Unusual accommodation in Australia: Nine quirky stays to add to your bucket list

From caves and gaol cells to grain bins and broken-down trucks, Mark Daffey checks in to some of Australia's unique experiences.


Hankering to leave modern life behind? Wishing you could somehow return to a more primitive lifestyle? Well, look no further. At Love Cabins in the Blue Mountains, you can stay in a cave … truly! But this is no ordinary cave, for it comes with concertina doors that frame stupendous views over the Wollemi Valley, a queen-size bed, kitchenette, wood-fired heater and, wait for it, a spa bath – perfect for soothing sore, tired muscles after a day's hunting, I imagine. lovecabins.com.au


Hopetoun has become a popular stopover for travellers doing the Silo Art Trail through the Wimmera and Mallee regions in Victoria's north-west. There's free camping at Lake Lascelles, just east of the town centre, but a range of accommodation options is available in the lakeside Mallee Bush Retreat, including two farm silos, or grain bins, each sleeping two guests for as little as $30 a night. Sticking with the farmstay theme, there are also repurposed cowsheds and stables to sleep in. hopetounvictoria.com.au/accommodation


After more than 100 years, South Australia's Old Mount Gambier Gaol closed its doors in 1995 when the heritage-listed limestone building was replaced by a more modern penitentiary. Its new owners now let out former prison cells to guests for as little as $30 a night. Cells 20-25 have been converted into double rooms, with or without bathrooms; Cell 27 can fit a family of four. There are communal living areas and kitchen, a sports bar, cafe and meditation garden. theoldmountgambiergaol.com.au


Where do train carriages end up when they retire? At the Glass House Mountains Ecolodge in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, it seems. Two carriages – a 60-year-old Queenslander, and a Victorian-era relic – have been fitted with double beds, ensuites, kitchen and living spaces and decking overlooking orchards and rainforest areas. There's also a huge 125-year-old timber church for two guests. glasshouseecolodge.com


Set in woodland in South Australia's Gawler Ranges, the three eco-friendly luxury tents at Kangaluna Camp come furnished with handmade timber beds, while two new bell tents feature ensuite bathrooms. For a unique stay, book the "Swagon" – a cowboy wagon with swag bed and roll-back canvas roof offering heavenly stargazing. gawlerrangessafaris.com

Kangaluna Camp.

Kangaluna Camp. Photo: SATC/Peter Fisher


Anyone who's driven along Victoria's Great Ocean Road between Anglesea and Lorne will have seen The Pole House, perched atop a concrete pedestal overlooking Fairhaven Beach. Designed in the 1970s and updated in 2014, this couples-only retreat has all mod-cons – couches reclining at the press of a button, electronically controlled blinds, a fireplace suspended from the ceiling – so just sit back and soak in the views. greatoceanroadholidays.com.au


The North Star Hotel, in the town of Melrose in South Australia's Flinders ranges, dates back to 1854. It includes boutique hotel accommodation upstairs or four retro-styled rooms in the historic cottage next door. Far more interesting, though, are the beds on wheels out back. Two ex-military trucks – one red, one green – feature a mezzanine sitting room, bedroom and bathroom, all beneath cathedral ceilings. One even has a Juliet balcony. northstarhotel.com.au



Reefworld is a pontoon moored off Hardy Reef, east of Airlie Beach, popular with day trippers who come to swim over the Great Barrier Reef. But the place really weaves its magic once the day-trippers leave. A few fortunate guests can stay in Reefsuites below the water's surface, watching ocean life as turtles, sharks and rays drift past floor-to-ceiling windows as you lay in bed. cruisewhitsundays.com

Reefworld, Queensland.

Reefworld, Queensland. Photo: Getty Images


Van life has reached new heights at Notel, a rooftop trailer park in Melbourne's CBD. Guests can stay in one of six sleek Airstream trailers, one of which comes with an outdoor spa. Each suite contains a queen-size bed, bathroom, free minibar and Wi-Fi. Valet parking is also complimentary. notelmelbourne.com.au

Notel, Melbourne.

Notel, Melbourne. Photo: Supplied

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale July 25. To read more from Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.