The first thing you notice upon entering Esca's Inman Valley suite “Mist” is the view. In fact, it’s hard to ignore thanks to blinds that automatically rise the minute you open the door. When Broadsheet visits, they reveal dozens of kangaroos grazing on the open paddock just metres away. Behind them is a rolling landscape of sparkling green meadows studded with dense thickets of native bush.
It’s one of two initial Esca pods (alongside “Nest”) at a spectacular hilltop location in the Fleurieu Peninsula that “was a real surprise for somebody who has lived in South Australia for over 10 years”, says Esca CEO Steve Kernaghan. “It’s a really dramatic location with epic views that are green almost all year round … It feels like it’s three or four hours away from any capital city, but it’s an hour from the CBD.”
Kernaghan’s tourism background has included stints at Tourism Australia, the South Australian Tourism Commission and Qantas. With Esca – a partnership with local design firm Das Studio and modular construction consultancy MDLR – he’s aiming to bring seriously upscale off-grid accommodation to regional areas around Australia, and he already has several other SA locations in his sights.
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To stand out from the many other offerings in that space, the sleek Esca pods clock in at 62 square metres each – about twice the size of an average hotel room. And because the entire living area is fronted by giant floor-to-ceiling windows, those epic views are a constant – whether you’re relaxing in the comfy king-size bed, using the induction cooktop in the kitchen or lounging beside the woodfired heater. A freestanding concrete tub in the bathroom has its own feature window, and the expansive views from the sunken tub outside make it the ideal spot for stargazing.
The two suites, which sit 120 metres apart, are on an 81-hectare property (known as Nest & Nature) bordering the Spring Mount Conservation Park, and the design brief leans heavily towards natural materials. Steps of Adelaide Hills bluestone lead from a covered terrace with a barbeque to the outdoor tub and nearby firepit, while the interior boasts a hand-chipped granite benchtop and plenty of oak panelling.
“There’s timber on the floor, the walls and the ceilings, so it’s designed to cocoon you in – it’s like a timber hug,” says Kernaghan. “We thought that was important on the top of a hill in the Fleurieu that cops a lot of wind.” Thoughtful additions like a selection of board games and a decanter of port mean there are worse fates than being trapped inside by the weather, while the fridge is stocked with breakfast provisions and a bottle of local wine.
And while features including automated blinds, excellent insulation and double-glazed windows reduce energy use for the solar-powered suites, Kernaghan is adamant that the sustainability initiatives don’t compromise on luxury. “That means finding ways to conserve energy but still making sure we have big enough water tanks so people can have hour-long hot showers … We want to create a sense of space, peace and privacy that allows people to disconnect and just enjoy the moment together.”
The writer was a guest of Esca.