Off-grid, on wheels and the only accommodation across from the iconic pink salt lake in Lochiel

There is something revitalising about the isolated existence of the eco-friendly, Pink Lake Tiny House, 130km from the Adelaide CBD and in full respect of the environment.

Words and images by Rebecca Gaitaneris | @bec_gaitaneris

“Where is it? It’s so tiny we’ll probably miss it,” I said over the music blaring from the car radio as we neared our destination.

On the left of Princes Highway, I gasped. There it was. 

“Oh,” I said as we pulled into the dirt driveway of the tiny house, “It’s really small.” 

This shouldn’t have come as a shock – “it” being a “tiny” house and its smallness being the selling point. 

Just like the photos online, the tiny house sits dwarfed by an old church, some eucalyptus trees, and the Jitter Bean Oasis Cafe. Its large window, on the narrow front side, stares patiently over the pink lake, waiting for it to reflect the evening sky at sunset. There’s nothing else and no one else within sight. Just me, my family, this tiny house, and a serene lake in front of us. Less than half an hour out of the Adelaide CBD, the small town of Lochiel feels a world away.

The tiny house balcony.
View of the pink lake from the tiny house balcony.

As I’ve been on my quest to explore South Australia’s backyard treasures and do so with minimal impact on the environment, I’ve become a little obsessed with tiny houses. I don’t know exactly what it is that is so intriguing to me, but I’ve always wanted to experience staying in one. Once I came across the Pink Lake Tiny House I knew this would be the perfect opportunity for me to experience tiny living and explore South Australia’s stunning and stimulating landscapes. 

I’ve never spent any time in a campervan, let alone a tiny house on wheels. Growing up, family holidays consisted of traditional hotels or the tried-and-true Airbnbs. So, buoyed up by the freedom of a unique adventure, I was keen to experience off-grid living in Lochiel. 

Love them or hate them, tiny houses are hard to overlook these days. They’re shared obsessively across Pinterest and seem to be complementing the ecotourism industry nicely. 

Once upon a time, ecotourism (ecologically sustainable tourism) was considered a niche concept, catering for tourists who not only have the desire to discover new places and experiences, but want to with the utmost respect for the environment. Our growing environmental conscience has helped boost this budding industry, and nowadays there’s no shortage of options for ecotourists and those who are like me and want to have as little impact on the environment as possible.

Joining the ecotourism industry this year was, in fact, the Pink Lake Tiny House. Born out of a trip to Lake Bumbunga, Lochiel, in which the owner and operator, Michael Seeliger identified the benefits of going off-grid, enjoying the simple life, connecting with the people you care about, and most importantly, reducing your carbon footprint. Having many years of experience within the international tourism industry, Michael and his wife became interested in the concept of tiny houses. “We were keen on placing a tiny house at a location in the Adelaide Hills, however planning approval from the local council was proving difficult,” he said.

Together with his wife, quality manufacturers and local tradespeople, Michael hatched a plan to build and place a tiny house directly across the pink salt lake (Lake Bumbunga), so others could experience the rewards of a truly unique and eco-friendlygetaway. When I asked him why he chose such a unique location to place his tiny house, Michael replied, “One day we visited Lake Bumbunga and saw many visitors coming to see the pink salt lake, but there were no places to stay nearby. So most people drive back to Adelaide and miss out on the stunning sunsets and sunrises.”

With the amazing views of Lake Bumbunga and its constantly changing colours from dawn till dusk, it was simply too good for Michael to pass up. He said his tiny house also provides local and international tourists with the unique opportunity to reconnect with nature withoutcompletely disconnecting from life, as they know it. 

The Pink Lake Tiny House officially opened its doors in July, and according to Michael, “The rest is history.” 

Tiny house on wheels and a trailer.

As the word ‘tiny’ suggests, the Pink Lake Tiny House is significantly small in size. “The tiny house footprint is approximately 17 square meters, with about 27 square meters of usage area (floor space) if the loft rooms are included,” Michael said. Hence, it is perhaps not suited to those easily freaked by the prospect of small spaces. When asked what considerations need to be taken when building a tiny house, Michael replied, “There are a number of restrictions that must be well-thought-out for a tiny house on wheels. If the house is longer than 9 meters it may cause structural problems for the trailer. So the maximum is usually 8.2 meters long.”

Inside, the Pink Lake House is far more spacious than I’d expected. 

‘Cabin fever’ is an expression for a reason. Cooped up, in a tiny house for days on end can send someone into a spiral of depression. You might hear the words “tiny house” and cringe at the thought of living like a sardine or maybe bumping into your significant other all day.

