Boydell's Safari Tent
This lavish eco tent imported from Africa is pitched in a secluded spot overlooking one of the Hunter Valley's oldest vineyards. Every creature comfort is found within its canvas walls – the culmination of the owner's longing to experience Africa and her dream of having guests stay on this historic property on the banks of the Allyn River.
Head 2.5 hours north of Sydney and in the hamlet of East Gresford you'll find this quiet corner of the Hunter Valley best known for its access to the Barrington Tops National Park. It's also where Welshman Charles Boydell and wine veteran Dr Henry Lindeman planted some of the valley's first vines in 1826. Lindeman's Cawarra Estate, one of Australia's most famous vineyards, started here - a world away from commercial Pokolbin. Almost two decades later Daniel and Jane Maroulis fell in love with Boydell's historic 80-hectare property where they now run a boutique vineyard and black angus cattle.
Out of Africa meets historic Australian farm. Arrive down a silverleaf poplar-lined driveway and Jane, her four girls and Buddy the kelpie will escort you to your private tented retreat atop a rise. Here it's all about wine, solitude and absorbing the bucolic surrounds; rolling countryside in one direction, Australian bush the other. Ditch the device, sit on the verandah spotting native bird life, take a dip in the river and soak up the peace and quiet.
The word tent fails to adequately describe this authentic glamping experience. More than 12 months was spent planning and sourcing the 52 square metre tent's luxury fittings. Enter via glass and wood doors (no zip entry here) and you'll find a sumptuous king bed draped in (practical) silk mosquito netting, freestanding copper bath, stone sink, vintage luggage and rope chandeliers. Sleep between fine linens and revel in creature comforts including luxe bath products, full flush toilet, stone sink, kitchenette and indoor and outdoor shower. Gas heating keeps things cosy in winter while evaporative air-conditioning cools things down in warmer weather. A barbecue on the deck crafted from recycled wood allows for self-catering.
Exclusive to one booking at a time, wander through the vines glass in hand, explore the ruins of Charles Boydell's original home. Take an alfresco shower where cows and curious kangaroos graze and enjoy sundowners around the fire-pit. Or take long soaks in the bath, wake to bird song and enjoy a coffee in bed.
Head home via country roads to the historic inland port town of Morpeth – which Boydell himself frequented by paddle steamer - and have lunch at Boydell's Cellar Door and Restaurant in an 1800s slab hut building. A meal of local produce and imbibing on small batch wines rounds out the Boydell's experience.
This is glamping at its finest and as close to an African safari experience - bar the game drives - that any of us here in Australia are likely to get anytime soon. Swap Africa's ubiquitous G&Ts for award-winning wines, breathe in fresh country air and enjoy the solitude beneath towering gums and a blanket of stars.
65 Allyn River Rd, East Gresford. $475 a night self-catered, including two bottles of Boydell's wine; two-night minimum stay. Phone 0400 509 477. See boydells.com.au
Soaking in the deep copper bath with a glass of Boydell's wine in hand.
COVID-19 has meant offerings such as the in-house chef, massage and farm experiences are sadly no longer available. Having to BYO all supplies, bar coffee and wine, detracts a little from the luxury experience.