It’s the perfect way to spend a chilly winter’s evening: snuggled up around the campfire, feeling oh-so cosy and warm and swapping yarns with a few favourite friends. There’s something delicious in your mug, a soft glow from the fire, and a distinct feeling of contentment amongst your happy crowd.
If you didn’t already know it, this version of the best winter’s night possible is classic hygge — the distinctly Danish philosophy for living that has the internet in a buzz. Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, hygge roughly translates as the art of cosiness, and it’s all about relaxing in one happy, shared, indulgent moment.
To cultivate hygge, the Danish believe that you need to make time for activities and rituals that connect you with others, indulge your senses and make you feel peaceful and content. It’s a recipe for ‘cosiness of the soul’ and you can feel it with friends or even on your own.
As a traveller, you might experience hygge as you are casting a line on a windswept beach at dawn, taking a slow walk or practicing yoga. You could snuggle up with a good book in a favourite, candle-lit nook, and you can definitely experience hygge while stirring a pot of a rich hot chocolate or toasting the perfect marshmallow over glowing hot coals.
In essence, anything that can help you to feel relaxed, calm and at ease, has hygge at its core.
HYGGE ON THE ROAD
There are some delightful elements to hygge that can be easily incorporated into the caravan lifestyle as well.
For starters, Danes ignite their work and home spaces with soft, warming light. Think natural, unscented candles over harsh electric lights, or Earth-friendly (and fire-safe) solar lights. You could place a tea light candle inside half a juiced orange for a soft, safe glow that won’t burn down the caravan, or step outside and pull your camp chair a little closer to a good campfire.
Textiles are another important element of cultivating hygge so wrap yourself with soft, warming fabrics this winter. Blankets, beanies, bedding and clothes can all be hygge and the Danish insist on natural fibres first. That means wool, cotton, silk and bamboo over synthetics, and earthy materials — wood, clay and porcelain — over plastic, steel and glass.
Plants are especially hygge, which makes bushwalking the perfect way to ground yourself, especially when you pull on a
hand-knitted woollen jumper and pack a thermos of indulgent hot chocolate or perhaps sweet, milky tea.
The very best part of hygge relates to eating, because to embrace hygge means to take regular mini-breaks from your healthy eating regime and treat yourself with the right kind of sweetness to make you smile. Lots of things that begin with the letter C feature here: chocolate, coffee, cake, cookies … you get the idea?
Recent studies have proven that feeling a deep connection with others is the real key to happiness — not wealth or good health or some other kind of sporting or work success. Ultimately, scientists say, it’s the quality of our relationships with others that makes us smile, so indulge in a little hygge with your tribe this winter.
Hygge for caravanners in 7 steps
1. Share a simple family meal
It doesn’t have to be fancy; any meal prepared without haste and served to a gathering of good friends or family (or just the two of you), can be utterly hygge. The key is to be really present, without the distractions of phones or the intrusion of television, and engage with everyone around the table. No stress and no rushing.
2. Turn down the lights
Switch off any harsh electric lights and replace with unscented soy candles that create a soft glow and a soothing atmosphere. Candles are easier on tired eyes and will get you ready for sleep, too. If candles in the caravan make you nervous, place them in clay pots and use them to illuminate the space outside your van while you cook a meal and stare up at the stars.
3. Get snuggly
Pack a couple of warm, hand-knitted blankets that you can wrap around yourself as you sit by the fire or while snuggling up with a book or a crossword. Knit yourself a beanie, scarf or a pair of toasty bed socks — anything that utilises soft, natural fabrics that soothe your skin.
4. Create a hyggekrog
A hyggekrog is the place where you love to snuggle. It could be your bed or the couch, or in your camp chair, tucked out of the wind overlooking some beautiful natural scene. To create one, swap synthetic fibres for all things natural — cotton sheets and woollen blankets, bamboo pillows and lots of deep, soft cushions to fill in the corners of your dinette — and make things as comfortable as possible.
Have a small pile of woollen pashminas at the ready to pull around your shoulders as the cold creeps in, and drape yourself in colourful beanies, soft scarves, and the snuggliest of socks.
A hyggekrog might also be beautiful places in nature, and if you’ve ever visited Mataranka’s thermal pools, you will know that there is no place more hygge on the planet than this deeply rejuvenating pool of bliss where caravanners float all day, chatting and swapping yarns and relaxing their bones.
5. Be indulgent
Not that any of us needs encouragement on this one, but to be genuinely hygge you are going to have to ditch that good-for-you diet occasionally and give yourself a little loving kindness of the culinary kind. Choose rich, creamy, sweet, buttery treats, and sit back and smile!
