There is camping, and there is glamping.
I’m definitely a convert to the latter, being a welcome amalgam of glamour and camping – not always two descriptors that go together.
Good riddance to the days of rain dripping through seams, flapping nylon, guy wires twanging loose, flat airbeds and unopened cans of Heinz Beans exploding lethally in the campfire.
Indeed, the last Starfish camping expedition ended tragicomically in a wild spring tempest, our mangled, three-man pup tent blown helter-skelter about a sopping Dongara seaside holiday park.
Glamping is many cuts above: five-star sumptuousness snugly sheathed in taut expensive canvas, surround by luxury amenities, and set in beautiful natural environs.
Olio Bello Lakeside Glamping has all this and more.
That’s why we were delighted to hear from the boutique Margaret River organic olive oil producer, announcing that they were expanding their eco-tourism, adding glamping to an already impressive portfolio.
Time for a run down south.
Sometimes winter on the Cape isn’t conducive to outdoorsy trips, but unlike camping, glamping tames the savage elements, so we weren’t deterred. And, in my opinion, mid-year is one of the most beautiful and invigorating times of year in the southwest.
Olio Bello is situated on 320 acres, a fully certified organic olive farm. There are 8000 olive trees and 14 unique olive groves intermingled with remnant bush land, gardens and a lake.
Arriving at the Cowaramup farm we parked near six swish new safari-style bungalows (or eco-tents) strategically lining the north shore of the lake.
We picked up our key and welcome letter from the lock-box and checked into a Bungalow 3, called Ngurra, which means ‘country’ and ‘home’ in some western desert tribal languages. It is also the name of one of the Olio Bello groves that produces the Spanish Arbequina and Italian Maraoli olive varieties.
Each bungalow is named after an olive grove or aspect unique to the oil, including Romanza, Kurunba, Leccino, Pieralisi, Nuovo and Ngurra.
Ngurra was no pup tent. A bespoke open-plan interior, private ensuite, sleek mini kitchen, top tier appliances, comfy duvet-draped beds, designer lounge seating, table and chairs, central heating, spacious wooden viewing deck, outdoor furniture…indeed, country comfort personified.
The sliding glass doors offer sweeping southern views through native gums of the lake and the green wooded ridges beyond.
A loaf of fresh baked bread, olive oil and dukkah was waiting on the table. Nice touch for the famished traveller.
Architecturally designed by Eco Structures Australia, the team behind the Eco Beach Resort at Broome and other international projects, the eco-bungalows have been crafted for low environmental impact and maximum comfort, aligning with Olio Bello’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and farming principles.
We unzipped the bungalow side panels, which are similar to those found in some larger tents, to let in more light. In warmer months, these also allow for a cool breeze to blow through the bungalow.
Our friendly host Suzy popped in and ran through a few housekeeping tips and delivered a crate full of the next day’s super healthy breakfast items.
We placed this in the refrigerator, which we noted was also replete with local wines and tempting regional treats for purchase.
The late afternoon weather was brisk, but pleasant, so we took a walk around the lake, checking out the views and water birds.
Clouds raced in off the nearby Indian Ocean, slipping inland and the air was fresh and crisp. We really were well away from the smog, grime, madding crowd and stresses of the city.
We also strolled through immaculate olive groves, watched kangaroos and sheep grazing, and walked around the processing buildings and restaurant.
That evening we popped into Margaret River, 15 minutes drive from the property, for dinner and drink at the Margaret River Tavern, the town’s popular watering hole. Award-winning food and a superb wine list make it must-do when in Margs.
Returning to our luxe digs we read and then bedded down for the night to soothing sounds of frogs, crickets and other creatures of the night. Glamping at Olio Bello you drift off to sleep in the very heart of nature – albeit in mighty comfy surrounds!
Up early to catch the morning light around the property, we again went exploring. The olive groves and lake are lovely at sunrise.
Then it was fine plunger coffee and brekkie out on the deck. Homemade granola, quinoa porridge, muffins, berry compote, Greek yoghurt and seasonal juices. Yum!
We spent the day exploring the region, popping down to the coast a Gracetown, visiting a few wineries, food producers, galleries, and taking in the glorious countryside and superb Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
Olio Bello is ideally located at the very heart of the Cape, so all the manmade and natural attractions are within an easy drive, or even a walk.
Back at the property Olio Bello oil maker Lucinda took us on a tour of the olive processing plant.
We were shown the step-by-step production process from fruit on the tree to delicious organic extra virgin oil in the bottle.
For those wishing to stay put on the property there is an array of attractions to sample: tasting room, gourmet retail outlet, deli-line, beauty products, and the alfresco café.
Guests can also enjoy yoga, spa treatments and regional tours while staying. They can also order gourmet meals from the on-site restaurant for a candle lit dinner in the bungalow.
A storm blew in on our second night, but we hardly noticed it. There was the drumming of rain on the roof and wind whipping around the bungalow, but it was all rather pleasant as we were snug in our sturdy heated lakeside cocoon. (Nothing like the Dongara Disaster!)
The next morning the weather cleared a tad and we headed back into Margaret River for a look around the shops and galleries; then headed out to Voyager Estate to interview their new Michelin Star chef.
Of course, we couldn’t depart Olio Bello without sampling a few more of the award-winning oils in the tasting room, and taking a spot of morning tea in the café.
Well, a ‘spot’ is a little unkind; we both ordered coffees and two of the best pieces of cake we’d ever tasted. (The recipe for the Lime Oil & Rosemary Cake can be found in the next edition of The Starfish).
All said and done, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time glamping at Cowaramup and would recommend it to all comers, in all seasons.
Olio Bello’s beautiful property offers the ideal place to enjoy nature married with some charming creature comforts.
The team at Olio Bello are on a mission to make their’s one of the best glamping experiences in Australia.
“Lakeside Glamping is a part of Olio Bello’s long-term vision and commitment to creating an organic and sustainable retreat and to protect and showcase the bio-diversity and uniqueness of the region,” says the in-room Olio Bello info sheet.
“Glamping adds a new dimension to our existing agricultural, hospitality and tourism offerings, and allows us to improve and strengthen our business and promote the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and organic living.
“Most importantly, our goal is to share the beauty and magic of the property, connect people back to nature and introduce an exciting new tourism element for visitors from around the world.”
Setting off back to Perth through the olive groves, we agreed Olio Bello is doing a fantastic job, and that glamping beats a three-man pup tent any day!
For more information about Olio Bello or to book a glamping stay, please visit the website at www.oliobello.com
The Starfish thanks all the Olio Bello team for the opportunity to visit.
Asteroidea Streaming: Glamping at Olio Bello
Photographs: Peter Rigby, Rhys Rigby, Frances Andrijich & Morrison Photography
Starfish Video Footage & Editing: Rhys Rigby