While some weekends call for luxury hotels in the heart of the city, others require seclusion and nature.
The former is dominated by international accommodation chains and big booking sites, but for the latter? Local start-ups tracking down spots around Australia that deliver lush, unspoilt beauty so you can get away from the daily grind.
That's what this list is all about: websites helping you recharge away from everything (and everyone). So happy searching – planning a holiday is sometimes as fun as the trip itself.
A yoke is the wooden bar connecting domesticated animals to farming equipment. In 2016, twin brothers Cameron and Chris Grant found that they were yoked to their jobs and work commitments, so their travel start-up is all about leaving behind the worries of the nine-to-five grind and recharging away from those stressors. The company first launched with three cabins in NSW’s Southern Highlands – now it’s got 22 across NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Every off-the-grid cabin is deep within acres of secluded wilderness and is cleverly designed to focus on sustainability, longevity and functionality. If you don't have time to grab drinks and snacks before you leave home, the cabins come with a curated selection by reputable local providers.
While most of the providers on this list exclusively offer accommodation, Riparide gives you a mix of places to stay and things to do. It has hundreds of listings across NSW and Victoria, from wilderness cottages and Kombi vans to surf lessons, winery tours, rafting, berry-picking and more. Relax during a sound-healing session in a yurt right near the beach, kayak to a secluded family home at the tip of the river bend, explore a national park on horseback as snow falls all around you, or lay back in an outdoor bath overlooking the mountains.
Inspired by the tiny house movement, registered nurse and mum-of-three Natasha Weir and four other business partners built up a fleet of tiny houses and dotted them around regional NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia (where you’ll find its newest), with plans to eventually expand to every state in Australia. The homes are compact and come with everything you need, while also leaving minimal impact on the environment. Each property offers something a little different. Some are on boutique farms, others vineyards, some are in semi-secluded locations and others are completely tucked away in the bush.
Holing up in a tiny, self-sufficient wooden cabin in a secret location where no one can find you isn’t a practical long-term lifestyle change for everyone, but Cabn is here for short-term escapes where the only people you’ll encounter are the ones you bring with you. It has dog-friendly cabins across Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, all fitted with small kitchens, bathrooms, heaters and outdoor fire pits or barbeques. And while Cabn first launched with compact, secluded stays, its larger, more luxurious counterpart Cabn X is launching soon with two neighbouring houses and premium amenities.
This platform, by slow-living and slow-travel lifestyle brand Life Unhurried, is a curated edit of accommodation options that encourage you to slow down, from bubble tents overlooking NSW’s Capertee Valley and homesteads in Queensland’s Lamington National Park, to private islands off the coast of Tasmania and minimalist pavilions among the vines of South Australia’s McLaren Vale. Unlike the other options on this list, Slow Stays isn’t a booking platform – it’s a straight-up directory that leads users straight onto the accommodation’s own website, so they can book direct and support small business owners.
Formerly Youcamp, Hipcamp is something of an Airbnb for camping – it connects you with landowners so you can camp on otherwise private properties. It has sites listed across Australia, including basic bush camping with minimal facilities, full glamping experiences, decked out caravans and small cabins. You can rent out small properties for just you and a friend, or even bigger sites for gathering large groups and hosting events.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Services
Perhaps not the first organisation that springs to mind when it comes to holidays, the state agency has dozens of accommodation options in its beautiful national parks. Its three most recent additions are refurbished cottages: one perched on rocky headland with spectacular views of Sugarloaf Bay, and two others in an adjoining alpine property in the Snowy Mountains, with extended outdoor decks and views of Lake Jindabyne.
Inside Australia’s first inflatable homestay, you get uninterrupted views of the second largest canyon in the world while the sun is up, and an endless canopy of stars after it sets. The bubble tents overlook Capertree Valley, halfway between Mudgee and Lithgow and around 200 kilometres north-west of Sydney (the exact location is kept secret until your stay). All three are in the same area, but far enough away that you’re afforded privacy. An eco-turbine keeps the bubble inflated, and inside there’s a comfortable bed, a compost toilet, running water, a shower and environmentally-friendly toiletries.
Internet and phone use is discouraged at Shacky’s three houses in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, Grampians and High Country. The small houses are made with all-Australian materials and are completely off-grid: solar panels provide enough power for the lights and to charge phones, but there’s hardly any reception. And provisions are all top-notch and comfortable, with queen-sized beds, high-pressure showers and potbellied stoves. The views are gorgeous, too.
There are three Tiny Stays dotted in locations close to Melbourne: Healesville in the Yarra Valley, Warburton near the Yarra Ranges, and down the Mornington Peninsula. Each idyllic, off-grid house is equipped with all the amenities of a boutique hotel, including a queen-sized bed, hot running water, a fully-functional kitchenette and fridge, bluetooth speakers and a pile of books and board games to keep you occupied without reaching for your phone.