With its stunning harbour setting it's easy to see why Watsons Bay is one of Sydney's most popular locations for weddings. But despite all its prettiness the vibe in this Eastern Suburbs enclave has always been somewhat traditional, until now. The recently refurbished Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel has injected a decent dose of Hamptons-inspired zest into this prime peninsula, instantly propelling Watsons Bay up the leaderboard of coolest destinations to tie the knot.
The historic facade of the hotel remains untouched but the open air public bar and dining area at the rear has been transformed into Beach Club, a three level space playfully decked out with palm trees, colourful beach umbrellas and pops of signature zingy mint green. The main ground level of Beach Club can be hired to host large events but it's the upper level (known as Top Deck) with its spectacular views of the harbour and CBD skyline that really lets you know you're somewhere special. Featuring its own bar and retractable roof, Top Deck is a perfect all weather al fresco space for a relaxed cocktail reception. If you prefer to be seated Top Deck can comfortably host 60-70 guests with more seating available by booking out the middle level, known as Lower Deck.
If Beach Club represents the frivolous, Club Tropicana side of Hamptons lifestyle then the brand new Sunset Room on level one definitely reflects the more elegant and refined qualities of the exclusive New York getaway. Designed by architect Jeremy Bull and styled by Caroline Choker, the interior of the Sunset Room is a relaxed haven of light and airy coastal tranquility. Fresh whitewashed walls and smoked American oak floorboards are matched with rustic tables and fresh flowers while floor to ceiling windows offer panoramic views of the harbour. With its own bar, a variety of room configurations and space for 150 seated guests, the Sunset Room is a versatile blank canvas.
The choice of two spectacular spaces presents quite a dilemma. Fortunately the hotel's flexible approach to weddings means that you can have the best of both worlds to make the most of your budget. For example, if you have around 80 guests you could use the Top Deck for afternoon cocktails and canapes before moving into the Sunset Room for food and dancing.
Seafood is an essential highlight of a visit to Watsons Bay and executive chef John Pye has incorporated plenty of it in the smorgasbord of dining options including canapes and experience stations. For seated receptions there's the option of the traditional alternate drop but our recommendation is the feasting menu of shared plates. So push the tables together and indulge in communal enjoyment of dishes such as 8 hour slow cooked Flinders Island lamb.
Organising the rest of your wedding around the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel is a breeze. The hotel can arrange for your arrival by car, boat or (our personal favourite) seaplane, and also book your outdoor ceremony via Woollahra Council on the beach directly outside the hotel or under the fig tree or rotunda in Robertson park right next door. For Catholic ceremonies you'll love the small but perfectly formed Our Lady Star Of The Sea church just five minutes' walk away.
When it's time for photos you're spoilt for choice. The compact geography of Watsons Bay means that an hour's stroll can encompass beaches, jetties, parkland, cliffs, the lighthouse, gun emplacements and historic houses. For something different there's Lady Bay nudist beach and don't forget to keep an eye on the horizon for incredible sunset images.
With the night ended those canny enough to book one of the hotel's 32 rooms in advance have the shortest journey. Everyone else will be looked after by the friendly staff who will organise cabs, shuttle buses and, for those who still have their sea legs, charter boats and water taxis.