Here in Aotearoa, we are lucky that nature is never far away – even in our cities. But there’s a difference between admiring a sea view or taking a lunchtime walk in a park and immersing yourself in a remote corner of the country for a couple of days. While the former is important, studies suggest the latter has a significant positive impact on our bodies, minds and creativity – and that’s exactly what accommodation start-up Unyoked hopes to facilitate.
Founded in Australia by twin brothers Chris and Cameron Grant in 2016, Unyoked is expanding into New Zealand in July. The company puts compact, cosy cabins on remote yet easily accessible private land, where you can escape the city for a few days.
There are now 41 properties across Australia’s east coast – from Brisbane down to the newest additions near Hobart – and Unyoked will launch in New Zealand with three initial cabins.
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You’ll be able to get away to native bush up in Northland, switch off on the wild west coast of Auckland, or hunker down around the rugged Port Waikato coastline. Judging by how successful its Australian offering has been, it could be a good idea to sign up to the waitlist.
The main drivers for starting the business in the first place, co-founder Chris Grant tells Broadsheet, were many of the problems commonly associated with modern life – the brothers found they were spending too much time around technology, concrete and pollution. “Since that point, we’ve gone through this journey and really discovered how prevalent those problems are in the world,” Grant says. The psychological effects have been amplified over the last few years, he says, by Covid, an unstable world economy and political environment, and climate change.
The duo believes incorporating a regular nature habit into your lifestyle can be a counterweight to the pressures we all experience day-to-day, helping to reduce stress and give a sense of perspective. “It’s our job to champion nature as a solution, and help people access it regularly when they need it most.”
Unyoked’s New Zealand country manager, Charlie Chrisp, grew up near Tauranga. “We’re incredibly lucky to have some of the world’s most spectacular, unique and diverse landscapes here,” he says, “and they lend themselves really well to that off-grid, on-demand remedy we’re looking to offer.”
The company is keen to help both Kiwis (and travelling Aussies) experience the benefits of time in nature – beyond regular adventure tourism.
Each cabin is comfortable and cosy, with a gas stove, hot showers, fridge, towels and bedding provided. Unyoked aims to tread lightly on the earth by using solar power, rainwater, wood fires and composting loos. The original Aussie design features have been updated to accommodate the New Zealand climate, with increased insulation, and thicker windows and heaters.
Independent, sustainably minded New Zealand brands are supplying the amenities, including coffee by Raglan Roast, craft beer by McLeod’s Brewery, bottled cocktails by JMR & Co, organic loose-leaf tea by Webster’s Tea and recyclable mattresses by Sleepyhead.
And, while switching off entirely is certainly an option, Grant says he often whisks himself away to an Unyoked cabin to “tackle a creative problem”. “I don’t always need to go out to fully tap out – I go out to solve a problem, to do some strategy, to do some thinking by myself.” This is another part of the Unyoked philosophy – the company also hosts writers’ residencies and collaborates with musicians, says Grant. “We’ve had people come down and write all their new tracks for new albums in our cabins.”
Unyoked’s New Zealand locations will be available to book from July 2022. Sign up to the waitlist to register your interest.