Evamor Valley, Mudgee, opened its luxury eco-glamping doors in early November just as residents of greater Sydney peeked out of their COVID bunkers with thoughts of hitting the road. Owners Chad and Charmaine Hurrell and their young family had their eyes on this picturesque 32 hectare property for years before snapping it up in 2016. They immediately set to work planting trees and shrubs, widening the dam, while taking great care not to harm established old trees surrounding it, and adding a jetty. The result is that Mudgee's newest glamping attraction is not only stunningly beautiful, but is now also home to returning birds that seem to regard the dam as their own personal playground. There are bright green parrots, maggies, willy wagtails, ducks and other waterbirds, and many more.
The property is a short drive from town, a big advantage when "town" is the attractive and gastronomically blessed Mudgee. In fact Evamor Valley is so close that you can even get a local taxi home if you prefer to head out for dinner without worrying about driving. This is wine country after all, and one of the best, Lowe Wines (lowefamilywineco.com.au), is just down the road. Mudgee is three and a half hours' west of Sydney and the drive here is very much part of the getaway as you wind your way through destination Blue Mountains towns like Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, Blackheath and Mount Victoria on the Great Western Highway. Or take the picturesque Bells Line of Road and stop at the Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens and fill the car with apples and still-warm pies at Bilpin.
A long drive framed by an honour guard of poplars marks the entrance to the property. These young trees hint not only at the dramatic welcome they will eventually provide, but also of the artistry that awaits at the end of them. As we pull up, our eyes take in two wooden shutters perched against trees to perfectly frame the cow and sheep-dotted countryside and hills beyond; deck chairs in just the spot you'd want to sit under a tree, and some elegant bird sculptures beside the main attraction - the dam.
Here, ducks glide under a pink and white cloud of galahs that shatters then regroups in the branches of a giant gum and frogs can be heard in a clump of reeds. The jetty introduces itself as a perfect spot for sundowners. There are three glamping eco-"tents" spaced well apart from each other. Each has their own verandah with leather comfy chairs and dining benches, fire pits and barbecues, though a larger communal fire pit is closer to the dam. Look out for the resident bee hive which provides Evamor with honey and for Jackie the blonde kelpie who will say hello.
That eye for detail and artistry that makes the most of the landscape outside is just as evident within the four walls of our eco-tent which sits directly across from the dam. Behind glass and fly-screen sliding doors is a large room in muted colours with a king bed, quality linen, ample pillows. Off to one side is a curtained doorway to the bathroom which has a toilet, spacious rainshower, pump-pack Leif products, good towels and lightweight robes. There's a mirror, sculptured sink, hairdryer and slippers.
The kitchenette has a small fridge (with milk, a welcome bottle of wine and some local cheeses) pod coffee-maker, kettle, toaster and kitchen essentials. There's a compact lounge, hanging rack and table and a remote-controlled ceiling fan and air-conditioning for the hotter months. Directly inside the door is a basket containing a waterproof picnic rug, insect repellent, long-stick matches, eco-fire starters (these worked a treat) a battery lantern and lo and behold – a Lianne Moriarty novel. At night you'll hear cows, frogs, and the odd shriek from a fox or possum. Peek from the canvas sides of your snug new home and you'll catch inky skies bedazzled by stars. There is no Wi-Fi, but who needs it with a firepit and starry starry nights for entertainment?
There are more than 35 cellar doors around Mudgee, many home to excellent eateries like the neighbouring Lowe Wines with its Zin House restaurant, or the Pipeclay Pumphouse (pipeclaypumphouse.com.au) at the Robert Stein Vineyard and Winery. There are also plenty of cafes, pubs and restaurants in town, including the Oriental Hotel (orientalhotel.com.au ) with its gin bar and excellent pulled pork tacos. Try Isabella's Trattoria (no website) for rustic Italian and Alby & Esthers for coffee or cocktails in an 1800s stone terrace (albyandesthers.com.au). If you have a hankering for cheese – who doesn't – head to the High Valley Cheese Company (highvalley.com.au). But it's hard to beat breakfast on that jetty, a glass of wine on that picnic rug under a tree, or a barbecued steak alongside your own firepit.
Mudgee is a pretty town made prettier thanks to sympathetic main street renovations and incredible gardens. There are interesting shops, a museum, art galleries such as the Mudgee Arts Precinct in Market Street, and regular markets. Head 60 kilometres or so to Rylstone for its tea shop and yum cha on the way to Wollemi National Park or 30 kilometres in the other direction to historic Gulgong.
The gold town of Hill End is 75 kilometres away and who knew the world's second largest canyon was under an hour from Mudgee at Capertree Valley? Just north of Mudgee are the Putta Bucca Wetlands, another haven for bird life. If you are more into nurture than nature, download a cellar-door map for an afternoon of tasting, or let the wineries come to you. Exclusively Mudgee will bring local drops to wherever you are staying. Wine-lover Stephanie runs a fun and interesting tasting and you get to keep the wine, plus local cheeses, meats, and other goodies and a neat wooden cheese board after the tasting. Evamor Valley is perfectly suited to this one – we clinked glasses on the jetty over a white tablecloth just on sunset.
Artistry and comfort are at the forefront of this new offering. It also feels good to stay at a place run by people who obviously care about the land and the animals reliant on it.
Minimum two-night stay. Mid-week $1060 ($530 per night); weekend $1320 ($660 per night). Evamor Valley, 109 Tinja Lane. Phone 0439 439 073. See evamorvalley.com.au
Exclusively Mudgee Tease Your Palate experience $300 for two. See exclusivelymudgee.com.au
Watching ducks and other water birds splash, play and glide onto the water.
The bed was a bit soft for our liking.
Jane Richards was a guest of Evamor Valley.