Adventure | 14th March 2020

Sustainable Travel at Heartwood Cabin, Byron Bay Hinterland

Travel writer Nina Karnikowski heads off for a micro-cation in Byron Bay and shares her top tips on travelling sustainably.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk

So this book writing thing. Before I actually did it, I’d imagined I might head to a dreamy remote cabin somewhere, spending just a few hours each morning scribbling in a notebook before heading out for bushwalks and afternoon yoga sessions. The reality, now that I’ve finished my book Make A Living Living? Well, let’s just say it looked a lot more like me hunched over my computer, at home, for 12 hours a day for months on end, in my pyjamas.

Anyway, at the tail end of it, I decided I needed a reward. One involving just the kind of cabin I had been envisaging but never actually got for the writing process. But since I have been taking a break from long-haul travel, while I figure out how to minimise the massive amounts of carbon I have been burning in my job as a travel writer, my man Pete and I opted for a ‘microcation’ - two days in a luscious eco-cabin named Heartwood, just a 30-minute drive away from our house in the Byron Bay hinterland. An off-grid hideaway seemed like the perfect place to take my new Teva Original Dorado sandals, which 100% of their iconic straps are now made using recycled plastic.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk

On a Thursday afternoon we threw our bags in the car and drove along the bush-lined roads to the town of Burringbar, where Heartwood sits on a lush hillside. The simple yet sophisticated charcoal wood cabin blends in seamlessly with the 100 acres of revegetated bushland that surrounds it, and the minute we walked inside we were jotting down design ideas for our future home. Run completely on solar and tank water, the front of the cabin opens onto a spacious deck overlooking the silvery gums, with a bathtub sunken into it. I filled it immediately and lay in there soaking for hours, reading and watching the birds fly overhead, and looking out over the valley below.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk
Shop the Original Dorado

After months of long, tense work hours, our time at Heartwood was a salve for our weary souls. We cooked nourishing meals, lay on the lounges drinking tea and reading, watched the sunset turn the sky apricot and rose, then stargazed on the deck. The next morning, after tea in bed and a bushwalk through the property, we jumped in the car and headed to nearby Wooyung beach for a dip. Then, because we missed her too much and just because we could since we were so close, we stopped off at home for cuddles and a walk with our dog Milka, before heading back to the cabin.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk

By the time we left Heartwood, we were both convinced that these sorts of mini-breaks are the way forward, and the thing that will help all of us become more sustainable travellers. A couple of big overseas trips a year is the maximum we should really be doing, interspersed with a few of these smaller local trips – still hugely rejuvenating, but without the massive carbon burn, and allowing us to look at our own towns with fresh eyes. This can have the knock-on effect of making us better custodians of the land on which we stand most of the time, as well as better ambassadors for our countries whenever we travel abroad.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk


Packing less is better for your wallet (no extra luggage fees) and the planet, since the heavier your bag, the more fuel the plane needs. Not buying a new holiday wardrobe helps keep the kilos down, and if there are essentials you need for your trip, look for second-hand items, sustainable brands and timeless pieces.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk

Almost every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet, including 70 billion or so plastic water bottles, which is a terrifying thought. You can do your bit to reduce disposable plastics while travelling by packing things like a reusable water bottle, KeepCup, metal food container and cotton tote for shopping.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk

Choosing locally-owned and run hotels, cabins and campsites means your tourist dollar is going back into local communities. Prioritise those that are making concerted efforts to reduce waste, energy and water consumption, and that are built with natural materials.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk

Going fewer places and spending more time in each lessens your carbon footprint, since there’s less transport involved. Instead of ticking off dozens of places, sights and activities, slow travel lets you fall into the rhythm of the daily lives of the locals, so you can learn more deeply about their culture, customs, food and language.

Sustainable Travel in Byron Bay with Nina Karnikowsk

If you’re in a hotel, ask staff to please not clean your room every day to save energy and water, turn off the lights and air-conditioning when you leave your room, and bring your own toiletries, because those tiny plastic bottles of shampoo, soap and lotion are extremely wasteful.

Written by Nina Karnikowski. Photography by Peter Windrim
Blog – Travels with Nina
Instagram – @travelswithnina

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