Tucked away on the edge of Sydney, Bundeena is cocooned by the Royal National Park and surrounded by uncrowded beaches. A world away from the bustle of the city and everyday stresses, this small coastal town is also home to the ever-charming Simpson Cottage, one of the best historical beachfront stays in Australia.
Built by the hands of half a dozen convicts over 150 years ago, this stunning sandstone home overlooks Bonnie Vale Beach and was passed down through the Simpson family for generations, before it became a holiday house for Sydneysiders to escape to.
It was a weekend stay at Simpson Cottage in 2009, while her husband attended a local surf carnival, that ignited something in Tara Larnach.
While her husband and his team were out competing, Tara was experiencing simple yet significant moments around the cottage with her daughters, like fishing at the beach below and wandering around the sprawling gardens and lawns. So captivated by its presence, Tara returned home to Bondi clutching onto the fantasy that one day, they would make the cottage their own.
“It’s the only house that’s ever stuck with us like that; that we dreamt about,” Tara remembers.
“It’s the only house that’s ever stuck with us like that; that we dreamt about”
Just a year later, in 2010, the three-bedroom cottage came up for sale and with little hesitation, Tara jumped at the opportunity to turn their dream into a reality—sharing the feeling she had experienced during that weekend away and creating a beautiful haven for anyone wanting to take time out and reset.
While the previous owner had restored the cottage, from a derelict building to its former glory, and added an extension to include a new kitchen and bathroom, it was up to Tara and a stylist friend to give the space and garage studio a facelift before re-opening its doors to guests.
Walls and floors were limewashed to lighten the interior, timber shelves made from old-recycled Oregon were mounted, and furniture and trinkets were swapped out to make way for vintage finds that were sourced at auction houses, second-hand stores and Tara’s parent’s shed.
“Everything in the house, is there for a reason,” Tara says.
Curl up on the sofa in the living room, by the original wrought iron fireplace, and you’ll spot green glass fishing floats that Tara’s grandparents picked up on holidays and a drover’s sack linking back to her childhood. Or, head to the garage studio and test your skills on the vintage pinball machine, specifically hunted down as a gift to her game-loving husband.
It’s heartfelt details like these that gives Simpson Cottage a loved and lived-in vibe. But it doesn’t end there.
Head to one of the cosy bedrooms and you’ll find the beds draped in linen doona covers and pillow slips made by Tara using the vintage Singer sewing machine. In the bathroom, there’s bath salts made exclusively for Simpson Cottage by local oil guru, Bundeena Botanical, and the laundry is stocked with washing powder from Cronulla-based, eco-friendly business, Hudstone.
If you fall in love with the carefully-selected products when you stay, be sure to stop by the “Curated Cupboard” in the garage and take a bit of Simpson Cottage home with you. Its shelves are lined with the tea that’s stocked in the kitchen, Tara’s linens, local ceramics, the Simpson Cottage bath salts and wine, in case you run out—all available to purchase on an honesty and good karma system.
Whilst you would be forgiven for wanting to stay in the comfort of the sandstone walls, exploring every nook and cranny of the cottage, or sipping tea in the glass gazebo, the real magic begins when you step outside.
“You really do feel like you’re a million miles away, because there’s no fences and no neighbours on one side,” Tara says.
With seats purposely scattered all over the wrap-around verandah, you’ll be easily persuaded to slow down, be present and do nothing but take in the incredible water views.
“It’s the reason I only take two-day bookings, because you need to be there for 24 hours to be able to sit in all the directions and catch the sun and the shade, depending on the seasons,” Tara says.
In fact, timing your local adventures so that you’re perched on the cottage verandah with a drink in-hand at sunset is a bit of a must. You might even be lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins or enjoy a visit from the local roaming deer.
Beyond the verandah, under towering trees, is a picture-perfect area for a long lunch. With water views across Simpson’s Bay to Maianbar and a giant picnic table for gathering your favourite people around, this is ultimate spot to wine and dine before adventuring down the private track to Bonnie Vale Beach.
It’s safe to say, there’s really nothing you’ll be left wanting during a stay at Simpson Cottage, and that is entirely intentional.
Tara doesn’t see herself as the owner, more of a custodian who is here to look after the historical home, maintain it, add a few signature touches and share the magic with others.
“I have this philosophy that time, money and health are the three most precious commodities,” Tara says. “And people are spending time and money here at Simpson Cottage, so what an honour and a privilege that they’ve chosen to do that, and that we get to share the experience of this place with them.”
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to retreat to, a place to create new memories or a reason to hit pause and reflect, this secluded Slow Stay has a way of being all that and capturing hearts along the way.
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Grab A Grazing Platter
Simpson Cottage has partnered with Audley Dance Hall and Café to create delectable grazing platters or breakfast hampers, ideal for devouring at the cottage’s oversized picnic table. All you have to do, is order ahead and collect it on your way past—easy, peasy.
Can’t bring yourself to cook? Dress up and dig into a BBQ seafood platter at I Grill in Bundeena. Don’t leave without trying one of their lip-smacking cocktails or working your way through a gin tasting. Bookings are a must!
Go For A Paddle
There’s nothing like exploring somewhere new, from the water. Head down the cottage’s steps to Bonnie Vale Beach and hire a kayak or stand-up paddle board from Bundeena Kayaks.
Explore The Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the world, so carve out a few hours to go for a bush walk, swim in a waterhole or discover a remote beach. Don’t forget the camera!
There’s no reason to leave Bundeena while you’re staying at Simpson Cottage, but if you have ample time on your hands, a short trip on the old M.V. Curranulla ferry across the bay to Cronulla, is the perfect day out.