When Rachel White was young, she always loved driving on dirt roads because it made her feel like she was off the beaten track. So when she was establishing the “off-grid country oasis” Glenayr Farm in New South Wales, she made sure they built a 1km dirt driveway from the sealed main road to create a sense of arrival.
“The road winds through the farm and takes you over the hills and through the creeks and valleys to the beautiful view at the top. Then you see the beautiful luxury accommodation and a spectacular hot tub. It feels like you’re a million miles away from anywhere, even though it’s just 20 minutes from [popular tourist town] Mudgee.”
The wood-fired Stoked Stainless hot tubs were a big investment, both in terms of the upfront outlay and the ongoing costs to run them in such a remote location, but she says it’s been totally worth it.
“The most Googled search for accommodation is ‘outdoor bathtub’ or ‘hot tub’. Bathtubs are a big thing, but they’re everywhere so that’s why I wanted to do something a bit different. Now 80% of the customers come because of the hot tubs, so it’s been brilliant for us.”
As there is no easily accessible water source at the farm, water to fill the tubs is shipped in by truck, which makes it expensive.
And while there’s something rustic and ancient about setting a fire, Rachel says they decided to add a gas hot water system for the initial fill because when guests arrived from the city (it’s about four hours from Sydney) they were often tired and didn’t have enough time to start the fire and heat the water before they went to bed.
“Now they come in, turn it to the desired temperature, and 40 minutes later it’s ready. People love how convenient it is. And because of the insulation in the tubs the water stays hot for the whole time they want to be in there. Then they use the fire to keep it warm.”
She tells guests to put one log on to burn slowly through the night, set their alarm for before sunrise, jump in the hot tub with a cup of tea and watch the kangaroos grazing.
“They all think it’s a pain in the neck getting up that early, but they all say it’s absolutely worth it if they do.”
At the other end of the day, one of Glenayr Farm’s other star attractions is the dam dining, where guests can eat their dinner on a platform built over the water and watch all the wildlife come up to get a drink at sunset.
Glenayr Farm has two accommodation options: glamping tents and private villas.
The four glamping tents can house eight people and they have a shared kitchen, lounge, fire pit area and hot tub (there’s also a bunk house close by where another eight guests can sleep).
“The glamping tents are geared for groups, and on the weekend it’s groups only. They all share the hot tub, which is fine when it’s a group that knows each other, but during the week, whoever books the first tent gets exclusive access to the tub if they pay an extra $100 to cover the costs of water, gas, wood and cleaning.”
The two high-end villas include their own kitchen, bathroom, fire pit and hot tub.
“They are separated and completely private so you can run around buck naked and no-one can see you.”
As she manages the property remotely from Sydney, they needed hot tubs that would be easy to clean and maintain. And because the temperature can reach the mid-40s during the summer and can get down to -4 in winter, they needed to be hardy enough to handle the famously tough Australian conditions. The Stoked Stainless models have passed with flying colours, she says.
“They’re very easy to use. You don’t need to worry about getting the chemicals right because you just empty the water, give it a clean and fill it up again. And as well as warming guests up at night, we also tell them to put a few bags of ice in there and use it as a plunge pool in summer.”
Originally, she didn’t buy covers for the tubs as the accommodation was regularly booked out and the water was refilled, but she eventually added them to stop leaves and dust getting in.
Rachel says her “hero shot” of Glenayr Farm is a woman in the hot tub at sunset.
“That gets the most interaction. I use it for brochures and online marketing and send it to the media. It gets so much coverage here.”
In fact, she claims she’s basically a saleswoman for Stoked Stainless now.
“I probably get one or two people a month asking about the hot tubs because they’re looking to buy one. And I tell them I love them. They’re fantastic.”