Staying in a Hobbit House for the Night
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
This cave-cabin might be the closest you can get to sleeping like Gandalf.
Outside of Sydney, the Blue Mountains top many tourists’ bucket lists, and for good reason: The edge of the sandstone cliffs is only an hour from the city by public transit, and the mountains are home to those gorgeous eucalyptus trees that give them their name and cover them in a blue haze. And visitors can take it all in by staying in a cliff-top cave.
The “Enchanted Cave” is a sprawling hobbit-esque room with a view, overlooking a pristine precipice untouched by modern technology. The refurbished cave, with a poured ceiling and an open-air entrance, rests on a natural rock ledge. There’s a full kitchen carved into the rock and a bathroom boasting an eco-friendly (and flushable) compost toilet. Creature comforts include kangaroo pelts and a slow-combustion wood heater. And if you find yourself missing modernity? A sliding stone slab reveals a hidden television set. Best of all, the front porch view reveals a spectacular rain forest, the magma remains from an ancient volcano and a sky so clear that you can see constellations vividly.
A romantic weekend of playing Tarzan and Jane will set you back roughly $1,550.
Lionel Buckett discovered the cave five years ago while walking the bushland his family has owned since the ’50s. Inspired by a childhood of building tree forts and hobbit homes, he committed to the project in late 2014, and lived in the cave while building it, finishing in April. It opened to holiday-seekers only recently. The idea had another draw: With increasing bushfires in the region, it made sense to add a fireproof solution to his mostly timber collection of cabin rentals. “The cave just doesn’t burn,” the 55-year-old says. Buckett’s decades of experience building eco-friendly homes came in handy too. Passive solar energy helps keep the cabin warm and hot water is boiled by the in-house furnace.
Be warned: Your peaceful escape might be interrupted by some of nature’s playful critters. Like an endangered owl that “makes a noise like the whistling of a bomb in a World War II movie,” Buckett laughs. If you don’t have a car, getting to the heart of the Blue Mountains is possibly the hardest part. Buckett’s secretary, Nikela Stafford, says you can “wrangle a lift with the school bus and then wander a few kilometers to the cabins.” Or try finding a taxi in Australia’s wild high country. Public trains and buses can take you two hours of the way, but that last half-hour is a downhill hike.
The only other downside? A romantic weekend of playing Tarzan and Jane will set you back roughly $1,550. Which some of the regular cabin renters find too pricy. Tanya Georges from Blackheath, a Sydney suburb, regularly rents out Brantwood Cottage, another high-end Blue Mountains accommodation, for about $640 in peak season. “Some charge $325–$400 a weekend,” Georges notes.
But where else can you sleep in a cave-cabin, channeling your inner Gandalf, and live on the edge of a cliff that looks over a prehistoric world? “If you looked a million years ago, you would have seen the same thing,” Buckett says.