Just behind the celebrity-laden beaches of Byron Bay, where time moves a little bit slower, and the air smells a little bit sweeter, sits Salty Cabin, an eco-friendly escape overlooking the Yelgun Valley and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
If Salty Cabin were used as a location in a movie, it would be the perfect spot for the hero or heroine to decamp while they recovered from a broken heart, wrote their best-selling novel, or realised what truly mattered in life.
We certainly felt like we were starring in a film as we drove up the bumpy, dirt track towards our destination. Salty Cabins is a short 30-minute drive away from the Gold Coast and northern NSW beaches, but with every kilometre, we drove inland we could feel our spirits rise, despite the inclement weather.
With the rain pouring down, we almost missed the makeshift wooden sign indicating our turn off towards our home for the night. We crept along the road, towering trees forming a barrier on either side of the car, unsure of what we’d find around the next hilltop.
What met our eyes as we turned off towards the small clearing was a sight so cinematic we at first wondered whether it was real. In front of us, small in stature but enormous in its effect, sat our home for the next 24-hours: The Cabin.
Newly finished, the environmentally-friendly, solar-powered wooden studio (built by partners David Wilkinson, Teagan Wilkinson and Ben Elyia –creator of Salty Cabins and Salty Builds) sits in the same field as The Camp: a yurt placed further behind the cabin. Each structure is screened off and invisible to the other, and both go for about $250 to $300 a night.
Both sites were built with the same premise – to offer a new way of travelling by providing off-grid sustainable escapes throughout Australia.
Eager to explore, we wheeled our overnight bags up the wheelchair-accessible ramp, onto the large decking jutting out from the cabin. Built with sustainable resources, the cabin perfectly straddles the eco and rustic world of design: vertical wooden slats carve out the bathroom from the kitchenette and bedroom, floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors provide a breathtaking view, no matter where you are inside.
Inside, it’s tiny, but perfectly formed: a vision of limewashed walls and benchtops, tactile cushions and earthenware crockery, a combination which complements, not competes, with the outside world. And what a world.
Overlooking the lush Yelgun Valley, the big blue of the Pacific Ocean twinkling in the distance, we felt as far away from everyday life as it’s possible to be. Since there’s no wi-fi available, and no owner’s manual with tourist site suggestions, you really are encouraged to switch off into the luxury and absolute bliss of having nothing to do, and nowhere to be.
The towns of Ocean Shores and Pottsville are just 15-minutes away, but once settled, we didn’t feel like leaving our enchanted site. Instead, we had stopped off at Pottsville on our way to the cabin for supplies. The small kitchenette is perfectly equipped – a stovetop for tea and coffee (ground coffee beans by local suppliers Moonshine Roasters); bar fridge, pots and pans meant we had everything we need to prepare our meals.
As the rain continued to beat down, we decided to fully embrace our day of enforced relaxation. We lit the wood-burning stove which quickly heated up the interior. There’s no table and chairs inside (these are soon to arrive the owner assures me), but you can lie on the queen-size bed — fitted with soft, earthen-coloured organic linen — or perch on the window sea. Both are ideal spots to watch the world below.
The soft calls of the kookaburras and fairy wrens in the surrounding trees, along with the sounds of rain dancing on the roof meant we quickly succumbed to an afternoon nap.
Thankfully, the rain had cleared when we woke and it was time to get outdoors. Is any visit to the great outdoors complete without your very own bathtub on the deck?
While the indoor toilet and shower are beautifully done (the toilet is compost) it’s the bathtub fit into the outdoor deck that’s the star of the show (second only to the view). We filled up the tub, and safe from prying eyes, watched the sunset through the clouds rising from the bathtub as they joined those with the valley below.
As the sky lit up with its farewell colours of pinks and purples, we headed outside to the firepit, a clearing just below the deck. We carried our wine, cheese and crackers with us and made ourselves comfortable on the canvas chairs, using the hewn tree stumps as tables. Wood is thoughtfully provided and placed under the ramp to stay dry.
We went on a brief search for sticks on which to roast our marshmallows, then sat back to watch the scene unfolding before us, welcoming the darkness and watching the stories amongst the flames.
An early night followed by an early rise, another bath on the deck to watch the sunrise with a cup of local coffee, and it was time to return to the real world.
It may have been a brief visit, but it felt like days, without devices, people and outside noise to distract us. We headed to Brunswick heads, the beach we had been able to see from the Cabin and watched the dolphins and whales play amongst the waves.
If we needed even more reasons to feel good about our getaway, there’s the knowledge that with every stay the owners donate $20 to Sea Shepherd Australia.
As we headed home, our car bumping down the dirt track towards the main road, we knew we would visit The Cabin again and again – just like re-watching one of our favourite films – to unwind, relax and remember just how happy we felt when we were there.
Where to eat
Before you arrive, stock up on local cheeses and wine at Bottle and Hoop, Brunswick Heads. Enjoy a beachside lunch before or after your stay at Yum Yum Tree Café at New Brighton, or stop off at Kingscliff along the coast road for a wide choice of meals to enjoy while overlooking the ocean.
If you’re heading towards Byron Bay take a short detour to Newrybar for some shopping and snacks. There’s Harvest Newrybar for delicious meals, or you can visit the deli for mouth-watering treats. If you are visiting The Cabin or The Camp on the weekend, most neighbouring towns hold farmers’ and artisan markets. Check here for listings.
(All images: provided by Salty Cabins)