Inspire

I Found My Zen At This Off-Grid Tiny House Near The Hunter Valley

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As I sit here typing, I have no internet, I’m about two and a half hours drive from Sydney, the only sounds are the gentle snorts and rustles of animals and a very distant tractor, and I’m so zen I’ve just about forgotten I’m meant to be back in the city by now.

The tiny house trend is nothing new, but it has been seeing a steady increase in popularity. This is my first foray into this almost-but-not-quite camping world though, and I finally understand the hype.

My destination is Tiny Away’s Maggie’s Farm Stay in Howe’s Valley. One of the biggest pulls to come here is to switch off completely — there’s no reception so there’ll be no temptation to get online.

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty much always lost, so heading into anywhere without reception makes me nervous. Sure, I’ll admit I’m a bit of an Instagram addict too, but at least I know I’ll be content replacing my late-night scrolling with a good book. The no Google Maps though? That’s a worry.

Nevertheless, the pull of a “sanctuary for wildlife like kangaroos, wallabies, wombat and goannas” that also has farm animals was enough to put aside my nerves. Not to mention the photos were, quite simply, idyllic. Plus I read this guide on what to expect from a tiny house, so I felt prepared.

Getting There

I left Sydney early the day before, planning to make a stop in the Hunter Valley first to stock up on good wine and plenty of cheese for my night (almost) completely off-grid.

I took about an hour’s detour to head up to Pokolbin first, on the hunt for sparkling red wine I’d found a few years earlier — if only I could remember the winery.

Bottom line, I couldn’t remember, so instead, I wound up at the Ridgeview Wines cellardoor, which Google told me also had sparkling red. I wasn’t disappointed and bought more bottles than I should have. I also stopped in the Smelly Cheese Shop, because obviously.

If someone else had been driving, I probably would have spent a little longer in the Hunter, which was only about an hour from my final destination. There’s plenty of time to relax at your destination in the afternoon, so you may as well make the drive part of the adventure.

I brought a friend with me but she doesn’t drive, so I topped up the groceries with some more food essentials (you’ll need to BYO drinking water) at Woolies before hitting the road, excited to reach the tiny house long before sunset.

I lost reception about half an hour before my final turn off, which is ok because my maps were downloaded offline. Once you hit your final turn off, just keep heading straight until you hit number 35.

Checking In

My host — the epitome of everything you imagine when you think ‘farmer’ in all the good ways — meets me at the front gate, waving me in and later popping by to check I was settling in. I’d only been there about 3o minutes when he swung by, but let me tell you, I was settled.

The tiny house was just that, with a full kitchen (that I didn’t use, because wine and cheese), a separate bathroom (and no, the eco compost toilet didn’t smell at all) and a double bed. Nearly every wall was a ceiling to floor window, which was perfect for watching the roos watching me as I immediately pulled on warmer clothes and turned on the heating in the chill afternoon air.

It was set beside a large lake that my host informed me was popular for swimming in during summer, but right now just provided a stunning backdrop to the wide, open farm spaces surrounding my home for the night.

I’d requested a bag of firewood to be left at the property for me, which it was for an extra $20, along with kindling (and yes, I brought my own fire-starters, I don’t care if it’s cheating). After taking a million photos until the sun went down, I set up the fire and prepared the cheese plate.

It’s not exactly out of the ordinary to get time to myself to decompress, but normally it involves Netflix. I tell you, I didn’t miss it at all, and not just because I had a bit too much wine. I was glad for the company, as this is the type of setting that invites good conversation, but I would have been just as happy chilling on my own.

Image: Provided: Kassia Byrnes / Steph Panecasio

The stars out here are truly incredible — the kind you forget exist when you live in a city. There are no sounds except the cicadas and the occasional rustle of an animal that never comes into the light of the fire. Despite stupidly listening to a true horror podcast on the drive in, the isolation wasn’t scary though. It was zen.

The weird thing about being so in nature is that your body clock is suddenly in tune with the sun, and I was in bed reading by about 7pm, asleep within the next hour.

Things To Do

Despite the blinds I’d pulled on every window, I was still more or less awake with the sun the next day too — it didn’t feel draining though, I was fully refreshed from my early bedtime.

There are plenty of ways to stay entertained here for a longer stay — like bushwalking into the Yengo National Park and horse riding in Chapman Valley — but I’m only here for a night so I used my morning to go find the farm animals I’d been told about.

There’s a dramatic and beautiful mist over the lake and fields as I followed the direction I was told would take me to the animals. For me, the pigs were the winners, hands down the best farm animal.

Image: Provided: Steph Panecasio / Kassia Byrnes

Unfortunately, the real world and work called me back. So I packed up and headed back to the gate to make my journey home. Which yes, is where I got myself stuck.

It’s entirely my fault because I’d been sent an email with a code to open the box with the keys to unlock the fence and I just… didn’t take a screenshot. Then totally forgot the night before when I’d been let in. So pay attention to your instructions, mates!

Was I mad for a good excuse to spend more time here until my hosts answered the walkie talkie they left in the tiny house for emergencies? No, not at all.


AWOL stayed as a guest of Tiny Away.

(All images provided by the author unless otherwise noted. )