South Grafton surprise receives top rating
FOR your average Clarence Valley dweller, South Grafton isn't exactly the first destination that springs to mind when you think holiday accommodation in this area - but what would we know?
There's a quaint little place, with quite an extraordinary history, tucked up a narrow laneway on the edge of suburbia, its backyard giving the impression you are visiting a remote farm rather than Archer St, South Grafton.
And a lot of different people have laid their weary heads there, some from other side of the world, all enjoying the warm hospitality of hosts Anne and David Barton.
The 'retired' Sydney couple made the move to South Grafton in 2009 after Anne fell in love with the house online. "I used to look at it every night after work,” she confessed.
The house that wooed the English-born medical secretary was no ordinary one. It began its life on top of the hill at Bent St, the former Uniting Church rectory built in 1929. It was sold and moved down to Archer St in 2004 by the previous owner when the church land was sold off for redevelopment.
The mock tudor-style building retains its arts and craft feel, exposed dark timber beams, bay windows and wall panelling as well as an exquisite parquetry floor in the couple's lounge room, "originally laid by Scotts timber merchants who also did old parliament house,” David said. "This room also has the original arch prayer window,” he said pointing to a small internal green glass feature.
Anne said she had no intention of turning their home into a bed and breakfast but the place just "lent itself to something like that”.
"It was an idea I was thinking about for quite a while and it wouldn't leave me so I told this to David and we opened Andavine B&B in June 2014.
The couple said the house's layout meant the back half could be closed off with one door so guests could enjoy their private lounge room and the rural outlook from the back deck.
"It's been extremely busy ever since with people staying pretty much seven days of the week, "David said. "We thought we might have had two or three guests a month but we have had guests for up to 20 days straight at a time. We have to put a halt on it for a couple of days sometimes to catch our breath,” he said. The pair believe the appeal of their place is simply because they love doing it.
"So many of the guests say it really shows. You can feel the love,” Anne said.
"The personalised service and the breakfasts are what people like. They often say 'don't spoil us so much because we have to go home'. Everyone gets a cup of tea and piece of my carrot cake on arrival. We just run the place like it's somewhere we'd like to stay.”
Anne said they have had a lot of international travellers passing through including a lot of European and Asian visitors.
"Around Jacaranda time is crazy. They get so ecstatic when they see kangaroos out the back,” she said.
Marketing wise it's international online giant booking.com where most of their business comes from, the B&B recently receiving a 9.9 rating through its guest reviews.
David said while they thought they would have a quiet retirement, the new direction they found themselves going in has been great fun but challenging. "It wasn't easy and there's a lot of work every day but we've met a lot of wonderful people and heard a lot of stories,” he said. "We also love showcasing the history of Grafton to visitors and try to use local suppliers. "When we first started our neighbour said it would never work. 'No-one ever comes here. It's South Grafton.' He ended up having to come back and apologise.”