It’s ironic that sometimes the best way to recharge is to unplug completely. We travel to Victoria’s Grampians National Park to discover whether the tiny house holiday trend is everything it’s built up to be.
When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep? I’m not talking about crashing for six or so hours, hauling yourself out of bed, slapping some makeup on the eye bags, and gulping down your coffee. I’m talking about the kind of sleep where you crash into a deep slumber as soon as your head hits the pillow, only to open your eyes and realise 10 hours have somehow ticked over.
The last time I slept like this was probably about a decade ago, when I stayed up too late watching a box set of DVDs (remember those?). But that was before I found myself drifting off in a tiny house parked in the middle of a sheep farm in western Victoria.
I knew it was going to be remote, but I figured I’d still be able to send a few emails and edit some documents on my mini-break at Tiny Elliot, an off-grid, eco-friendly tiny house owned by In2thewild Tiny Holidays. As I arrive, however, nature has other ideas. A warm glow caresses the hills; the light approaches golden hour. Kangaroos bound over fences to feast beside grazing sheep. Before I know it, the landscape eases from gold to silver under the glow of the moon, and I find myself climbing the ladder to the loft and closing my eyes.
Tiny houses have exploded in popularity in recent years, thanks largely to the abundance of dreamy hideaways popping up on the likes of Instagram and YouTube. An Instagram search of the hashtag #tinyhouse generates more than 1.8 million hits, with pages upon pages of picturesque escapes and whimsical works in progress. Many flaunt their locations’ lack of phone reception or internet connectivity as sought-after elements of modern holidays. They are. At a time when many of us have discovered new levels of stress, enhanced by the 24-7 news cycle and growth of remote over-working, they enable us to escape, power down and reboot.
In2thewild has 23 sustainable cabins dotted along the east coast of Australia. Most are close enough to a major city to offer a relaxing weekend away. You’ll find one a short drive from Sydney in just about any direction, like “Edmond” in the Southern Highlands, “Lucy” just over the Blue Mountains, or “Robert” in the Canberra Wine Region.
Tiny Elliot is located halfway between the towns of Pomonal, which welcomes you with road signs proclaiming it “a picturesque place”, and Halls Gap, which is the entry point to Grampians National Park. Five minutes west, you’ll arrive at the cellar door of Fallen Giants, where you can try cool-climate Shiraz grown in red clay loam. Five minutes east, you can treat yourself to lunch at Pomonal Estate, which offers a delicious seasonal menu of organic local produce, along with decadent chocolate and wine tasting paddles. Along the same road, you’ll also find a glass-blowing gallery, a ceramics gallery, and an olive grove.
And yet, staying here, I feel like I have the region to myself. Elliot is tucked away behind a locked gate, 200 metres down a dirt road, next to a dam where my woolly paddock mates cool off in the heat of the day. Large windows on three sides make it feel deceptively large, so there’s plenty of space to breathe. The fresh bottlebrush flowers in the corner, and the soft scent of sandalwood from the bathroom, add elegance. But it also feels like an adventure. Before I arrive, I receive email instructions about what to do, from opening (and closing) the gate to turning on the gas, water, and power. They are easy to follow but create something of a frontier feel.
I could easily stay riveted to the window views all day, except that no visit to the Grampians is complete without actually venturing into the national park. Traditionally home to the Djab Wurrung and Jardwardjali people, the sandstone mountain range known as Gariwerd covers 1,672 square kilometres of lush greenery amid the yellow landscapes of the region’s cereal farms. Halls Gap is heaving with kangaroos (you’ll see dozens snacking on the local football oval), and if you pick any of the walking trails leaving town, you’ll likely stumble upon emus, echidnas, and more.
The most famous views come from The Pinnacle. If you start from town, it’s a steep 9.6-kilometre walk that takes about five hours to complete, offering an excellent vantage point to see Lake Bellfield and its surrounding peaks. Mackenzie Falls is another must-see, especially if you opt for the 3.5-kilometre walk from Zumsteins. The track winds its way along a creek, slowly climbing upwards, until you turn a corner to see rainbows playing in the mist of the thundering cascade.
It’s the perfect place to do as much or as little as you like. And, frankly, it’s worth it just for the sleep.
Get there: Grampians National Park is a three-hour drive from Melbourne Airport, via the Western Highway.
Stay there: Tiny Elliot can sleep four, with a queen bed in the loft and lounges that can convert into two singles downstairs. Prices start from $269 on weekdays and $229 on weekend nights. Visit in2thewild.co to book.
Know a regional landowner with room to spare? In2thewild is seeking new secluded locations, where owners would be interested to host a tiny house and generate income from it. Get in touch by emailing [email protected]