Rawnsley Park Eco Villas
Flinders Ranges, South Australia
The spectacular Flinders Ranges in outback South Australia make an unforgettable backdrop to one of the state's most unique eco accommodation properties.
Located on Rawnsley Park Station, 430km north of Adelaide, the Rawnsley Park Eco Villas are not only set in an awe-inspiring area, with so much to explore and many adventure experiences to be had, but they prove that environmentally-friendly definitely does not have to mean spartan or budget!
This beautiful accommodation gives a light and airy feel the moment you walk through the door, and the ample windows seem to bring the amazing views right into the building, and to provide the perfect frame for the magnificent mountains in the relatively close distance. And not only do the windows give you a link to the outdoors, but skylights located over the beds allow you to enjoy the wonders of the often clear, dark night skies that the area is well known for. What better way to end a memorable day than with stargazing as you drift off to sleep?
With quality furnishings and little added luxuries throughout, these Eco Villas make an ideal base for the discerning traveller who not only wants a bit of real comfort to come home to after an invigorating day in the Ranges, but also likes to lower their 'ecological footprint' as they travel.
They are fully self-contained, with fully equipped kitchens, including microwave and dishwasher, and bathrooms just made for relaxing, containing a 2 person bath, lovely shower, bath robes and toiletries. A TV/DVD player setup is provided for winding down after a busy day out. Each Villa also has its own laundry facilities. A wide selection of breakfast provisions are provided and guests also have the option of dining in the fascinating Woolshed Restaurant on the property or ordering a meal or BBQ pack to be brought to their Villa. The wide verandas overlooking spectacular terrain make it ideal to fire up the barbie provided, and enjoy a relaxing meal, watching the sun set in a blaze of glory across the outback sky.
A complimentary bottle of South Australian wine and cheese plate is provided on arrival, and quality coffee and tea provisions are provided.
| The Eco Villas do have reverse cycle air conditioning, because of the extremes in temperature, but this is often not needed due to their clever thermal design features.
There are 8 Villas in total, each with names to reflect the local flora: Acacia, Sandalwood, Cypress, Casuarina, Redgum, Mallee, Salt Bush and Hakea.
The Eco Villas were designed by Paul Downton (Ecopolis Architects), an Adelaide architect whose environmentally sustainable architecture is acclaimed internationally and have many materials and features designed to make them environmentally-friendly.
There is a tiny viewing window in place, which allows guests a peek into their internal strawbale construction.
They also fit in nicely with their surroundings and are laid out in a manner which gives each Villa privacy and a feeling of being really in nature.
Rawnsley Park Station is owned by Tony and Julieanne Smith, who have an obvious love for this magnificent area and have put a great deal of thought and effort into making Rawnsley Park a truly special place to stay. We chatted to Tony Smith to get some in depth information on the Eco Villa project and what Rawnsley Park has to offer visitors.
Tony, what made you decide to build the Eco Villas?
From an environmental standpoint, we wanted buildings that were thermally efficient and also reflected the character of the region. I think that the rendered straw bales does both.
The main motivation from the tourism/business standpoint was to develop some high quality accommodation to help provide customers to the restaurant. The project developed into a more artistic/boutique accommodation when we became involved with Paul Downton of Ecopolis Architects.
When were they built and how long did they take to construct?
The first 4 were built in 2005/06 – opened in June 2006- and took about 9 months.
The second 4 were built in 2008/09 and only took 6 months.
What was the cost of each Villa?
The 1br Villas cost $250,000
The 2br Villas cost $350,000
This includes all the earthworks, plumbing, electrical & furnishings.
What things did you consider when planning and designing this project?
- Fit in with their surroundings
- Create as little site and vegetation disturbance as possible
- Have a low 'footprint'
- Give guests a sense of living within the natural environment
- Provide accommodation which was of a high standard
Did you encounter any problems or unexpected obstacles that you had to overcome?
Hard Rock! The site is not the easiest for excavation. We pulled out a couple of car-size rocks on the Villa 8 site!
Architects – we had some anxious moments getting the plans ready in time to proceed with the building on schedule. We started building before building rules had been approved – that could have ended in tears.
The plasterer on the first lot of villas held up the schedule that resulted in a close call to be finished in time for the first bookings in Easter 2006.
The skylight covers that we had constructed were very troublesome. We eventually gave up on them & purchased standard Velux blinds for the skylights.