6. Spend time with good people
New friends or old, family, spouse or pal, it’s the quality of the company that counts and the time spent talking (and listening) and sharing the stories that unite you all rather than create differences. Brew a pot of hot chocolate, pass around the cookies and kindle the conversation.
7. Escape to nature
It might be a beachfront campground, a lonely lake, or a lofty high country camp — it doesn’t matter, just as long as it is uncrowded and tranquil and gives you the chance to take a deep breath. Conjuring hygge is all about holding off the intrusion of the modern world so unplug the generator, turn off your phone and the TV and snuggle up outside, turning your attention upwards to marvel at nature’s most fascinating starry-night show.
Australia’s Cosiest Camps
Mataranka Thermal Springs, NT
Shaded by lush tropical fan palms, travellers spend all day simmering in the NT’s most rejuvenating emerald pools, warmed by water flowing from Rainbow Springs at a delicious 34C. Downstream, freshwater crocodiles bask on sunny logs and at dusk, a vast colony of flying foxes take to the skies in one staggering, overhead stream. Stay within walking distance of these oh-so-hygge springs at Mataranka Homestead (powered sites cost $30/couple, $5/child and $26 for unpowered sites,.
Baden Powell Campground, south-west WA
Wrangle rainbow trout, ride your bike, or paddle, raft or kayak WA’s own Murray River. After you’ve nestled your caravan in this pretty pine tree grove you can 4WD the forest trails to historic Nanga Mill. There’s a launch site for boats and you can warm up after river fun around a campfire. Find it in Lane Poole Reserve, 12km south of Dwellingup ($11/adult, $3/child, $7/concession plus $13/vehicle entry fee, visit parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au).
Niagara Dam, Goldfields, WA
Once a flourishing gold town, Niagara Dam today provides an idyllic wintertime destination where you can fish, take long walks with the birds and nestle the camp oven into a hotbed of coals while you ogle the clear night sky. Nearby, explore Kookynie — the west’s best ghost town — and Lake Ballard’s intriguing saltpan sculptures. Find it 60km northeast of Menzies via the Goldfields Hwy and Kookynie Rd (free camping, visit menzies.wa.gov.au).
Cockle Creek, south-west Tasmania
The end of Australia’s most southerly road might seem an unlikely place to spend your wintertime escape, but Cockle Creek’s free camps, calm-water paddling and proximity to the wild lands of Southwest National Park guarantee hygge. Find it 125km southwest of Hobart.
Surry Ridge Campground, VIC
Towering gumtrees cradle sleepy koalas by day, and spotted-tailed quolls, bandicoots, long-nosed potoroos and yellow-bellied gliders emerge after dark for spotlighting fun. This top free camp in Cobboboonee National Park permits campfires and provides good facilities and walking trails. Find it 33km northwest of Portland (visit parkweb.vic.gov.au).
Rainbow Valley, NT
When the sun goes down at Rainbow Valley, igniting the desert landscape with crimson, tangerine and golden light, travellers camped on the edge of the saltpan are treated to one of the Red Centre’s most vibrant spectacles.
Campsites provide first-class views and there are lookouts, a walking trail to Mushroom Rock and lots to learn about the southern Arrernte people’s last Red Centre hunting grounds. Bring firewood to ward off the sub-zero wintertime chill, and find it 22km off the Stuart Highway, an hour’s drive south of Alice Springs (4WD tow vehicle recommended, $3.30/adult, $1.65/child, $7.70/family).
Blowering Reservoir, NSW
When anglers go travelling in winter, trout tempts them to the shores at Blowering Reservoir and a string of free, waterfront camps with plenty of elbow room in winter. Bring a tinnie, paddle a kayak or hit the hiking trail to Blowering Falls (5km return). Find it on the Snowy Mountains Highway, 17km south of Tumut.
Judds Lagoon, south-east QLD
This picturesque freecamp at Yuleba (pronounced Yool-bah), west of Roma, has the makings of a perfect winter escape. Head here to paddle a kayak, cast a line for yellowbelly, set a yabby pot and strike a campfire to cook your catch. There are good facilities and relaxed regulations. Find it signposted off the Warrego Highway, 60km west of Roma.
Fitzgerald Bay, SA
Every winter at False Bay, divers and snorkellers brave the chill to swim with thousands of Australian giant cuttlefish mating in a shimmering spectacle and flaunting ever-changing colours and patterns. The cuttlefish are amongst the largest in the world, and winter (May to August) is the time to see them. Camp nearby at Point Lowly lighthouse ($8 per night, honour system) or settle into a free camp on the shores of nearby Fitzgerald Bay. If you go, don’t forget your fishing rods. Find it off the Lincoln Highway (B100), 65km south of Port Augusta.