AT’s Sol Walkling stayed overnight recently at the newly re-fitted Q Station on Manly’s North Head. The old quarantine station, now a refurbed site for food and accommodation, has its fair share of ghost stories…
Spending a night in the company of ghosts isn’t particularly high on my things-to-do-before-I-die list. But little did I know that’s exactly what I was in for when I recently checked out one of Sydney’s newest hotel ventures: Q Station.
Better known as the former quarantine station on Manly’s North Head, the site has been lovingly brought back to life. A quick search of www.paranormalaustralia.com , a tour operator offering ghost tours to the station, shows that an abundance of lively little critters – like the resident penguins, bandicoots, kookaburras and rabbits – isn’t the only thing visitors can expect. According to comments left by the tour’s guests, it’s a haven for contact-friendly otherworldly creatures. Hearing voices and being prevented from entering buildings by nothing but cold air seem commonplace. And who could top the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of a clammy hand closing firmly around your ankle?
There’s not a whiff of wraith in the air as I amble along Circular Quay through hordes of the living to a waiting water taxi. The Emerald City is showing its sunny side today; sailing boats are out in full force and, approaching Q Station from the water, the site looks like a piece of heaven tucked away in this little niche of the harbour. Situated at the western side of the headland, the hotel is in a remote and peaceful setting – forSydney. All you’ll hear is the ocean and birds. And only a short wander away on North Head’s walking trail, you’ll be treated to stunning views across the harbour and open ocean with cliff faces jutting out into the mist.
I’m warned upon arrival that the hotel grounds are quite spread out. And, even if I ordinarily believe myself to be in fine iron-woman condition, I soon have to concede that they’re right. Be warned. A tour around the historic grounds not only gives you a first-hand insight into its 150-year history, when immigrants and Sydney residents thought to be carrying contagious diseases were interned at the remote site, it’ll also give your legs a first-class workout. Luckily, a resort buggy to pick up weary travellers with sore hamstrings is never far away.
The little runabouts aren’t the only concession to modernity in the hotel village. On the outside, the houses look pretty much exactly like they did when quarantined visitors first arrived – thanks to the analysis of original paint scraps and the design team’s accomplished goal to let the site’s original beauty shine through. But on the inside, muted 21st Century furnishings and creature comforts help visitors forget the ghosts of the past and sleep in peace. Even I get a restful night’s sleep, despite watching the immersion theatre’s show Defiance, which has put me firmly back in the stories of the past, and the hardship and heartbreak the station’s involuntary “guests” endured during their long sojourn.
Healthy first-class passengers might have been lucky enough to while their days away playing badminton, watching the harbour and drinking in the site’s 24-hour pub – overall a rather pleasant “holiday”. But lower-class passengers’ 40 days of quarantine, often in cramped conditions in fear of smallpox and other deadly diseases, must have felt like an eternity.
For today’s visitors, there’s plenty to while away a (much shorter) stay at the station in an enjoyable fashion. Spectacular sunsets from the hotel’s many verandahs, dinner at the Boilerhouse Restaurant, breakfast with kookaburras and exploring nearby beaches by kayak nourish weary travellers’ bodies and minds. And knowing about the Q Station’s minimal environmental impact philosophy and commitment to conservation – by reinvesting 20 cents of every dollar – will help you feel even better about your stay.
With its sleepy village feel, this new hotel is the ideal place to unwind and get away from the harbour city’s hustle and bustle for a while – provided you’re not afraid of ghosts.
Details: Q- Station
North Head Scenic Drive, North Head, Manly NSW
(02) 9977 5145