This article was first published in the Newcastle Herald ‘Weekender’ magazine in print and online on October 3, 2022. Image: Myall River Camp tiny house by Ess. Creative
Got a desire to get out of the city, disconnect from your devices, and kick back somewhere relaxing and picturesque in the country? From glamping to tiny houses to luxe cabins, these gorgeous eco-escapes are an easy drive from Newcastle and the perfect place to unwind and get back to nature.
Myall River Camp
An hour’s drive from Newcastle in Hawks Nest on the mid-north coast is Myall River Camp.
“Myall River Camp has hosted generations of nature lovers as an off-grid campground. Last year we opened the glamping tents and tiny houses so more people could connect with nature in a comfortable and eco-friendly way,” says Selina Nichols, who owns Myall River Camp with her husband Rob.
The serene bush retreat – which is fully solar-powered – is home to two charming tiny houses (perfect for two guests) and three luxe glamping tents (which sleep between four and six people). Each with its own firepit.
“Each tent and tiny house is unique – just like nature itself. The layout and furnishings have all been individually curated, with upcycled pieces, reclaimed timber, and local art. Each named and decorated in honour of local wildlife with whom we share the camp.”
The camp sits on Myall Lake River and is close to Myall Lakes National Park, the sand dunes of Dark Point, many beaches, and the towns of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens.
“The Camp gives glampers and campers a front row seat of the river and the dolphins that parade along it. It is so special sitting having a morning coffee or a sundowner when dolphins swim past your tent. The Camp, and mangroves in front of it, are teaming with birdlife and wildlife. It really does feel like you are on an exotic safari.”
Donnybrook Eco Retreat
Lynelle and Phil Cornish opened Donnybrook Eco Retreat on their farm in 2009.
Tucked away between pretty countryside and vineyards in the small town of Luskintyre, Lynelle says, “It’s an easy 30-minute drive to the centre of the vineyards, 45 minutes from Newcastle, and two hours from Sydney making it an ideal weekend getaway.”
“Donnybrook is a beautiful tranquil retreat nestled on our 100 acres surrounded by our friendly farm animals – pigs, goats, alpacas, chooks, pony, and cows – where guests stay in our glamping tent,” says Lynelle.
Perched on the edge of a dam on the Cornish’s farm, Donnybrook offers a relaxed and private glamping experience for two with all the modern cons – a cosy bed, hot water ensuite, cooking facilities, fridge, and electricity. You can play on the tyre swing, paddle the dinghy in the dam, visit the farm animals, and just relax by the outdoor fireplace.
Unyoked are a nature company helping people get out of the city and back outdoors with super-cool, off-grid cabins dotted across secluded green spaces across Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
“We’ve seen a definite uptick in recent years with people realising the benefits of spending time in nature more regularly,” says Jonno Seidler, who is the creative lead at Unyoked.
“It’s helped us grow into a global business, we’re now in three countries with nearly 100 cabins!”
Seidler notes there is a growing cluster of Unyoked cabins located near Newcastle, in lovely areas like Dungog, Gloucester, Pokolbin, and the Central Coast.
Each Unyoked cabin is 100 per cent off-grid, solar powered, and built with locally sourced, sustainable materials. Decked out with a snug queen-sized bed, hot shower, composting toilet, full kitchen, stove, bar fridge, and extra fun stuff like music, playing cards, books, yoga mats and an outdoor fire pit.
The hope is that guests kick back, relax, take in nature, disconnect from the internet and the noise of daily life, and enjoy themselves.
Barrington Eco Hut
With no wi-fi, mobile reception, and little in the way of distractions beyond the pristine nature it sits amongst, Barrington Eco Hut offers a truly secluded, off-grid escape.
The architect-designed tiny eco house by Fresh Prince, which accommodates two, sits on a private stretch of the Barrington River on a remote site in Cobark, near the Barrington Tops. It’s decked out with a hot shower, composting toilet, big soft bed, and fully-equipped kitchen.
“Guests seem to love the simplicity of the hut, its peace and quiet, and all the extra touches that make it a special weekend,” says owner Doug McClure.
“They love watching the birdlife, being lulled to sleep by the river, sitting around a campfire, lazing in the hammock, and time without mobile phone messages. Or, if you feel like exploring, there are plenty of walking trails, and the world heritage Barrington Tops, Copeland, and Gloucester Tops are only a short drive away.”
Carawirry Forest Escape
A 90-minute drive from Newcastle in the town of Main Creek, Carawirry Forest Escape is the passion project and happy place of its owners John and Heather Watkins.
Here, you’ll find four super comfortable, charming private cabins spread across 250 acres of picturesque Australian hardwood forest. Catering for couples, families, and groups of friends, there’s The Treehouse (sleeps eight), Gum Leaf Cabin (sleeps six), The Cottage and The Nook (sleeps six), and Tathra House and The Humpty (sleeps six).
Describing Carawirry as “blissful eco-luxury”, Heather says it’s a place rich with “old growth timbers, seasonal creeks and waterfalls, natural pools, rainforest trails and tree-topped mountains and birds who know some seriously good tunes and sky-high trees”.
Sit by the fire, soak in the tub, take a walk, explore the forest, go fishing, mountain biking, or find a cosy corner in your cabin and just relax.
Set to open next year and one to add to your future to-stay list is Gilay Estate. Located around three hours northwest of Newcastle in Quirindi, it will feature three luxury off-grid huts nestled into a hill overlooking the scenic Liverpool Plains.
“The genesis of this project came from the joy I have seen from my friends coming to experience this area over a weekend or a few nights and wanting to create a space for others to enjoy such a time,” says Sandy Rogers, who is opening Gilay with her fiancé Alexandra Gawthorne.
Each hut will be solar-powered and will include modern comforts, like air conditioning, internet, and flushing toilets.
“The Huts are private and intimate with a wrapping roof form providing protection from the elements, while also creating a warm internal setting that maximises views over the surrounding landscape,” explains Mudgee-based architect Cameron Anderson, who is designing the project.
For those that want to explore other attractions in the region, Rogers recommends Michael Reid Art Gallery and Magpie Gin Distillery in Murrurundi and gourmet grocer The Plains Pantry and Graze Restaurant in Willow Tree.