Q Station, Sydney Harbour National Park, Manly
Reviewed by Ms Wheelie, June 2012
Reviewed by Ms Wheelie, June 2012
Wheelie Long Points:
Some months ago, we had attended a charity auction and bought a gift certificate for the night at Q Station. The certificate was for a 'Deluxe Queen Harbour View' room. When I had called to book, I was told that the only accessible room did not have a harbour view so, as is often the case, we had to choose between a view and accessibility; I opted for the latter.
In its former role, the building containing the accessible room was used to house First Class passengers quarantined upon their arrival in Sydney by ship. The room now boasts all the modern conveniences along with a ramp for wheelie access. The ramp was fairly compact and so I needed my husband, Glen, to open both of the French doors to allow me to get in and out of the room with Little Red, my trusty travel scooter. The pathway of travel around the room was acceptable, with the exception of the placement of the bar fridge opposite the entrance to the en suite. It was a little tight at times for my scooter but would probably be fine for a wheelchair.
The bathroom, although lovely to look at, was problematic. There was no shower chair so I called reception who organised for a plastic chair to be delivered to the room. The next issue I noticed was the mirror height: seated on my scooter, which is actually a little higher than my wheelchair at home, I could only just see my eyes and the top of my head. Not ideal when getting ready to go out to the resort's on-site restaurant. I decided to use the mirror in the room's small entry to get ready, but the light globe was blown and it was too dark to see. I reported this to reception and on returning from dinner, we found a floor lamp in the entry. Presumably it was not possible to replace the globe for some reason and so the lamp provided an acceptable workaround. My phone was charging in the powerpoint now used for the lamp and so my phone had thoughtfully been moved to the powerpoint near my bedside table.
There was a small table near the wall-hung basin in the en suite which was good for resting my toiletries on but did impede my access to the basin. The bathroom itself was quite large, however, I did have difficulty moving around in it on my scooter when trying to close the door as well. This would have been less of a problem in a regular wheelchair. The shower area had no curtain to separate it from the rest of the bathroom, which was more like a wet room really and boy did it get wet! With only one drain in the middle of the room, all the water from the shower spread across the entire floor, drenching the toilet, toilet paper and pretty much everything else in the room, including my scooter. After I finished showering, Glen had to help me get mostly dry and transfer to the scooter (the tiles were so slippery I didn't dare transfer alone). Glen then sent me out while he used towels to dry the entire bathroom so I could go back in and continue dressing.
Once we were ready for dinner, we called reception to ask for an escort to the on-site restaurant, the Boilerhouse. When our escort arrived, the driver informed us that our dinner guests had already parked their car at reception and caught the courtesy bus to the restaurant. I had booked ahead to let the restaurant know about my wheelchair and that we had invited guests who were not staying at the resort.
The Boilerhouse turned out to be a delightful highlight of our stay. There is no provision for wheelies to get up the stairs so we couldn't enjoy the view (admittedly it was night time anyway), but we were more than happy at one of the two tables on the ground floor with a view of all the hard-working chefs in the kitchen and close proximity to the accessible toilet. The staff were fantastic and the food was wonderful leaving us with an impression of a slick and professional establishment.
Our gift certificate included breakfast in a building close enough for me to scoot to. The breakfast was disappointing in contrast to dinner, largely because of a number of issues within the room. The food itself was pretty standard fare with a selection of cereals, fruit, bread, pastries and pre-made hot food served in large tureens, however, the coffee machine was completely out of order. The floor in front of the sideboard housing the self-serve toast and pancake machines was covered in a tangled mess of tape and cords, some of which were for audio-visual equipment that had presumably been used for a presentation the evening before. Glen got chatting to another guest who remarked that the breakfast experience and complete lack of hot water in his room reminded him of a religious camp he had attended in his youth. I had actually commented when we arrived that from the outside, the buildings reminded me of a Scout camp! This impression wasn't helped by the group of kids running along the communal balcony outside our room when I was trying to nap the previous afternoon. The developers did their best to sound-proof the rooms and have installed heavy duty carpeting on all the verandahs, which I'm sure has helped immensely, but there is simply no escaping the fact that the buildings were never designed to provide the same level of peace and privacy that we have come to expect from contemporary accommodation.
I really grappled with writing this review as I was reluctant to criticise such an admirable restoration project, but I feel I owe it to my fellow wheelies to be honest about the practical side of a visit to Q Station. It is an amazing, interesting and fascinating piece of Australia's colonial history and we are so lucky that it has been restored and adapted into a property that we can enjoy. The decor is pleasant and I found the bed and bedding to be very comfortable but if you are a wheelie, you need to understand that you will be making a few compromises and accepting some challenges if you choose to stay there. I think it comes down to this: you must decide whether your desire to immerse yourself in the history of Q Station outweighs your desire to stay in complete comfort and ease. Rather than a return visit, I chose to purchase the book detailing the property's transformation from quarantine station to Q Station.
To the owners, I would recommend they treat the tiles in the accessible bathroom with an Australian made product called Anti Slip, buy a portable shower chair with rubber feet and install a generous shower curtain around the entire shower area.