Amazingly, we had no problems with planning approval or building design – even though we know of some council areas that have issues with straw bale construction.
What materials were used in their construction, and why were they chosen?
Steel shed frame & suspended concrete slab to provide thermal mass, yet minimise site disturbance. (termite resistance, low site disturbance)
Straw bale construction for the walls (470mm thick). Straw provides the highest thermal insulation available (R12) and the render also adds to the thermal mass of the building. (insulation, aesthetic similarity to stone buildings)
Timber window frames & floors. (rustic, softer country look) Recycled oregon for window frames and door frame.
Corrugated galvanised roofing, rainwater tank, mini-orb. (outback connection)
What eco-friendly features do they have?
The use of passive solar design principles to provide thermal efficiency and minimise energy consumption.
Passive heating and cooling – the villas take advantage of the large diurnal temperature range that is experienced in the Flinders Ranges. Other features include over-hanging eaves and verandahs to shade walls, raked ceilings with a closable vent at the apex to provide whole-of-room ventilation and a concrete slab floor to provide thermal mass.
Straw bale construction – straw bales were selected for their thermal insulation properties. In addition to the insulation properties of the straw itself, the bales are rendered on both sides, which also help in keeping temperature change to a minimum.
Thermal mass in the suspended cement slab.
Raked ceilings, ceiling fans and venting.
Recycled Timber – recycled Oregon has been used for window frames and doors. All windows are double-glazed and windows that get direct sunlight have reflective film tinting.
Water waste treatment – the Biolytix system uses a polythene tank that has alternate layers of peat soil and polythene tubes that create an environment where bacteria can naturally treat organic matter. It requires minimal power to operate while delivering highly treated water suitable for subsurface irrigation.
A 9kw solar array provides for about 60% of the power needs.
Low energy lighting- compact fluorescent globes and LED down-lights minimise energy usage from lighting, and all appliances have been chosen for their energy efficiency.
Each villa has a 4,500-litre rainwater tank that provides water for drinking purposes. In addition, water is obtained from a bore that draws from the groundwater aquifer.
Site selection – minimising vegetation disturbance by careful location of the villas and control of site disturbance and access during the construction process was integral to the finished product. Carefully sited on a secluded ridge-line, their part elevation on a suspended slab enables the villas to capture close views of the surrounding native pines and maximise distant vistas of the ranges beyond. The deep window reveals created by the straw bale walls appear to frame and accentuate these views.
The provision of bulk cereal jars for breakfast provisions, rather than individual serves, and the introduction of bulk shampoo, conditioner and soap in pump dispensers. This move has enabled us to reduce waste and has been well-received by visitors.
Food scraps are collected in under sink bins for 'recycling' through our chickens!
Changing our toilet paper and tissue supplier to one made from recycled paper.
Your Eco Villas hold Advanced Ecotourism Accreditation- give us an idea of the requirements you have to meet to obtain, and hold this accreditation?
- Energy efficiency
- Renewable energy contribution
- Waste management
- Local community involvement
- Local environmental initiatives
- Global environmental awareness
I believe your Eco Villas won some awards- what were they?
2006 – SA Tourism Awards (New Tourism Development)
2010 – SA Tourism Awards (Ecotourism)
2011 – SA Tourism Awards (Ecotourism)
What other environmentally friendly aspects have you added to Rawnsley Park in general, both in infrastructure and the way you do things?
The Eco Villa’s sister property, Arkapena Homestead, also has many sustainable design features, including low energy lighting, a solar hot water system, double glazing to windows and ‘comfort glass’ to doors and three rainwater tanks which provide all water requirements.
Development of a groundwater recharge system at the caravan park. Construction of a dam in 1992 was originally seen as a freshwater supply, but we now use this water to re-charge the aquifer and draw the water from a bore drilled in 1998. We have been able to increase bore water quantity and also reduce salinity form 900ppm to 450ppm over the last 14 years.
|Heritage Agreement with DENR over 1040ha of land including Rawnsley Bluff. This area joins the National Park so it is effectively an extension of the park. We would like to work closely with DENR to control feral animals and re-establish native plants. We would also like to re-introduce Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies to Rawnsley Bluff. Guided walks to the foothills of Rawnsley Bluff provide detailed information on the ecology of the area.
