The historic Headlands gets a tasty new twist

Food with a view - the impressive antipasto selection from Headlands
Food with a view - the impressive antipasto selection from Headlands

Sometimes when parts of our history are removed from our lives, it can be hard to deal with or even understand. One’s idea of progress is, to another’s point of view, cruel. When word went around the seaside village of Austinmer on New South Wales Illawarra coastline that one of their longstanding iconic hotels was to be demolished, it had a mixed reaction. Some locals were up in arms and some were eager to see change. 

The original pub was built in 1920 and stood proudly on Brickyard Point for many years and was for a period of over 30 years the Illawarra’s premier guesthouse. Visitors would come from all over to experience ‘every comfort available’ as quoted in an early advertisement. These included a tennis court, croquet lawn and putting green. Hot and cold water in every room and it even had a septic sewer system! Obviously, a big seller back in the day. 

When the magic of guesthouse stays started to wane in the early ‘50s, the transition was made to that of a hotel and from that point was engaged by the areas locals with gusto, however as the years rolled on the pub was neglected badly and by the year 2000 it was in a state of disrepair. A stand-off with a few local elements ensued and the site lay dormant until sense was achieved and work on the new Headlands began.  

Enjoying a modern revamp, Headlands still has that idyllic coastal outlook.

Enjoying a modern revamp, Headlands still has that idyllic coastal outlook.

In December 2016, the new Headlands had arrived and it was immediately gaining attention with locals and tourists alike. 

Taking up residence on Brickyard Point now stands a building I believe blends pleasingly into its surrounds, not overstated and definitely stylish. The pub itself has taken advantage of the picturesque views by creating open viewing points from as many areas as it can.

A very large north facing beer garden area is a main gathering point to enjoy lunch in the sunshine while gazing up the coastline, and on Friday and Saturday nights you can enjoy live acoustic music. With summer just around the corner I can see this spot will be very popular indeed. 

The view across the water from Headlands is million-dollar.

The view across the water from Headlands is million-dollar.

The east and south sides are also well appreciated with massive grassed areas that gives the kids a terrific spot to run around freely. The main bar space with its floor-to-ceiling windows is bright and open and hooks around into the bistro nicely.  

The Bistro is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner and head chef Murray Hickey is certainly putting his own stamp on the offerings available. Murray endeavours to serve fresh, local produce in a relaxed, informal pub environment that welcomes all demographics. I certainly felt welcome on my arrival on a gorgeous Sunday lunchtime and was immediately taken in by my surrounds and the aroma of the food being prepared in the open kitchen. 

The sunny beer garden is perfect for a cold one

The sunny beer garden is perfect for a cold one

However, it was the Oyster Bar and Gin station that grabbed my direct attention. I am a huge oyster fan and for me the opportunity to combine one of the Headlands antipasto picnic packs with a dozen fresh as fresh mixed oysters was too good to pass up. What a great idea I thought, and as Murray put it was a no-brainer!  

“We wanted to create an easy option for guests that are wanting to visit us, without having to eat from our bistro-style menu. There is nothing better than sharing food such as antipasto or oysters by the beach with friends and family, especially on a Sunday!” Murray says.

“We find a lot of Sydneysiders just come to visit us for the day and want to enjoy a drink and share some food while listening to our acoustic musician on a Sunday afternoon. The gin bar was brainstormed by management – cause’ who doesn’t love a gin cocktail?” 

Well – right you are Murray – but I believe people are coming from more locations than just Sydney, and if they aren’t, they should be. 

The tasty loot from Headlands

The tasty loot from Headlands

Sitting on the rugs provided by the hotel in the stunning sunshine with a few friends devouring a first-class antipasto picnic that easily feeds four! Smoked pork neck, tenvisano salami, smoked salmon, olives, fetta, triple cream brie, house made dips and pickled vegetables and the most delectable crunchy baked baguettes… divine. 

Then to top it off, a selection of sensational oysters from South Australia, Tasmania and Sydney served natural or with a delectable choice of dressings. The sweet ginger and the Japanese Yuzu were my favourites.

A long lazy lunch ensued and it was such an enjoyable experience. To be honest I wasn’t ready for it to end, and it didn’t have to either. I wasn’t just here for the day – I was going to take advantage of the hotels accommodation and hang around for dinner and breaky too. 

The views from the rooms leave little to be desired.

The views from the rooms leave little to be desired.

That’s what I suggest you do as well. 66 varied apartment style options are available to choose from including everything from Studios through to two bedroom penthouses. All with luxurious furnishings, private balcony, flat screen TV and in-room laundry facilities. Some offering breath-taking ocean views and fully-equipped modern kitchens. Our one bedroom was really spacious and I could have hung out for a few more days, that’s for sure. 

So, next time you’re heading down Illawarra way, pop in for a night or two I think you will enjoy the new Headlands. Oh, and do yourself a favour make at least one of those days a Sunday! 

Have a sneak peek here: www.headlandshotel.com.au 

Scott is the host of ‘A Taste of Travel’ on the TEN/WIN Networks. For more, visit www.scottmcrae.com.au