“Where are you staying?” the young woman asked as she was simultaneously ringing up our cheese purchase at the Jersey Girls Dairy Farm.
“At Alure…” I started to reply as I was digging out my money.
Before I could get any more of my answer out I was cut off, “Ohhhh you are glamping!” she said in a high pitched excited tone.
“Yes”, I replied slightly shocked.
How was it that for the last few days I’ve had to explain to all of my friends on Facebook what the word “glamping” meant and here on a dairy farm in rural Queenland Australia surrounded by cows, this woman knew what glamping was? And this wasn’t the only reaction my friend Sarah and I had that went like that. We had many more locals ooze excitement about our glamping accommodations as we made stops in the small town of Stanthorpe on our way to Alure Boutique Villas.
Stanthorpe was mainly known for it’s small town charm, agriculture, apple farms, and wineries to most Australians. And it was also known for a unique self-contained luxury tent called Alure. Thanks to Ruth and Marion, the ‘crazy tent ladies’, the whole town knew what glamping was. Glamping, luxury camping, is one of the latest trends in the travel industry and I had been happily glamping my way across Australia experiencing all of the different forms and levels of this new trend. Not a bad gig.
Ruth and Marion were the first to even use the term glamping in Stanthorpe let alone Australia. They dreamed up the idea back in 2009 – a completely self-contained tent situated on 50 acres outside of Stanthorpe in the heart of the Granite Belt wine region. They hired an equally creative, crazy, and daring architect who worked with them to create their tent vision complete with a working bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, heater/AC, and a fireplace – all with canvas walls. Everything in the tent was built from the bottom frame upwards and then the canvas framed it all from the top down. All of the plumbing, lighting, and venting was run through the floor. For the first night we looked around the tent in awe of how it was all constructed. Oh yes, and we can’t forget the huge front and back porch complete with a spa and massive grille.
Luckily I wasn’t there experiencing this canvas architectural miracle on my own, I had a travel companion with me, my friend Sarah. Of course somehow I always end up in some of the most romantic places on earth with my girlfriends – but hey – I probably had much more fun with Sarah than I ever would have with a boyfriend!
It was a chilly winter morning, but the tent was all toasty warm. After our delicious breakfast that we prepared ourselves in our canvas kitchen, we sat down and plotted out our plan for the day. Even though Sarah is from Australia, she was also experiencing the Granite Belt region for the first time. When we arrived the day before we sat and talked with Marion and Ruth and they gave us some great tips for wineries and farms to visit in the region. We had a plan that consisted of a large amount of eating and drinking – perfect!
If you are in the Granit Belt then you must try the wine. Our favorite stop was the – Ballendean Estate winery where we hung out and talked to Robin for over an hour learning about her family run winery. Ballendean was one of the first wineries in Australia starting in 1970. From that time the Australian wineries have expanded from 250 wineries to today’s 2,900+. So how do you be noticed in a country full of wine? You do what Marion and Ruth did with their glamping tent – you offer unique, innovative alternatives. The region and Ballendean is known for it’s Strange Bird Wine Trail which celebrates the many alternative grape varieties grown in the Granite Belt. To be considered ‘alternative’, a variety must represent not more than 1% of the total bearing vines in Australia. Ballendean contributes a number of ‘strange birds’ such as fiano, malbec, nebbiolo, saperavi, sylvaner, and viognier.
Of course, once we had wine we needed some snacks to go with it. Sarah and I stopped at a number of the Stanthorpe area farms and stocked up on food and snacks. In fact, we were able to piece together the perfect wine country snack – a bottle of wine, cheese from Jersey Girls Dairy, and apples from Suttons Farm. We also made a stop at the Bramble Patch – a strawberry farm known for their high calorie desserts – resistance was futile!
Every good road trip needs quirky roadside attractions – and Stanthorpe had it’s share. Meet the stone pyramid and Fuitasaurus!
After a full day of exploring the region and stuffing our faces, we decided to go back and enjoy our romantic tent by utilizing the back deck spa and grille. Since Sarah was Aussie and all Aussies are born knowing how to throw shrimp on the barbie – she took on grille master duty as I relaxed in the spa. Yes – it was a rough life. After dinner we fired up a movie on the surround sound flatscreen TV in our tent. Just a perfectly normal glamping evening at Alure.
How will I ever go back to a traditional tent again? It would be like having to sit back in airline economy after spending a year at gold status getting upgraded. It was official, Marion and Ruth and their crazy luxury tent ruined camping for me from here on out. But that’s ok – because it was their ‘crazy’ that put glamping in everyone’s vocabulary in this region of Australia. And that is beautiful.
View all photos from Stanthorpe: