Known to locals and three decades of guests as Sails, the hotel's name was changed in 2018 to signal completion of a five-year $25 million reinvention. It now goes by the catchy name Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges. But locals still call it Sails.
Sails was one of the first five-star resorts on the NSW coast and has prime position on the Hastings River where moored yachts meet Port Macquarie's most exclusive marina.
Sails was "tired" when the present owners bought it in 2013. They'd coveted it for years, regarding it as one of the best hotel positions on the NSW coast, with potential as a venue for interstate weddings and international conferences. Accordingly, the new Sails has a Hamptons-style wedding chapel and private pavilion, plus a top floor 300-seat "ballroom" that has already attracted international events.
Weatherboard has replaced the hotel's old brick facade and hotel guests now walk into a sophisticated and lofty lobby space, dominated by a glass lift. The koi carp pond has been replaced by an expansive dining deck.
Sails now has 92 rooms, 80 per cent pf which have water views. All have balconies or terraces with access to beautifully manicured gardens. My executive suite has 180 degree views from its wrap-round balcony over the marina and along the Hastings River to Port Macquarie's centre (a 20-minute walk along the riverfront). The lounge/kitchen area contains a sofa, comfy chair, desk, smart TV,fridge, oven, hotplate and dishwasher. The Wi-Fi is free and the bedroom, with king bed and TV, has its own marina view.
In a location as superb as this, I'd choose to dine outside and the new incarnation of Sails is blessed with several outdoor dining areas. But a cyclone in Queensland has caused fierce winds so it's indoor dining only tonight, which also means the hotel's "fire table" can't be lit. The Boathouse Restaurant + Bar, under head chef Casey Luke, specialises in produce gathered, where possible, from within a 200 kilometre radius. Tonight's special (chargrilled rib eye on a bed of soft polenta, asparagus, peperonata and jus) is both succulent and large enough to make me forgo desert. My one gripe:local wines should be on offer for visitors.
Sails now has its own wharf so you can literally step onto a dolphin, whale or sunset cruise or arrange a private excursion. Port Macquarie's many beaches are justifiably famous, but visit the historic lighthouse for one of the most glorious coastline views in Australia. The hinterland is a well kept secret, with a plethora of culinary experiences.
King rooms from $209 a night. See sailsportmacquarie.com.au
Superb location, sensitive reinvention - a perfect spot to reinvest a few days exploring an area that has done it tough though this "black summer".
Relaxing by the pool, with to-die-for views of the Hastings.
My shower room/loo was anonymous, compared with the rest of the experience.
Steve Meacham was a guest of Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges and Port Macquarie Hastings Council.