Living off grid - Avonside Alpine Retreat, NSW

July 7, 2020 / By Tim Falk

Olivier and Jacquie Kapetanakos Olivier and Jacquie Kapetanakos

Sometimes there’s no better way to relax and unwind than to go off the grid. A remote location away from the everyday grind, beautiful natural scenery everywhere you look, and a glass of red in front of a roaring fire — bliss.

But for Olivier and Jacquie Kapetanakos, your hosts at Avonside Alpine Estate, going off-grid isn’t just something to do on the occasional weekend away. It’s a way of life.  After a few years living in Singapore with their three sons, the couple returned to Australia with a desire to go back to basics. They found the perfect place to embrace this lifestyle just 15 minutes north of Jindabyne near the Snowy Mountains. 

“Jindabyne fit the bill perfectly for a lot of reasons,” Olivier explains. “It had the lake for our fishing/boating, mountains for camping and hunting, and equally important for skiing and biking.”  A location with four distinct seasons was another must-have. “To experience the change of each season is important for our balance of life,” Olivier says.  

After five years of planning, the family moved onto their farm in June 2019. 

But this is no ordinary farm.  Avonside Alpine Estate is a 130-acre property with stunning views of the Snowy Mountains. It’s home to an orchard of fruit and olive trees, a thriving vegetable garden, 400 chickens, a flock of Southdown babydoll sheep, and impressive-looking Highland cattle. It’s also incorporates key permaculture principles and is entirely off-grid. 

“Going off-grid just makes sense,” Olivier says. “When you do the numbers, it’s cheaper than plugging into the grid. During the many hours flying around the world (and sitting in air lounges and boring corporate meetings) in my other life, it really hit hard how we are net consumers of resources. So I challenged myself to create a lifestyle going back to basics, and a farm is the perfect place to build that life.”

Olivier admits that establishing the farm was a difficult challenge, but he and Jacquie were aided by the fact that they realised just how little they knew about sustainable living on the land. “We were able to make up for it by asking a lot of questions, doing courses and reading a lot of books. We embraced country life and we were rewarded tenfold,” he says. 

Of course, going off-grid doesn’t mean severing all ties with the rest of the world. “We are not hermits, so we want to be with people and share the ability to live and reduce our impact. A farm stay was a natural evolution for our family,” Olivier explains. 

And when you visit Avonside Alpine Estate, you’re treated to a very unique farm stay experience indeed. It’s simply up to you to choose your ideal adventure. 

“We typically have people wanting a farm stay experience and for that we cater with feeding our Highland cattle and our super-friendly babydoll sheep. Kids get involved with the egg collection, and in summer we also have the vegetable garden and orchard that people can wander through,” Olivier says. 

“Due to being pet-friendly (for friendly pets), people like the ability to bring their fur-babies on an adventure. Others want a quiet alpine break with beautiful views. At night, sitting by the outdoor fire pits looking at the stars, is quite grounding.” 

Olivier and Jacquie are also happy to share their experiences of eco-friendly farm life. If you’re thinking of going off the grid yourself, or just looking for advice on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, you’re in the right place. 

“Given our journey, we have quite a few people want to just experience the beautiful cabins we have built and to ask questions about the construction, solar energy, water harvesting, and using worms as part of our waste reduction,” Olivier says.  

“The work on the farm is ongoing as it’s a 10-year project. This year we planted 400 oak trees (during isolation) with a view of growing truffles. Next year we start work on our small vineyard.”  

If you want to get your hands dirty and help out, you’re more than welcome. But if you’d rather just relax and take it all in, you can do that too.  

“In all cases, people are invited to do as little or as much work on the farm,” Olivier explains. “There is always another hole to dig or tree to plant, but it can also be done tomorrow.”  

And with the pristine Snowy Mountains as a backdrop, there are always plenty of good excuses to leave the hard work for another day while you just sit back and admire the spectacular surrounds.  To enter our competition to win a 2 night stay at Avonside Alpine Estate - go here.

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