Hands up if friends and family have started coming over to your ‘slow travel’ side of the fence post-pandemic? If there’s one positive thing COVID-19 has done for humanity, it’s that our globe-trotting ways have been thrown into sharp focus and, thankfully, sustainable travel is slowly rising to the forefront.
Now, when you’re looking for a soul-filling stay that’s as far removed from a cookie-cutter hotel as you can get, it’s becoming clear you can have your sustainable accommodation cake and eat it too.
Helping us in the hunt, travel editor Celeste Mitchell from Life Unhurried gave us her picks of the best sustainable and slow accommodation options around Australia.
Larnook at Sherbrooke, Kallista, VIC
Tucked up in a private corner of a 160-acre flower farm in the Yarra Ranges, just one hour from Melbourne, this brand new cabin manages to fuse high-end touches with low-impact design. Larnook, meaning ‘habitat’ in Boon Wurrung (the language spoken by one of the five tribes of the Kulin Nation), powered by solar and rainwater. The space runs between two converted shipping containers with an outdoor deck and shower, plus a fire pit to sit by while you drink your complimentary bottle of local wine.
IMAGES BY MANDY COUZENS.
Secret Cabin Society, Eerwah Vale QLD
You’ll find this dreamy shack embraced by the rainforest on a private property on the Sunshine Coast, filled with a collection of curiosities, handmade local ceramics and natural fibres. Stocked with homegrown organic dragonfruit, custard apples and wild raspberries (when in season), this off-grid cabin has been created for you to immerse yourself for a couple of days rather than flitting in and out. As well as harnessing solar and rainwater, the owners are staunchly chemical-free, and hold regular workshops on topics like bush survival and medicinal plants. You can opt to plant a tree to leave your footprint here and rest easy knowing 14% of your payment is donated to a local not-for-profit called Spirit Hive, an organisation working towards suicide prevention.
Earthship Ironbank, Ironbank, SA
It’s any wonder this whimsical abode is booked out many months in advance. With bottle brick and rendered earth walls, Australia’s first council-approved earthship is an enticing spot to escape the everyday. Keep your footprint low by basing yourself in the off-grid earthship, exploring the nearby Adelaide Hills wineries, bushwalks and food trails by day. Start the day right with the included vegetarian breakfast, complete with free-range eggs and honey from the property. Delish!
Kittawa Lodge, King Island, Tas
The owners of these two luxury lodges nestled into a hill on a cattle property on King Island – a beautifully rugged outpost in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and Tasmania – are not just about ticking sustainability boxes. Fully committed to the cause, they have bamboo linen, biodegradable slippers, zero chemical cleaning products – they’ve also created their own range of body products because they believe it should be the only way. Off-grid for power, water and waste, the structures were made on mainland Tasmania from sustainable materials with bushfire-protective, charred timber cladding. You can rest easy knowing all catering by your in-house cook is fresh and local as you soak in the concrete tub, unfurl the yoga mat, or lose track of time playing board games by the fire.
IMAGES BY ADAM GIBSON.
The Camp, Yelgun, NSW
Treading lightly on Bundjalung Nation land just outside Brunswick Heads, The Camp is a private carbon-neutral hideaway: a bell tent on a raised deck connected to a tiny cabin containing a kitchen and luxurious bathroom. Fitted out with solar panels, batteries, a water tank and a composting toilet, the property is a working example that luxury doesn’t need to be sacrificed in aid of sustainability. The owners of The Camp are members of 1% for the Planet, plant a tree for every guest, and donate $20 of each booking to Sea Shepherd Australia. Get those marshmallows ready, it’s time to go camping!
IMAGES BY KRISTA EPPELSTUN FOR LIFE UNHURRIED.
The Shack at Sheepwash Bay, Bruny Island, Tas
It’s easy to dip a toe into an off-grid lifestyle in this simple, earthy and intimate Bruny Island cabin. Built from reclaimed timbers, with its sagging roof sympathetically restored to keep its original charm, The Shack at Sheepwash Bay is powered by solar and wind. There’s a veggie garden, compost, eco cleaning products and, the clincher, beautiful linen sheets.
Spend your days beachcombing and kayaking along the 1km private beach frontage or learn to bake fresh wood-fired sourdough with owner John aka the Bruny Baker. That is, if you can bear to get out of the outdoor bath.
IMAGES BY ELLA LUCY PHOTO.
The Recyclable House, Beaufort, Vic
Delivering precisely what it says on the packet, this experimental home is made entirely of recycled or recyclable materials, all while achieving a high-quality, sleek aesthetic. Closed-loop, passive-solar design and construction principles mean there’s no need for air conditioning, and a wood-heater will keep you cosy in the cooler months. Living that low-tox life? The natural finishes and cleaning products used throughout will keep your toxin-related stress down and the owners invite you to enjoy the edible garden – don’t forget to compost once you’re finished whipping up a fresh-from-the patch culinary delight.
Bruny Island Hideaway, Bruny Island, Tas
Clever, earth-friendly design is at the core of this striking cabin, which measures in at just 28m2, and is surrounded by 99 acres of conservation forest. This is the ideal place to embrace a more minimalist life as you sit at the Japanese-style table in the picture window box, or sink into the outdoor bathtub hidden beneath the timber deck. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Australis at night. Now that’s serenity.