The first time I stayed here I was filled with an overwhelming sense of peace and I let go of a breath I didn’t even know I was holding.
But who am I? I’m Tara, I’m a short, messy haired romantic and I can't wait to share Simpson Cottage with you. I'm married to Steve, he's a red haired Bondi boy. In late 2010 we stayed here with our two daughters for a weekend away . Simpson Cottage was a holiday property and we dreamed of becoming the owners -it was just a fantasy (all good holiday houses do that).
Fast forward 6 months to mid 2009 and we discovered it was for sale -we were too late! It was sold to an overseas investor who thankfully intended to keep it as a holiday rental, so we consoled ourselves and booked another weekend.
Late 2010, we were back and greeted by a for sale sign, with hope in our hearts we rang the agent (the sale had fallen through as a result of the GFC) so we spent a magical weekend here with our family swimming, fishing, and dreaming and hoping our fantasy might come true.
This was the first time Steve told me about a a dream he'd years ago; he was an old man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, wide brimmed straw hat, carrying a bucket of fish up a sandstone track with steppingstones -he swears it was the very track that leads from the beach below the cottage.
Late 2011 some eighteen months after we fell head over heels in love with this old sandstone cottage we became the new owners. It’s been over ten years since our names were stamped on those deeds -we don’t consider ourselves the owners but the custodians, for this once forgotten deralict cottage will be here long after we’ve left this earth- and still we skip in the gate pinching ourselves, and I consider myself the luckiest person on earth with the best job in the world.
We love every bit of this place and it’s our job to ensure it will be here for generations to come, it's your job to enjoy it and weave your own history into the the walls.
The thing about firsts is that there’s only ever one first time; so now I imagine how you'll feel the first time you walk in the gate and let out that breath. Its the best feeling in the world.
On November 5, 1863, George Simpson was granted 20 hectares of land (now Bonnie Vale) on the southern side of the Hacking River. Although not the first to be given a grant he was the first to establish a permanent settlement there. He built “a stone house, dairy, stockyards and a pig sty” which he left to his son William on his death on March 17, 1866. The value of these improvements was 150 pounds.
WILLIAM SIMPSON, ENTREPRENEUR
That ‘stone house’, now known as Simpson Cottage, was built with sandstone blocks chipped out by convicts. The signature marks are still visible today. Both George and William Simpson were market gardeners, but believing there was a market for people who wanted to come across from the other side of the river, William started to run a ferry from a wharf he built on the bank of the river below the cottage - ‘Simpson’s Wharf’ - to Turriell Point (now Burraneer Bay). This ferry ran from the 1880s until the 1920s.
William now had a cottage, a pig sty and a small income from the ferry. He then decided that the largely “European” visitors would like more of a feeling of home and introduced deer (originally paddocked but of course they escaped) and a number of deciduous trees. The deer are still a common problem in the National Park today.
Getting an early taste for the tourism dollar, Simpson built a large attic roofed hotel and was granted a liquor license in 1887. By the 1890’s the hotel was a local landmark and a very popular destination with honeymooners and families. The first school in Sutherland Shire was held in a room of the hotel - members of the Simpson family and a few other children were taught there.
SIMPSON COTTAGE POST 1900
The hotel license was terminated for a time during 1935 “for failing to comply with the licensing court” and the hotel eventually burnt down on July 29, 1955. The hotel site was purchased by the National Park Trust in 1947 and is now a National Parks Rangers hut.
Much has changed since one of the so-called fathers of the National Park built his cottage with the help of half a dozen convicts, around 150 years ago. But a tradition of family ownership continued. Simpson Cottage remained in the Simpson family until 2003 when the Corah family purchased the cottage from William Simpson’s great grand-daughter.
Although it had been empty for over 10 years, the old lady would be taken to the cottage to sit on the verandah and once again enjoy the view she had enjoyed all her life. And when you see the views for yourself you will understand her contentment.
Simpson Cottage has been completely and sensitively restored back to the state it would have been in when Simpson first built it (plus a few modern conveniences), with one important exception; an extension to house the beautiful modern bathroom and kitchen. Landscape architect Monique Corah has created a natural garden to complement the heritage ambience of the original cottage.
In 2009 the Larnach family rented the cottage for a weekend, fell in love with it and came back a year later to find it was for sale. They purchased the cottage in 2010 and continue to rent it out as a holiday home and, perhaps more importantly, enjoy the cottage with their family and friends.