Operation Bounceback – Rawnsley Park Station supports this initiative, which aims to restore population of Yellow footed Rock wallabies in the Flinders, by staging evening presentations on the environment of the Flinders Ranges for a gold coin donation. In 2010/11 we donated $400 to the program as a direct result of this initiative.
A greater focus on the 4WD Tours in providing detailed information on the geology/ecology of the area.
Engaging in the process of transferring the sustainable cleaning and maintenance practices of the eco-villas to the rest of the property.
Participating in aligning the property with the culture and procedures to participate in current and up-to-date Eco-Accreditation on as many levels and areas of operation as possible.
Participating in Climate Action Australia accreditation.
Recycling of plastic, glass and aluminium.
Paper is stored for use in the fire briquette making machine at Wilpena.
Use of micro fluoro light globes.
Care of vehicles and conservative driving practices.
Promoting awareness of sustainability issues to staff and guests.
What plans do you have to expand your eco-friendly features in the future and lessen your eco “footprint” even further?
We would like to expand the solar power generation on site.
Plans to re-vegetate approx 100ha of the Heritage area with native grasses and shrubs.
Tell us why environmental sustainability and eco-friendly practices are so important to you? What makes this something that you are passionate about?
We think of the Flinders Ranges as home. My family have been living in the Flinders since 1884. We have contributed to some of the degradation in the past and now we have the opportunity to contribute to the knowledge base to develop a sustainable land use in the Flinders.
We are currently running approx 2000 Merino x Dohne sheep on the property. We hope to demonstrate that conservative stocking rates are sustainable with careful management. This can provide the economic production to provide the resources for pest management and monitoring on the property.
What are some of the special things people who visit may see and experience at Rawnsley Park and the nearby area?
Scenic Flights – view the scale of Wilpena Pound and the surrounding area.
Sunset on the Chace – 4WD tour with gourmet nibbles at the top of the Chace Range.
Outback Ballooning – float over the landscape at sunrise.
Bushwalking – the seven marked trails on the property.
The Landscape – the colours of the ranges as the sun sets.
Is there anything else you would like to tell people who might be thinking of staying with you and exploring the area?
I think that there is a growing realisation that the Flinders Ranges offers such a diverse outback experience in a relatively compact area. If we are able to develop the accommodation, experiences and service to attract the ‘Experience Seeker’ then we will become one of the ’must do’ destinations in Australia. The combination of spectacular landscape, earth history, and native wildlife is a combination that is quite addictive to many people.
Rawnsley Park also has a caravan park, bunkhouse and very comfortable self-contained holiday units, so there's an accommodation style to suit all tastes and budgets.
Rawnsley Park Eco Villas have attracted people from all over the globe. Here are a few of the Comments from the Visitor Books:
"What an unforgettable experience it has been to stay in this stunning villa in its magnificent setting. We have fallen in love with the Flinders Ranges- its colours, the silence, the ancient grandeur- You, and Mother Nature, have done everything to perfection."
"Painting in the Flinders (staying in shearer's quarters with artists friends & art groups) has always inspired me. Eco Villa 'Cypress'- the Buckingham Palace of the Ranges- captures the grandeur and atmosphere of all that surrounds us. Exploring the gorges & ranges with our Tour Guide, whose knowledge and passion he shared with us- what a memorable day! As the sun set we 'revelled' in the silence and grace."
"What a beautiful villa with all the comfort you can wish in a beautiful neighborhood. The tour and the scenic flight were marvellous. Gave us a good impression of the Flinders Ranges. Thanks a lot."
"A relaxing weekend. Lovely scenery and the birdlife alongside the villa was tremendous. Sturt Desert Pea growing wild on the Martin's Well to Wirrealpa road absolutely made the day. Vivid, spectacular."
"Beautiful place. Wish we had more time here. Scenery and history here are fascinating- not to mention the wildlife. Very glad we came to this part of Australia."
"What a fabulous experience! Such wonderful luxury! We'll come back for a longer stay for sure! The beauty and peace and quiet is sensational! Thank you."
"Absolutely awesome stay. Gorgeous accommodation & fantastic service! Highly recommended too."
"A great stay in a spectacular location. What took us so long to see the magnificent Flinders Ranges?"
...So, what's taking you so long? Discover the Flinders Ranges on your next holiday and consider making Rawnsley Park Eco Villas your base for adventure!
Rawnsley Park Station
South Australia 5434