Beauty Escape: A Staycation at Simpson Cottage, Bundeena

Located a one-hour drive south of Sydney’s CBD is the tiny, waterside town of Bundeena. Hannah Gay and her family stayed at the destination’s impeccable Simpson Cottage – a meeting place that brings people together to relax, connect and collaborate. Photography by Joseph G Media.

Take a road trip down to Bundeena, where the days are slow yet full of purpose.

There’s no better place to stop, relax and reset than Simpson Cottage – a contemporary-meets-vintage adobe nestled between the waters of Port Hacking and The Royal National Park.

Despite Simpson’s proximity to The Big City, guests find themselves comfortably secluded, hearing little more than leaves rustling atop towering trees, foraging kookaburras, and the odd gumdrop hitting its tin roof.

You’ll find beauty around every corner here. Simpson Cottage’s owner of 12 years, Tara Larnach ensures every inch of the home’s 1500 square-meter plot is considered when it comes to its look and feel. On initially acquiring the 150 year-old cottage, Tara says the decision came down to pure emotion. “Every good holiday house makes you want to buy it and come back over and over again while you’re there, but that feeling usually dissipates after you depart. [With Simpson], it didn’t – it got stronger. Everything we do is motivated by the cottage’s history and heritage; to preserve and honour that.”

Greenery surrounds the cottage’s rustic sandstone exterior. Vintage cargo and wicker furnishings line the wrap-around verandah. Every corner of the cottage and its neighbouring garage-turned-granny flat is decorated with a pot of dried florals smelling of dried eucalyptus at every turn. “We haven’t done any architectural or structural work,” Tara says. “I’ve just re-styled it and basically put ‘lipstick’ on it.”

According to Tara, Simpson Cottage is a real drawcard for small groups looking to escape the city without the hassle or expense of air travel. Even the drive into Bundeena is an experience, as guests make their way through kilometers of Royal National Park forest. “It feels like you’re a million miles away because we don’t have fences and the boundaries we have with our neighbours are really just bush settings. It’s really about being a convenient escape.”

Direct access to The Park, as well as the beach, are additional features of Simpson’s location, providing guests with ample excuses to take five or head out for a walk. “The town is also close enough that you don’t need to get in your car during your entire stay. However, the cottage is set up so you can cook like a chef and don’t ever have to leave if you don’t feel like it. We’ve designed the house and garden so you can find a quiet spot to escape alone or spend time with the people you’re staying with, so the social aspect is very flexible.”

The cottage feels lived-in and loved, yet offers space for each incoming family or team to form their own unique memories. Its master bathroom and three bedrooms are generously-sized, each telling a different story in its decor. Hard-to-find pieces and cosy linens make picking just one bed to sleep in the hardest task of them all. “I don’t want guests to feel that they can’t touch or move anything. Everything has a story – nothing there is by accident; it’s all there because it has meaning, it’s beautiful or it’s useful,” Tara adds. “For example, the riding boots that you find at the door… are identical to what I used to use as a kid when I rode horses. I also love the glass floats that you see on the shelves – my grandparents found them washed up on the beach in far North Queensland while holidaying. I was a little girl and I remember them floating around their shed. I rescued them [before being thrown out]. Every time you admire, pick up or use something [at Simpson], I want guests to wonder what its story might be… then they became part of the story!”

On dictating what products to supply and create for the cottage, Tara focussed on hand-made, natural, Australian, and as locally-made as possible to create a bespoke experience. “We want to do our bit to support local businesses. It also reduces the environmental burden, as transport is minimised.”

For an even deeper personal touch, Tara has craftily created many of the home’s most appealing elements. “I’ve made all the linen you find in the house except the sheets, including the pendant lights hanging in the hallway. I import linen from old, small family-owned linen mills in Europe. Flax is a sustainable crop requiring almost no intervention, irrigation or chemicals, and it rejuvenates the soil it’s grown in,” Tara explains. “We’re really conscious of our eco-footprint and strive to be as green as possible so we chose to use pure linen wherever we could.”

Wooden shelves that grace the kitchen, lounge and king bedrooms were also designed and made by Tara using pieces of Oregon wood she found on Facebook Marketplace. “The styling is reflective of [the cottage’s] heritage and age, and apart from furniture that need to be hygienic (like beds and sofas), it’s otherwise all recycled and vintage.” Tara also finds value in supplying natural, locally-made cleaning and cosmetic products “to honour the environmentally-friendly side of life.”

While families frequent Simpson Cottage most, the space also makes for the perfect getaway for small teams. The accommodation comfortably houses six adults (or as many as eight with approval). “It’s a great place for small groups and teams to train because you have so many different areas you can use to meet together or to break away.”

Despite its separation from the main quarters, the granny flat is hooked up to a high-speed internet connection and TV which can be used by teams to host presentations. Colleagues can connect while lazing against feather-down cushions atop stylish linen-lined sofas, or set-up a rug on the estate’s shady lush lawns while enjoying the view. “You can sit on the veranda where you are sheltered from the weather and enjoy morning or afternoon tea.” The lounge room and large outdoor picnic table are also ideal for meetings or drinks before dinner.

While Simpson is rich with historical memorabilia, nothing went a-miss in its renovation. Wet rooms are fitted with modern facilities and powerpoints are plentiful throughout. Despite countless meeting spots and sitting rooms, you’ll find yourself wooed over by its festoon-lit dining tables made for outdoor chatter over a cheese plate and glass of rosé.

Today, the property continues to grow in popularity, particularly due to its proximity to Sydney. “[Initially], we had to pull our belts in financially somewhat, but there was no way it wasn’t going to work – it had to work – and so I poured my heart and soul into it, and here we are,” Tara revealed.

Prices start at $690 per night during winter months. To book your next team retreat at Simpson Cottage, Bundeena, call Tara on 0413 275 453 or visit

This article originally appeared in the May-June 2023 print issue of Professional Beauty.

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