Well, the truth is that some tiny houses just might make you feel like a sardine, however, the Pink Lake Tiny House is intelligently designed to make the best use of its space, leaving ample room for activities. This tiny house maximises its space, making it possible to sleep up to four guests, with authentic Japanese futons in the upper loft area. The tiny house is rustic and charming, with the interior décor drawing inspiration from Japan, a place Michael once called home.

The cosy and compact loft style of the tiny house.

Besides being tiny and cute, the Pink Lake Tiny House has several other pull factors, which make it a desirable place in which to enjoy your unique getaway. For one thing, the modest Pink Lake Tiny House is eco-friendly and sustainable, a perfect way to experience nature at its finest. Electricity is produced by solar panels on the roof and stored in a battery for use at night.

Secondly, normal luxurious comforts like a hot shower need not be sacrificed when staying at the Pink Lake Tiny House. Water is collected on the roof and stored in a 5,000-litre tank with main water connected as a backup.

5,000 litre tank with main water.

But, what makes the Pink Lake Tiny House unique in this regard is the fact that all of the necessities that we take for granted are made available in an understated manner. The toilet is totally bio composting, using no water and creating no sewerage (thank god). The grey water from the sink and shower is filtered and runs to a plant bed. Though there were hints of camping life, we were hardly roughing it. 

Greywater plant bed.

Enjoying the unique aspects of the Pink Lake Tiny House can be done completely guilt-free, as your impact on the earth is very minimal.

After exploring the tiny house—which took all of five minutes—we ventured out to the pink lake. “Spanning some 15 square kilometres in size and a dramatic departure from the surrounding landscape, its pink colouration is always changing depending on the seasons, water level and sunlight,” Michael said. Lake Bumbunga comes from the Kaurna word, Parnpangka, which translates to “rainwater lake”. Luckily for us, the colour pink was in season. We were greeted with what I like to call a bubble gum explosion.

The perfect image of fluffy white cumulus clouds on a bright, blue background is mirrored in the water of the saltpan. I took a deep breath. The serene environment of the pink lake granted me the escape I needed from reality. I felt relaxed; peaceful; in tune with the ‘off-grid’ vibe.

I gazed wondrously across the pink lake, past the shrub and the bushland and I was reminded that I have not travelled far at all. This is still Australia; it’s just a small part. Many people can’t say they have experienced tiny living directly across from a pink lake. As I was about to rest my eyes, just for a second, nature woke me up. The calming breeze tickled my ear lobes. 

The iconic pink salt late (Lake Bumbunga).
The pink lake.

After exploring our surroundings, it was time to fully settle in and get ready for our first night in the tiny house. Time passed slowly, but it was a needed change of pace. There was nowhere we needed to be and nothing we needed to do. We prepared and ate dinner. We explored around the outside of the tiny house, barefoot. We watched the sunset, which was a stunning pink, purple and yellow affair. I had a long, hot shower. We played Cluedo and drank some (lots of) wine, before climbing up the ladder to our snug futons and drifting off to sleep listening to the wind gently rattle against the sides of the trailer.

The next morning we were woken by sunshine warming our faces through the skylight. I must say there is nothing like surrendering to Mother Nature’s nurturing embrace as you wake up to the sound of birds, not your alarm. 

Ideally situated between the food and wine region of the Clare Valley and the coastal scenery of the Yorke Peninsula, a road trip is a must — windows down, wind blowing on the face and music blaring out the windows. To maximise our little getaway, we opted for the coastal scenery and headed for Moonta Bay. Moonta is the largest town in a region known as the ‘Copper Triangle’, which includes the mining town of Kadina and Wallaroo. Yes, the sandy beaches and coves, clear blue waters and the L shaped jetty Moonta Bay is known for did look like they belonged in a travel brochure, but in all honesty, I was more excited to get back to the tiny house and cosy up on the couch and watch the sunset over the lake.

Back at the tiny house, before sunset, we got an early night. Knowing it was our last night in what we called ‘home’, the atmosphere was low-spirited. 

After two nights, I packed up my things and reluctantly said goodbye. As we drove away, back down Princes Highway we’d driven along just two days before, I felt more than a little sad to leave the Pink Lake Tiny House and its chilled-out way of life.

The Pink Lake Tiny House never failed to disappoint. You’re literally surrounded by some of South Australia’s most stunning and stimulating landscapes. The unique location of the Pink Lake Tiny House begs you to embark on your own journey, no matter how small or grand you intend it to be, or whether you choose to do it solo or with your nearest and dearest. If you love or hate what ecotourism tiny living has in store for you, embrace it.

When I asked if Michael and his wife if they had any desires to build more tiny houses he enthusiastically replied, “We do have plans for more tiny houses in SA. The current site at Lochiel has council planning approval for three tiny houses and we hope to have a second one arrive in March or April of next year.” 

What are you waiting for? Your eco-friendly tiny house awaits, the planet will love you for it.

The pink lake tiny house.

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