Alkira Eco-Glamping Retreat is a little bit magical, beginning with the drive in. It’s an easy one-hour trip from Melbourne, in Emerald in the Dandenong Ranges, and never has a town been more aptly named; the landscape is part farmland, part vineyards and part eucalypt and tree-fern forest.
Turn off the main road and travel up Alkira’s tree-lined driveway, past alpacas and horses. But slowly – you might encounter a family of geese making their way unhurriedly up the hill in front of you.
Then you’ll arrive at the 40-acre farm Emily Stygall’s parents have been running for the past 20 years, on which Alkira – a former artist studio that’s now a tiny straw-bale villa you can stay in – is located.
Stygall’s family worked together to transform the cosy yurt. “It was our first straw-bale experience and wasn’t as easy as mud brick to render,” she says. “But it keeps cool in summer and warm in winter.”
The tiny almond-coloured yurt sleeps two. There’s local linen and plump pillows in shades of sunny yellow and ivory on the bed, plus salt lamps, a few indoor plants and a bowl of fresh fruit in the room. A shelf holds a few books and an old-school stereo that plays soft meditation music, and there’s a small collection of games and colouring books, too.
A fold-out timber breakfast bar looks out over vineyards, and there’s a basic outdoor kitchen under a tin roof where you can prepare the provided granola, toast, jam, tea and coffee in the morning. Or cook on the barbeque and toast marshmallows over the campfire at night.
A picnic basket of cheese, crackers, cold meats, chocolate and wine, and a breakfast hamper with bacon and eggs, brioche buns and espresso coffee can both be ordered in advance from Mrs Schmick, a vintage hire and picnic package business in Emerald.
Stygall found the bright green and yellow Italian ceramics in her mother’s shed, and a tea towel hangs on a stag hook she found at a local market. In the bathroom, a large, brass vintage showerhead with fleur de lys pendants is a talking point (water comes from a rainwater tank).
“I like to collect things. I go to Camberwell Market, I go to op shops and my mum used to own an antique shop. So half of this stuff is from her shed,” Stygall says. “A lot of the timber is off-cuts from around the farm.”
You can wander around the property to meet cows, horses, alpacas and ducks, or head out for a walk among the eucalyptus bushland. And if you’ve forgotten proper footwear, or if it’s muddy out, gumboots are provided.
“I was sick of seeing people from the city turning up in their high heels,” Stygall says, laughing. “We’re on a farm!”
If Alkira is booked out, a white-and-orange retro caravan called Frankie is also available.
“My husband found Frankie in an old guy’s shed and it came with everything. We haven’t touched it,” Stygall says.
Alkira Eco-Glamping Retreat costs $150 per night, twin share, and is located in Emerald, Victoria (address is provided on booking).