Though the mod-cons of our tech-driven lives may lead us to forget, we are all a part of nature.
Which explains why time outdoors has such a primal, calming effect on our minds and bodies – like a magical pill for the world’s constant distractions.
And although it feels almost too simple, the science backs it up: being immersed in nature can have an effect on everything from blood pressure to stress and mood, research shows.
So if you’re looking for both a soul-soothing getaway to calm your frazzled nerves and also to support businesses helping to protect habitats, build biodiversity and regenerate this precious land, we’ve found nine Australian Slow Stays where you can get your nature and wildlife fix.
Police once chased Ned Kelley and his infamous gang across the 54-acres of bush that houses Mittagong Talia, but now rather than being a haven for bushrangers it’s a sanctuary for native species as a registered Land for Wildlife property. It’s also part of Trust for Nature’s program to “restore, protect and manage biodiversity on private land” for future generations. The sustainably built, off-grid shack is appealing enough on its own but add the fact that being immersed in nature here is as easy as stepping onto the deck and Mittagong Talia tops the list. Reedy Creek babbles mere metres from the house and kookaburra’s flock to the surrounding gums, all creating a symphony at your doorstep. Nature walks, waterfalls and wildlife abound throughout the Woolshed Valley so strap your boots on and hit the hills. If you still can’t feel the magic of this landscape, which has entranced the Bpangerang people for millennia, the Bullawah Cultural Trail is a 2.4km nature walk through the stories of culture, spirituality, food and the significance of Country.
Kangaroo Island, SA
If staying in the heart of a 60-hectare designated wildlife sanctuary on Kangaroo Island isn’t magical enough for you, how about watching a puggle (baby echidna) amble slowly to its Mum? Or peeking at a roosting endangered red tail glossy black cockatoo through the leaves of Ecopia’s tall gums? Designed with the purpose of both treading gently and allowing guests to nature bathe in the distinctive, grass-tree dotted landscape, Ecopia’s two luxury, off-grid villas make an ideal base to explore from. Home to 16 endemic species of bird alone, the South Australian island is teeming with a population of cute, furry and unique wildlife you’ll only find in a handful of places in Australia. Owners Yael and Rob have spent a decade working with conservation organisations like Birdlife Australia (and Ecopia has been a monitoring site for glossy black cockatoos for three decades) to conserve and regenerate, while also encouraging guests to help keep wildlife wild. Everything from bathing in rainwater and walking mindfully on the earth – or just watching Kev the koala munch leaves from the lounge – will remind you that you’re always part of nature.
THE BARN AT NGUURUU
For 21,000 years the Ngambri, Wallabaloa and Pajong peoples lived in harmony with the seasons of this ancient landscape, gathering at bush camps along the Yass River’s banks to tell stories, connect and share food. Named by Ngambri Walgalu custodian Paul House (Nguurruu means camp) to honour this tradition and deep connection, the Barn at Nguurruu is both a chance to switch off in luxury and explore the native grasslands and 220-acre biodynamic farm that the rammed-earth barn sits on. Learn about how the farm operates regeneratively while producing a diversified set of crops like beef cattle, chickens, eggs and fruit and veg before heading back to camp to refresh in the pool or relax in the deluxe surrounds of the horse stables turned two-bed luxury villa.
Flanked by the Dial Range Forest Reserve, Gleneagle Tasmania sits on 110 glorious acres of incomparable Aussie nature. Twitchers, get those binoculars ready: the thriving forest – some of which is the result of a successful revegetation process – is home to more than 2000 flowering and native trees that attract more than 50 species of birdlife. Plus with Penguin Creek and a network of lush fern tree gullies traversing the property, platypus, freshwater crayfish and a whole host of land mammals (think Tassie Devils, quolls and echidna) live on or visit the property daily. You’ll even find a small cache of one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants, the Wollemi pine, as you roam.
Built in the style of NSW’s high country stockman huts – from an impressive 26 tonnes of granite rock and local, sustainably harvested timber – Mill Cabin is a rugged nature lover’s dream overlooking Thredbo Valley. Whether you’re chasing those winter wonderland feels or not, a stay here will thrill anyone that loves getting stuck into nature’s best whatever the weather. Set in the haunting sub-alpine landscape surrounding Thredbo and Jindabyne Lake, Mill Cabin’s local wildlife neighbours are as friendly as they are plentiful. Hit the hiking and cycling trails any time of year and you’ll likely meet Wilmer the wombat and a whole cast of emus, deer and wallabies too.
Lamington National Park, Qld
Nature appreciation and camping go hand-in-hand but if you’re a little less outdoorsy than your average tent fanatic, glamping is the upgrade you never knew you needed. And as far as glamping in one of the most ancient and impressive natural settings goes, few can hold a light to Nightfall. Surrounded by the lush and biodiverse Lamington National Park, home to the largest tract of remnant Gondwana rainforest in Queensland’s Scenic Rim, Nightfall takes wilderness camping to exceptional heights, one star-spangled, cicada-filled night at a time. Aside from playing games of spot the platypuses – who play in the creek that runs through the property – you can also hit the hiking trails in search of pademelons, wallabies and frogs. As a recipient of Eco-Tourism Australia’s Advanced Eco-Tourism Certificate, Nightfall takes its job as custodian seriously with sustainable practices in place plus an ongoing conservation program for the 257-acre site.
SECRET CABIN SOCIETY
Eerwah Vale, QLD
This is the kind of secret society everybody should know about. Surreptitiously sitting in the Noosa hinterland at Eerwah Vale, the simple shack is a hideout designed for escaping the madness and getting back to nature. Surrounded by thick rainforest and a clear stream cutting a path past the off-grid, recycled wood and tin structure handbuilt with love by owners Cathy and Carlos, it’s easy to feel immersed in the lush beauty around you without ever leaving the cabin. Even a relaxing swing in the hammock with a cuppa will yield a show as a cast of birds and native wildlife traverse the 50-acre property. If you want to leave your mark on the land in the best possible way, you can plant a tree in your name to contribute to the ongoing regeneration and preservation of these precious wilderness spots.
KESTREL NEST ECOHUT
Mount Adrah, NSW
Truly off-grid (say bye bye to WiFi), Kestrel Nest EcoHut is a bastion of sustainable stays, providing sanctuary for native habitats and species. Set on a 332-hectare regenerative farm on Wiradjuri Nation’s ancestral lands – just over two hours from Canberra – two-thirds of the sprawling property is safeguarded by an enduring covenant. Designed to protect the endangered habitat of Box Gum Grassy Woodland, the native grassland landscape is home to more than 140 bird species – one of them being the Slow Stay’s namesake. After wandering the bush trails and checking out the various rehab programs (tree planting and revegetation) take a tour with Farm for Habitat to see how Kestrel practises wildlife-friendly and low food-mile farming.
WANDER KANGAROO ISLAND
Middle River, SA
By nature, with nature could be the motto at Wander Kangaroo Island, perched on the north-facing bluff of the South Australian island, overlooking Snelling Beach. As an official Kangaroo Island Guardian and working with Bush Heritage Australia (each booking also sees $10 donated to the land management organisation), Wander not only works to lessen the impact of travel but also aims to protect and renew the biodiversity of the land it calls home. The off-grid pods are built and run with sustainable design principles and renewables, and Wander also helps build native land sanctuaries and partners with local operators and charities focused on conservation and regeneration for the optional experiences. It’s enough to make the glow of the nightly stargazing seen from the outdoor bath just a bit more sparkly.