Located about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, Kimo Estate promises the exact opposite of city life: starry skies, seclusion, serenity and, if you’re staying at one of its three eco huts, a smokey soak in a wood-fired hot tub.
David Ferguson, who grew up on the 7000-acre farm near Gundagai and now lives there with his wife and two children, says the idea to extend into accommodation and weddings began when they started renting two self-contained cottages next to the wool shed and animal yards.
“Essentially, we were looking to become a premium rural resort that’s operating a fully-fledged, reasonably large farming operation while the guests are here. And the guests love the whole experience. One of the things they love most is that they might not see another person the whole time they’re there.”
Due to the popularity of the cottages, Ferguson says they decided to expand the accommodation options and built one architecturally-designed, off-grid A-frame hut on a hilltop.
“We were expecting two days a week of bookings, but it was pretty quickly sold out for 6-12 months in advance.”
Two more A-frame huts were built soon after on neighbouring hilltops and, in an effort to make one of them more desirable, they decided to add a hot tub, which is where they came across Stoked Stainless.
“They just looked better made than the other all-timber options and they weren’t prohibitively expensive,” he says. “We wanted them to look really schmick and they did. They just fitted the bill perfectly.”
While Stoked’s electric spas may have been an option in the city, the huts run on solar power so they opted for a wood-fired version. And because the hut with the hot tub was by far the most popular, he says it justified the decision to eventually add hot tubs to the two other huts (more huts are planned for Kimo Estate, but the three existing eco huts will be the only ones with tubs and they will maintain their premium pricing).
Ferguson had to invest $120,000 in water infrastructure to ensure they could fill the tubs up every day (you never waste your water in Australia, of course, so they’ve planted a range of bee and bird-attracting native trees below where they are emptied) and wood, which staff take to each hut, isn’t cheap either, so it has been a big investment.
“But the smoke coming out the chimney is really cool and you can smell the timber burning. It’s got that Nordic smell and feel about it … We’ve got that Instagrammable thing that people are searching for here at Kimo Estate and the tubs really tie in well with that. Everyone takes a photo of themselves when they’re in there. And they’re bloody good to use. When we have the occasional late cancellation, we might duck up and have a champagne there ourselves!”
He says they get a lot of enquiries about the hot tubs from guests and other accommodation providers.
“I’m sure quite a few of our guests have got one for themselves. And we see these other places pop up on Instagram with their own tub, too.”
Gundagai can get 20 frosts in the winter and 10-15 days over 40 degrees in the summer, so it’s a harsh environment for the tubs to be in and they also get a huge amount of use.
“They take a punishing and I reckon they hold up very well under pressure. They’re also easy to maintain. We just give the cedar a coat of something every year.”
Ferguson says the Stoked Stainless hot tubs have been a great addition to their remote rural retreat and really add something special to the rustic vibe.
“It’s self-check-in, so guests go up to the hut, they spend however long up there, get in the tub and leave at check-out time a day or two later. It’s all about disconnecting you from the mad world of the city … There are no TVs, you’re high on a hill, looking out over the river flats, in the middle of nowhere. There’s nothing better.”