Some things seem like a good idea in the light of day. Such as spending a night in an award winning hotel in one of Australia’s most haunted locations after doing a ghost tour.
‘What fun!’ I thought to myself as I arranged my stay. ‘I’ve always wanted to do the ghost tours at Q Station and spending the night afterwards is a great idea.’
As I sat upright in my bed, wide awake at 1am and jumping at every building creak and rustling branch I felt like going back in time and giving my earlier self a good slap. It was a crazy idea! But now that I’ve survived, I do have a laugh at the memory and am so glad I actually did it.
The Q in Q Station stands for Quarantine, and as the name suggests it was used to quarantine people and vessels coming into Australia from 1833 to 1984. More than 500 people died from deadly diseases including the bubonic plague, smallpox and Spanish influenza at this site, and according to some people, not all of them moved on.
Ghost hunters and believers say Q Station is one of the most haunted sites in Australia. You can get your spook on by joining one of the regular ghost tours or you can even get a private group together and do your own tour, which is a great birthday idea. For the right person of course.
Today Q Station is a mix of museum, with around 15,000 historical items on display, and unusual boutique accommodation in a beautiful part of Sydney.
Spread out over 30 hectares of national park near Manly on the Northern Beaches there are 65 buildings on the site, some of which you can spend the night in.
The Accor group has won a range of awards for what they’ve done with Q Station, including some international sustainable development awards.
If you’re considering a sleepover after a ghost tour you need to understand that Q Station is not a modern hotel where you have someone working at the front desk just downstairs or at the end of the hall. Which can make a difference when you’re by yourself in a possibly haunted house.
Instead Q Station has transformed some of the heritage-listed buildings into accommodation, and there are a range of rooms and suites offering gorgeous panoramic views of Sydney harbour or the surrounding the national park.
There are also three bedroom cottages to choose from, which have one king and two queen beds in the bedrooms, as well as a sofa bed in the living room, making them a great option if you want to spend the night with a group of friends or the whole family. And at around $400 a night for a cottage that sleeps six, that’s also a bargain in my book.
When you arrive at Q Station, the check in takes place in a building up the top of the hill, before you start driving down into the national park.
Now like most people, I usually love an upgrade. And when I was told at check in that I’d been given one of the three bedroom cottages instead of one of the rooms at first I was excited.
As my friend Sally and I explored the cottage we kept saying what a great place it would be to come with friends. The cottage reminded me of Aussie bush homes I’d visited when I was a child, with lots of space, a big back yard area, and a large living area and kitchen. Although the yummy Apelles Apothecary products in the bathroom were a new touch.
I was feeling so lucky to be there, and then something hit me. I realised that at the end of the night I would be in a big cottage with lots of rooms and scary thoughts all to myself.
Yes, even though Sally was there for most of the evening she had to get home to her young son after the ghost tour, which meant I’d be staying alone. Yikes. I really didn’t think that one through.
I pushed that thought to one side as we made our way down to the Boilerhouse Restaurant for a pre ghost tour dinner. The restaurant gets its name from the two giant boilers from the 1800s that have been lovingly restored before becoming a feature for diners, and the big pipes and valves that can be seen once sent the steam and boiling water to the showers and laundry.
Chef Matthew Kemp works with the Boilerhouse as an ambassador chef and there’s a focus on seasonal Australian produce. While there were lots of tempting dishes I was really in the mood for a good steak and that is certainly what I got. Along with some hand cut chips, some greens and a glass of red that is. Line that stomach before getting scared.
The Quarantine Station Ghost Tours start just near the Boilerhouse, and then take you around the property, sharing lots of scary tales along the way.
I won’t ruin it for those who want to experience it, except to say that if you’ve been tempted to go like I was for years, do it. I definitely felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a few times, and got a little spooked when I checked my camera the next day and saw that despite seeing the flash go off a number of times, there was no trace of the photos taken in the more haunted places. They just didn’t exist.
Throughout the tour I wanted to ask one question, but really didn’t want to know the answer so I stopped myself. Every building seemed to have a ghost story and I wanted to know the story attached to the cottage I was staying in.
But thinking it was probably best not to know until the next morning I kept my mouth shut on that one.
When the tour was over, and Sally dropped me off at my cottage before making her way home to her safe, ghost free house I was pretty much jumping at everything.
My Q Station cottage was secluded and while there were some buildings around they were all ominously dark. No signs of human life to be seen.
After a quick scaredy cat walk through the cottage I started closing all the doors to the rooms. Sure I knew that wouldn’t stop a ghost, but it made me feel slightly more secure in my bedroom.
Then I had lots of cups of tea while talking to friends on social media to stop me teetering over the edge.
Somehow I did manage to fall asleep for a little while (with the lights on) and when I woke up life was beautiful. The sun was shining outside, and all of a sudden being in such a special part of Sydney with killer views was wonderful again.
As I walked down a deserted street between old buildings to make my way to the generous breakfast buffet, I felt like I’d stepped back in time. It was slightly surreal but this time in a good way.
Over breakfast I chatted to Q Station’s Kun Rahadian and asked the dreaded question: who died in my cottage and how horrible was it?
And that’s when I found out no one did. That the cottages, and indeed the whole area where Accor has based their accommodation, is where the first class passengers and other important types stayed and worked. Yes, even a quarantine station has a class system.
If someone from there got sick they were taken down to the other parts of the station, which is where all the deaths took place. And that is why our ghost tour didn’t actually come up to the accommodation area, because there were no ghosty tales to tell there.
Information I really wish I knew the night before.
But then I wouldn’t have had that full experience now would I? It’s funny how staying up all night and jumping at shadows can actually become a fun memory. Well, sometimes.
Amanda Woods stayed as a guest of Q Station but as usual all thoughts and opinions remain her own.
Like getting spooked? You may also like to check out Ten Questions with Paranormal Pete who runs ghost tours in the Blue Mountains.