Apr 3, 2018
Across Australia, compact quarters among the great outdoors are sometimes the coziest way to spend a weekend. Eloise Basuki uncovers a few tiny hotels offering big experiences.
Australia may have a lot of empty space, but that doesn’t mean it all needs to be occupied. In a movement that has crossed the globe and become the latest travel trend Down Under, holiday-makers are bypassing the draw of sprawling, fancy digs for more minimalist rooms set upon remote landscapes—in a bid to both escape the world and take in more of it.
Filling the accommodation void for this kind of travel, twin brothers Cameron and Chris Grant launched Unyoked (doubles from A$199) last March—a series of wilderness-set cabins never more than two hours from Sydney or Melbourne. Designed by Bondi construction firm Fresh Prince, the cabins are simple but adorable: sustainable wooden walls, a comfy queen bed and a solarpowered kitchen—with backdrops ranging from 400-year-old rainforest to lush valleys. “[These spaces] encourage you to pare back what you’d usually consider necessary, and to take pleasure in the daily rituals, like making a coffee the old-fashioned way, or building a fire,” says Cameron Grant.
While Unyoked’s lodgings are only in the eastern states, South Australia has its own little hideaway, too. Cabn (doubles from A$190) is a 2½-by-six-meter timber box in a secret location in the Adelaide Hills—completely off-grid. That includes no access to Wi-Fi, freeing up all your attention to commune with your neighbors, namely kangaroos, kookaburras and koalas.
But to truly blend into your surroundings, Bubble Tent Australia (doubles from A$310) is the transparent ticket. See the stars here without leaving your bed, in an orb overlooking the little-known Capertree Valley, which has bragging rights as the widest canyon in the world (a kilometer wider than the Grand Canyon). The inflatable tent has cozy bedding, an eco-bathroom, a telescope, and iPad loaded with a stargazing app and bird-watching information. “People are looking for something real,” says co-owner Sonny Vrebac. “I think a place like ours, that allows them to stop, disconnect, breathe, think, hug and recharge, is very much needed.” With this kind of breathing space at your door, who says size matters?
If seclusion is what you seek, a night in one of these luxury glass eco cabins ensures no sign of human life. The five separate cabins are set to backdrops of snow-capped mountains, rolling vineyards, native bush and river vistas. Each cabin has a bathroom, kitchenette, queen bed, heating system, barbecue, telescope and star map to study the night sky through the glass roof. With no Wi-Fi, phone signal or power plugs, there’s no choice but to enjoy the view. purepods.com; doubles from NZ$590.
Tucked away on the edge of Khao Yai National Park, The Birder’s Lodge makes a stylish retreat after a day traversing some of Thailand’s wildest forests. Each of the five minimalist wooden cottages has a unique design—go for the ones that offer glass sunrooms looking out onto uninterrupted mountain views. The cottages squeeze in a kitchenette and a loft bedroom, and come with bicycles to roam nearby trails. facebook.com/thebirderslodgekhaoyai/; doubles from Bt3,000.
Nestled within the Kuantan hinterlands, this family-run sanctuary provides simple but sleek concrete cylinders for guests to spend a snug night among nature. The two-meter by three-meter rooms are fitted with skylights, air-conditioning and comfortable queen-size bedding, just enough for a restful sleep before exploring the lush surrounds. Hike to Panorama Hill or visit Rainbow Waterfall, where a blaze of color arches over the water every morning. timecapsuleretreat.com; doubles from RM139.