Let’s face it, travelling can be tough. It’s not all piña coladas, deck chairs and pink sunsets. For every magic holiday moment, there is the mandatory holiday mayhem. The forgotten passport, the 17-hour flight delay, the tense words with your travel buddy. Travelling is intense. So imagine my enthusiasm for a holiday at home. A staycation at Q Station Manly. After a hectic week at work, the idea of holidaying in my own city was extremely appealing.
I arrived at Q Station in Manly early on Friday morning. It feels like a holiday before I even arrive. The drive into the historic site is spectacular. Gum trees dangle lazily over the winding road leading in. The road is framed by the historic sandstone archway.
Q Station was once the first port of call for migrants moving to Australia. Boats would pull in, and passengers were divided into two groups; the sick and the healthy. Today, the site is riddled with the history of our formative years.
Feeling relaxed at Q Station is simple. The place feels oddly familiar, like you’ve been there before. A comfortable mix of high-school retreat, weekend in wine country, and Saturday stroll. I have come for an overnight stay, to sample what the retreat has to offer, and the itinerary suggests there is plenty to keep me occupied.
When the site was restored, every effort went into preserving its history. First class lounges, nursing quarters, recreation areas. Everything has been thoughtfully resurrected. It’s not flashy or overdone, it’s not glamorous, it’s perfectly on point and quintessentially Australian. Tin roofs, weatherboard cladding, wrap-around verandas, and the occasional stained glass window. Every door, every window, every outlook provides the perfect frame for the loosely tamed gardens.
The site is a sprawling thirty hectares. The hills roll restlessly down to the waters of Sydney harbour, and are pock-marked by chunks of the grey-brown sandstone Sydney Harbour is famous for. Winding roads run rings around the site, and from almost every location visitors can find cheeky glimpses of deep cool coastal waters. On this grey spring day, the harbour is harshly beautiful. The cool, deep waters are crayon green and the sky is cranky and scratchy, like tissue-paper illustrations in a children’s book.
There is plenty to occupy my time. We cruise lazily on hybrid bikes, stopping to speak with a historian about the previous purposes of this place. We wander through a shower shed where migrants were once doused with chemicals which peeled their skin and supposedly protected our lucky country form an array of creepy-crawlies and contagious diseases. We inspect lounges and the lovingly restored hospital, and at each turn we stumble across historic machinery and relics of the site’s original purpose.
We wander through the museum, carefully compiled to display headstones of some of our early settlers, original suitcases from far away places, and trinkets from times long ago. Outside, rock faces are inscribed with the names of boats and people who made the treacherous journey to our land down under. It’s extremely entertaining, like a stroll with a tangible audio book.
In the late afternoon, we are offered the opportunity to play games on the grass, kayak on the harbour, or hike the bush tracks. But the grey day means our group is keen to relax in our rooms, ahead of sunset drinks from a balcony overlooking the harbour into Manly. Over nibbles and bubbles, I have the same feeling I am often overcome with in Sydney, a sense of astonishment that an international city can be so green, so glorious and so pristine. Over the setting sun, sail boats criss-cross the harbour, not deterred for a moment by the average weather.
We enjoy a lovely dinner at the Boilerhouse Restaurant & Bar created by Executive Chef, Matt Kemp, washed down with plenty of wine, and finished off with fabulous dessert. Delicious food is the perfect accompaniment to our chatter about the day that was. Afterwards we don jackets and carry lanterns for a ghost tour. We laugh loudly as our tour guide employs ample dramatic effect in recollecting the spookier and sometimes seedier side of Q Station. It isn’t scary. It is definitely entertaining.
We head to bed full to good food, great wine and belly laughs. It’s been a great day. I am very glad I have seen this place. As I lay back in bed, I wonder why Sydney siders have grown so complacent about the natural beauty of their city. They rush past the harbour on their way to work, oblivious to its story.
Don’t come to Q Station if you’re expecting a Hunter-Valley style stay. It’s not like that. Don’t come to snooze, order room service and feel flattered by luxury. Come to Q Station to see stuff, to take in our city’s terrific story, and talk about it over a beautiful meal in a really special setting. Visit Q Station because you are a Sydney tragic, because you love this heady, sunny, silly city, which by default became a melting pot for people of all classes, all backgrounds and all walks of life. Come to Q Station to fall in love with with Sydney all over again.
Planning Your Trip
Q Station Manly
1 North Head Scenic Dr, Manly
+612 9976 6220
The Fit Traveller was a guest of Q Station for this stay. As always, the opinions and words are authentically our own.
Gabrielle Boyle is a reporter for Nine News Australia, based in Sydney. With fifteen years experience in television reporting and presenting, Gabrielle specialises in breaking news, and thrives on the adrenalin which comes with covering breaking national and international news.
In her spare time, you will find her enjoying the great outdoors, whether it be bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, kayaking on Sydney Harbour or camping out in the Royal National Park.
Follow Gabrielle’s off-camera adventures on Instagram or Twitter.