Domestic Tourism Spurs Boom in Surf Parks

Plans for a new $75 million, 365-day-a-year wave pool and resort in Wiseman Ferry on the Hawkesbury River 75 kilometres north-west Sydney, have been approved by the Hills Shire Council.

The Wisemans Surf Lodge, set to be developed on an 18-hectare site at Old Northern Road, is owned by Ace Chief Group, which paid $7.25 million for it in 2016 but with a caveat to a company owned by Wiseman co-founder John Du Vernet.

“What we’ll create at Wisemans is a solution to access the types of waves we’d often have to travel overseas for, waves we dream about,” Wisemans co-founder John Du Vernet said.

The retreat will be Australia’s first resort-style surfing destination, and follows Urbnsurf’s plans to open its own wave pool, at Sydney Olympic Park, in Homebush, next year.

The project will include a state-of-the-art wave pool the size of four football fields capable of generating swells up to 2.5 metres high at 17 second intervals and rides of 10 to 12 seconds with multiple wave-shapes and smaller peaks for beginners.

Alongside it will be a 54-room hotel—set to be readapted from a former hotel built in the early 90s, restaurant, bar, conference facilities and nine-hole golf course developed out of an existing 18-hectare resort called The Retreat at Wisemans.

▲ The relaxed design will be a nostalgic nod to Australian surfing culture while providing guests with five-star surf conditions nestled amongst Australian bushland. Image: Supplied
▲ The relaxed design will be a nostalgic nod to Australian surfing culture while providing guests with five-star surf conditions nestled amongst Australian bushland. Image: Supplied

Australian world champion surfers Joel Parkinson and Stephanie Gilmore have backed the project along with fellow professionals Jack Freestone, Alana Blanchard, Bede Durbidge and Josh Kerr.

Architect Kelvin Ho of Akin Atelier, who is responsible for a number of venues for Merivale including the Coogee Pavilion in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, is overseeing the design of the adaptive reuse of the former hotel on the site.

“The lodge design revolves around tactile, yet refined visual language that is connected to the history of its Wisemans Ferry location.

“[The project] will also minimise its carbon footprint in each phase of the design process with the use of solar power operation [and] the pool being powered by green energy as well as use of natural water sources,” Ho said.

Ho is also known for designing a number of resorts in the Maldives as well as stores for Australian fashion brands such as Dion Lee and Camilla and Marc.

Construction of the surf lodge is due to begin in the third quarter of next year, with an opening scheduled in 2022.

Access to Wisemans Surf Lodge will work on a membership-model, with more information set to be rolled out next year.

Boom in bookings for domestic trips

The re-emerging domestic travel has ramped up following the relaxation of tough border restrictions between several states and territories with many overseas holiday makers now looking for local options.

Excitement over a potential vaccine has also coincided with falling rates of Covid-19 and the reopening of state borders which has encouraged more Australians to look ahead and book flights and holidays.

There are currently about 2.5 million surfers in Australia, most of whom tend to choose the local break on any given weekend.

For many domestic surfers, the prospect of perfect waves—albeit simulated, could be a major draw card and provide the perfect domestic escape given the uncertain situation surrounding international travel.

“As a Sydney surfer, we don’t have the access to consistent, high quality waves all year round like other parts of Australia,” Du Vernet said.

“Advances in wave-making technology can completely change that reality.

“We’ve focused on creating a space that thinks about everything beyond the pool, even for the non-surfer, within a resort-like facility in a magical, and somewhat secret part of Sydney.”

Following the delivery of Australia’s first wave park in Melbourne in early January, Urbnsurf is now pressing ahead with its plans in Homebush.

Kelly Slater has also announced his intention to build a $1.1-billion surf resort in Coolum, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, his first such facility outside the US.

The project, which is currently in public consultation, includes restaurants, bars, a six-star hotel, an environmental education centre, a residential component and a huge, open-air entertainment precinct.

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