“Ohh. Myyy. Gooddd!”
Lori’s excitement at the views from Kilbirnie Peak can’t be contained, but I’m totally speechless.
We’ve just arrived at Kilbirnie Peak and slowly driven the rocky track to its summit, where our luxury glamping accommodation is perched. To our right, rural hills roll out to a wind farm in the distance, but we’re most excited to see the view we’ll be waking up to. We jump out of the van and climb the few steps onto the deck.
“You have got to be kidding me.”
I finally have words. It isn’t much, but it’s the best I could manage.
The photos on Hipcamp don’t even come close to doing this accommodation justice. It’s not that the photos aren’t any good. This place just has to be seen to be believed.
At the foot of Kilbirnie Peak, a patch of Mallee woodland hides the dirt road we drove in on. The trees are haloed by the yellow canola fields behind them, luminous in the afternoon sun. In the distance, the impressive Mount Kooyoora, Mount Moligal, Sunday Morning Hills, and the Pyrenees Ranges.
It’s like a work of art.
Kilbirnie Peak Glamping: Everything you need for a relaxing getaway
Kilbirnie Peak is the highest point of Kilbirnie, a property at Berrimal in Central Victoria – an hour west of Bendigo and 3 hours northwest of Melbourne – that’s been in the Lockhart family since 1874. Susie and Tim Lockhart are the 6th generation caretakers of this magnificent slice of country. Although you’re staying on their farm, they’re a couple of kilometres away and are more than happy to leave us to enjoy our romantic weekend away or be there to offer any help if and when we need it.
When I speak to Susie on the phone, I tell her it might just be the most beautiful place we’ve ever stayed.
“I’m so glad you like it! It’s my happy place,” she responds.
We can already see why.
The Lockhart family’s love of the property is reflected in how they set up the glamping accommodation.
From a distance, Kilbirnie Peak looks like many other hills in the region – grassy with a few scattered old eucalypts, and an old farm shed right on top.
But this isn’t just any old farm shed…
This one has a deck that’s equipped with everything guests could want. Apart from the 5-metre bell tent (I’ll come back to that), there’s a hammock, a swing chair, an outdoor dining table and chairs, a pizza oven, a BBQ, a telescope, and an outdoor kitchen with a fridge, gas burner, sink, and everything else you could ever need for meal prep.
Then, the pièce de resistance – the bath with a view.
Beside the shed, a fire pit and a couple of comfy chairs – designed with the perfect recline for stargazing – are arranged on a circular gravel terrace, bordered by granite rocks. A three-seater swing chair hangs from a tree just downhill from the terrace.
A month staying here wouldn’t be long enough to make the most of all of this.
Guests are welcome to bring their own firewood and their own food, but firewood, pizza boxes and breakfast boxes can be arranged for an extra cost. We ordered a pizza box for both nights, and ours each included two pizza bases, a good selection of meats and veggies, and a can of pineapple (but let’s not get into that debate here). One box included a delicious loaf of garlic bread, but the definite highlight was the garlic and cheese pull-apart in the other box. I’m still having dreams about it.
The Lockhart’s haven’t forgotten about the details, either. There are firelighters, and candles – including a citronella one to keep the mozzies at bay – and we’ve been gifted some delicious homemade cookies. A couple of refreshing cold cans of kombucha are waiting for us in the fridge. The products, from the bubble bath bombs to the shampoo and body wash, are so good that we find ourselves making excuses to use them.
Even the bathroom, hidden away under the deck, somehow feels decadent. Its corrugated metal walls provide a modern rustic feel, and although it’s essentially an outdoor bathroom, it heats up and retains the heat quite well once you’ve got a hot shower running and the sliding door closed. It feels cosy and private.
It isn’t long before Lori and I have dubbed this place ‘Rancho Relaxo.’
Bell tent glamping: Checking out the digs
When Lori and I unzip the tent and step inside, we’re once again in disbelief. It’s like stepping into a professionally decorated Tardis. I find myself walking around doubled over out of habit, until Lori reminds me this isn’t like other tents. This thing is huge.
With a queen-sized bed on one side, you wouldn’t imagine much room for anything else, but there’s a coffee table at the foot of the bed, and the walls are lined with a bookshelf, deck chairs, moon chairs, a beanbag and floor cushions. There’s a basket by the door with all manner of blankets for those cold nights.
As with outside, the trickiest thing about kicking the feet up for some chill time is deciding which comfy spot to do it.
The bookshelf is equipped with games and books. The first book that catches my eye is The subtle art of not giving a f*** by Mark Manson – the perfect choice for a relaxing weekend away. I dig deeper and find a book called The caretakers of Kilbirnie, a history of the property and all of the Lockhart family members who’ve been closely tied to it. Flicking through it later, I’m fascinated and impressed to find that it begins with an extensive and well-researched chapter on the property’s traditional owners.
Oh, and if you’re visiting Kilbirnie Peak with family or friends, the Lockharts also have Carrie the Caravan, or they can erect a 3-metre bell tent on-site. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want this place all to yourselves, but it’s good info to have, nonetheless.
Things to do during your Kilbirnie Peak stay
We wake up to the spring morning sun warming the deck and enjoy breakfast and coffee, staring at that sensational view. A pair of Welcome Swallows dart in and out of the shed, doing laps around the bell tent’s peak. It’s hard to want to do anything else.
We usually love nothing more than exploring all day when we get away, but Kilbirnie Peak is different. We could easily spend our days between the bath and choosing where to laze around next, or strolling through the Mallee woodland watching birds and lizards.
We do manage to tear ourselves away for some short bushwalks, though. How could you not when you’re spending so much time staring at those mountains?
Melville Caves at Kooyoora State Park is only a half-hour drive away. You’ll find a handful of relatively short bushwalks, the 7-kilometre Long Rock Walking Track being the heftiest. Don’t miss the 1-kilometre return Melville Caves Lookout Track and the 1.8-kilometre Southern Lookout Walking Track. The bushranger, Captain Melville, is said to have used the massive granite boulders here as a hideout and lookout.
Sunday Morning Hills (aka Mount Brenenah) is worth a quick stop for another superb 360-degree view from the fire lookout tower. Bring some binoculars and you might even be able to find Kilbirnie Peak. The 500-metre walk is on a rocky management vehicle track, with views all the way up. Plugging Sunday Morning Hills into Google Maps will get you there. There’s room for two or three cars at the closed gate (but don’t block the gate).
For more adventures of all kinds, a little further afield, check out the Visit Loddon Valley website.
Booking Kilbirnie Peak through Hipcamp
Hipcamp has been operating in the US for ten years but acquired YouCamp in 2020 to enter the Australian market. It’s a marketplace connecting nature-loving travellers with landowners for unique stays at camp and caravan sites, cabins, and glamping accommodations.
These un-tapped locations can be booked through Hipcamp’s website or smartphone app. I recommend the app, especially because it comes in handy when you have the occasional directionally challenged moment (or is that just me?). It makes communication with owners – and referring back to said communication – super easy.
Booking Kilbernie Peak through the app was quick and easy, too. I chose my dates and paid, and quickly received a confirmation e-mail with all the details. Not too long after, I received a message (through the app) from landowner Susie to thank me for my booking. She sent another message on the morning of our stay with the address and directions. The process couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
Kilbirnie Peak Glamping can only be booked through Hipcamp. We feel like we’ve discovered a secret untapped treasure.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Hipcamp on our stay. As with all articles on The Bushwalking Blog, this review is free from influence.
Have you visited this part of the world? Stayed at Kilbirnie Peak? Or got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.