathable canvas. The one shocking thing about this region is that it gets cold at night (even in summer) so the rooms are equipped with camp heaters. Lights, towels, extra blankets, reading materials, deck chairs and (crucially) wine glasses are provided. A nice way to relax is to soak up the early morning rays from the "balcony" which faces towards a huge paddock full of sheep, cockatoos and kookaburras.

The Food

Bellwether's chef creates meal options to suit campers who want to fend for themselves, those who want to be completely spoilt and everything in between. My hearty vegetarian tagine is served in a pot to be heated over the firepit in the outdoor kitchen. Six course degustations, takeaway breakfasts, simple coffee and brunch are also available. The brunch includes a glass of fizz, freshly squeezed juice, poached fruit, homemade granola, plus a cooked breakfast including haloumi, eggs and vegetables from the garden, the sum of which will set you up for the day. It goes without saying that wine tasting here is essential.

Stepping Out

SA's Limestone Coast is a bit of a hidden gem and there's lots to explore. Start with Coonawarra, tasting vintages from boutique, family owned wineries such as Raidis Estate. Robe and its long stretches of white sand and turquoise waters is just over an hour away. Head west and discover SA's overlooked wine region Padthaway (50 minutes) and the Naracoorte Caves (30 minutes). Mount Gambier and its beguiling sinkholes is an hour south, and another 20 minutes' drive will take you to South Australia's southernmost point, Cape Northumberland, and the quiet coastal town of Port MacDonnell, known for its crayfish. Head two hours east and you'll hit the Grampians (although that might be pushing it).

The Verdict

Much more than just a bed for the night, Bellwether is a special place to stay in an overlooked part of South Australia.


14183 Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra 5263; email; Ph. 0447 334 545. See

Queen tents or twin singles for two people are $200 per night, with a two night minimum stay. For one person, it's $100 per night for a minimum of two nights. Single night bookings are available, starting from $140 per night for one person. Camping starts at $30 per night.



While the wines and hospitality are excellent; the unlikely experience of wrangling  with 1800s-era cookware over a firepit with friendly guests was an experience I'm unlikely to forget.


The camper's midnight trek to the loo is never ideal, and one I wouldn't savour in winter.

The writer was a guest of SATC