These off-Grid Tiny Houses Are the Future of Regional Travel

Hidden Cabins’ Florence, south of Perth

Off-grid, serene and luxurious, tiny houses are the future of regional travel.

Michael Lamprell was at a career crossroads when he enrolled in a Harvard Business School leadership course in 2016. The founder and (at the time) CEO of Emporium Sales & Marketing, who had spent 25 years helping build brands as diverse as Crocs, Caterpillar and Fox Racing, had nothing left to give. “I was burnt out,” he admits. “I just wasn’t happy.”

Michael Lamprell

Instead of work, Lamprell found himself dreaming of idyllic childhood camping trips beside the slow-flowing Murray River in South Australia. So when he discovered Getaway, a tiny house startup with a collection of self-contained cabins hidden in the woods outside Boston, “it resonated with me instantly and I knew that’s what I wanted to do”.

Lamprell took a leap of faith and launched CABN in 2017 with the goal of creating “sustainable off-grid accommodation experiences in regional Australia”. Almost immediately, he discovered a growing community of people just like him. “Whether it’s glamping or high-end luxury travel, there’s an emerging trend of people looking to experience nature without having to pack a tent or a swag. These are people who are conscious of travelling lightly and responsibly.”

CABN X Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley

Accessibility is also a prime consideration so CABN properties are regional but not remote. And despite most of them being within two hours of Adelaide, the locations are strikingly varied. From misty pine forests and native bushland in the Adelaide Hills to lush biodynamic vineyards in McLaren Vale and a spectacular promontory on the western tip of Kangaroo Island, the advantage of the off-grid cabins is that they can be placed virtually anywhere.

That flexibility (along with a low barrier to entry compared with traditional hotels) has fuelled an influx of tiny houses around the country. But rather than being threatened by the competition, Lamprell is thrilled. “It validates the sector as a whole and shows that this is a future form of travel that a broad base of people are embracing.”

An investment of $7.85 million from Intrepid Travel has helped CABN triple its number of properties in the past 12 months. By the end of this year it will have 50 in total, with a plan to increase that number tenfold and expand to every state and territory, plus New Zealand, by the end of 2026. The rapid expansion is being managed thoughtfully. You won’t find any single-use plastic amenities in any of the cabins, which use sustainably sourced Biowood, solar energy and rainwater harvesting systems.

CABN’s newest property is located just minutes from the avenue of Canary Island palms that welcomes guests to the western Barossa Valley. Five freestanding glamping tents (dubbed CANVS) and four premium CABN X buildings provide convenient access to the region’s many wineries. But Lamprell still wants guests to feel immersed in nature and is rewilding the property by planting 1600 native trees. “I started CABN because nature is my best therapy and I want other people to have that same experience. It’s a chance to wake up in nature, breathe in that fresh morning air and feel your stress levels lower instantaneously.”

Other tiny houses to try

Unyoked, Victoria

Unyoked’s Anant, south-east of Melbourne

In a world where the office is only ever an email away, sometimes the greatest luxury is disconnecting completely. There’s no wi-fi at Anant, a fairytale cabin about three hours south-east of Melbourne, but there are plenty of other ways to connect. Unyoked properties always begin with a walk from car to cabin that creates a physical barrier between you and the outside world. A 400-metre stroll through towering gums on the traditional lands of the Gunaikurnai people means you’ve already had a chance to switch off by the time you hear the bubbling creek flowing by.

The analogue approach extends to a firepit with outdoor cooking equipment, including an old-school jaffle maker, but there’s also a kitchen inside if you prefer. With no devices to distract you, you’ll be able to admire intricate spider webs decked with beads of morning dew and spend the afternoons lying by the creek and finding shapes in the clouds.

Tiny Away, NSW

Tiny Away’s flat-pack cabins are designed so they can be shipped anywhere and assembled by hand within a few hours. There are now almost 200 across the country and the hosting model has led to many being located on working farms.

If you’re dreaming of an escape from the city but don’t fancy being left alone in the wilderness, Kawal, on the outskirts of Wollombi in the Hunter Valley, is a good compromise. Situated on an escarpment covered in dense native bush, it’s still within shouting distance of the property’s main residence and the Hunter wineries are close enough for a quick tasting or long lunch.

And when you come back to the cabin, you’ll be able to enjoy the simplicity that is the essence of the tiny house experience.

Into The Wild Escapes, Qld

The concept of human rewilding – the philosophy of returning natural spaces to a state where they can regenerate and take care of themselves, informs all Into The Wild properties. Guests are encouraged to apply similar principles to their own lives. Spending as little as 30 minutes in nature has the power to reduce cortisol levels significantly; linger a bit longer and you’ll feel your blood pressure going down by the minute.

Tucked into the subtropical rainforest of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Ikigai lets you swap the sounds of traffic for a chorus of birdsong and breezes rippling through the bush. The two double beds in separate loft areas expand the tiny house concept and make it suitable for a family getaway.

And to start the day, you can choose a refreshing dip in the plunge pool out the front or follow a timber walkway to a claw-foot bathtub that’s hidden among the trees.

Hidden Cabins, WA

Proving that good things do come in small packages, Florence, an 18-square-metre peaked roof structure, frames the bush around it with windows on four sides. Its secluded location, on Pinjarup Country 90 minutes south of Perth, means the only neighbours you’re likely to encounter are emus wandering among the flowering marri and tuart trees at dusk. And for a change of scenery, it’s only a short drive to a dazzling white-sand beach.

The impeccably designed interior is furnished with ecoconscious Australian brands that match the owners’ philosophy – think handcrafted Winterwares ceramics and flax linens from Bedtonic on a king size Eva mattress. Plus, solar power, rainwater tanks and a woodpile that feeds a small burner named Meg mean the property is entirely off-grid.

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SEE ALSO: 31 Secret Wonders to Discover in Regional Australia

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