Why tiny homes are the next big thing

Staying in a tiny home is the latest new way to recharge and get back to basics. Head to the wilderness to discover why bigger isn’t always better.

Tiny homes are popping up all over Australia
  • Kaitlyn Palmer-Allen
  • May 2019

Sweeping the spotlight across the dark landscape, I freeze as the beam passes over a grey-brown mass about four metres in front of me. I look to my partner, whose wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression mirrors my own. This is the first time we’ve seen a wild wombat – and you can tell. As we try to contain our excitement, the rotund creature scurries beneath the fence and disappears into the bushes. Perhaps we weren’t so subtle but hey, it’s not every day two city girls spot a wombat from the bedroom window.

I’m in Coralie, a six-metre by 2.5-metre cabin tucked away on a 110-acre property in the Kangaroo Valley, about two hours’ drive south of Sydney. Operated by Unyoked opens in new window, a start-up with six eco-friendly tiny homes for rent across NSW and Victoria, this fun-sized hideaway offers stressed city slickers a chance to disconnect amidst nature.

Coralie is a cosy wilderness retreat in the Kangaroo Valley.
Coralie is a cosy wilderness retreat in the Kangaroo Valley.

As more homeowners downsize in a bid to simplify their lives and tackle rising property prices, staying in remote tiny homes is a growing travel trend, too, gaining popularity among environmentally conscious travellers.

Tiny homes began making headlines around 2016 but have really taken off in the past year or so. According to builder Grant Emans, who owns Designer Eco Tiny Homes opens in new window on the NSW South Coast, his business has increased “40-fold in three years” and builds for the holiday market are growing. “About 30 per cent of our orders are for rentals,” he says. Today, there are upwards of 13 tiny home holiday operators in NSW alone.

The houses themselves are just that – tiny – and typically built on a large trailer. But it’s incredible what can be done with such as small space – think caravan-style accommodation with more room to stretch.

Our home for the night is a private designer house on wheels. Most Unyoked cabins are located in secret, secluded spots and offer an off-grid adventure that starts before you even arrive. Twenty-four hours earlier, I’d received an email with coordinates to Coralie. On Google Maps, they pinpoint a seemingly uninhabited area not too far from civilisation but far enough that I panic at the thought of limited mobile reception. “That is exactly why I need this,” I tell myself. After following the directions, parking the car and loading up a wheelbarrow with supplies, the two of us set off through a paddock. As we make our way towards the cabin, the sound of birds calling to each other and the gentle trickling of a stream make the city seem a world away.

Unyoked cabins are designed for seclusion within the forest
The locations of Unyoked cabins are kept secret and revealed to each visitor only 24 hours prior.

To the north, lush green foliage crests a long, tall ridge, while rolling green hills dotted with wombat burrows extend to the east and south.

The tiny house is crafted from sustainable materials and is designed to make you feel like you’re part of the environment – there’s lots of timber and big, wide windows. It’s also got all the creature comforts you’d need for a weekend away; a ridiculously comfortable bed, solar power, hot shower, composting toilet, gas stove, bar fridge, plus a few extras like herbs for cooking and coffee. And for those of us who take a little longer than others to disconnect, there are USB power ports, too.

There’s no chance of running short of things to do here. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the cabin is stocked with a selection of novels and board games, but more to the point – there’s a huge property to explore. We opt to make a campfire and toast marshmallows and spend the evening listening to the rustling of bushes, shining our torches into the darkness and staring up at the stars.

It's as much about the setting as it is the accommodation when it comes to these wilderness retreats
It's as much about the setting as it is the accommodation when it comes to tiny homes.

By morning, I’ve spotted two wombats, one snake and countless birds and seen stars I’d never see in Sydney. As I settle into a camp chair, sip on hot coffee and watch the birds dance between the trees, I feel totally relaxed and suddenly understand the appeal of this kind of getaway – these unique dwellings may be small in size but they’re big on experience.

Need to know: Unyoked cabins cost from AUD $199 per night (weekday) or AUD $223 per night (weekend).