Never have I wanted to put on my warmest clothes and curl up by a window to read a book more than I do right now. At the Little Black Shack at Great Mackerel beach, you can picture the Swallows and Amazons in woolly jumpers racing homemade rafts across the bay, or Julian, Dick, George, Ann and Timothy the dog picnicking with tongue sandwiches on the beach. The shack and its surrounds remind me of a real life Enid Blyton novel (the Australian version).
Jamie Kwong first spotted his future property on a television ad when he was a teenager, and couldn’t believe his luck when he sailed past the same little hut later in life. In 2013, he and his partner Ingrid purchased the plot with plans to build an off the grid home for their young family, to spend their days exploring waterways, fishing, camping, living off the sea and hiking in the surrounding national park. The shack was perfect for their lifestyle.
Whilst the pair were drawn to the practical, utilitarian nature of the shack, it was in need of an update to make it habitable. ‘It was pretty much unliveable’ recalls Jamie. ‘The roof, interior and exterior walls were all asbestos, termites had eaten the majority of the timbers, and there were more packs of rat bait than human food. Much of it was not weatherproof, the garden walls had crumbled into the sea and the toilet was in a shed outside.’
The pair proceeded to lovingly restore the shack without compromising on its visible history. ‘We simply took it apart bit by bit and put it back together as it was (with a few minor alterations),’ Jamie states. He and Ingrid then filled the home with recycled, repurposed, restored and homemade furniture, allowing the house to retain its wild and woolly maritime interiors. ‘If we didn’t already have it, we made it ourselves out of recycled materials. We didn’t want to make a home at the expense of the environment.’
And at every chance it gets, the landscape peeks its way in, inveigling itself into the nooks and crannies of the structure and the lives of whichever human is occupying the shack at the time. Rainwater is used for showers (outside or in), a kitchen garden hosts a plot of wild native greens and the outdoor kitchen is equipped with a wood fired oven and barbequeue to cook everything you’ve harvested. Guests read books and play board games instead of watching TV, and there is gear for kayaking, fishing and crabbing.
‘The environment was behind every choice we made,’ Jamie explains. ‘It’s probably what we don’t have that makes the shack so special. There are no shops, cafes, roads, cars or Foxtel, so the shack is a complete escape from our hectic, modern lives.’
The Little Black Shack looks almost like a stage set, somewhere the Dursleys would go to flee Hogwarts owls, or Cameron Diaz would venture in The Holiday. The structure captures a rustic homeliness, an essence of hygge that bestows immediate atmosphere on any story taking place within it. The feeling of Little Black Shack existed before the plethora of films and novels it stirs memories of, and will transcend the many more to come.
Fancy a few nights in this secluded maritime idyll? You can book a stay here.
Perched on the rockface, Little Black shack was originally constructed by local fisherman to house their families. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Gear for fishing and crabbing. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
The shack’s weathered look survived Jamie and Ingrid’s restoration. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
The house is filled with Ingrid and Jamie’s restored, recycled and handmade furniture. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
A well-equipped kitchen. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Sea views wrap the entirety of the house. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
A properly wonky and ramshackle maritime vibe. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Seafaring ornaments. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
The house is filled with a history of treasures. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Imagine a season of wild and woolly weather here! Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Everything you need for a cosy atmosphere. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
So much room for activities. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Photo – Luisa Brimble.
A room with a view. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Original sandstone walls. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Even the restored parts of the house don’t look new. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
The woodfired oven out the back. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
The front deck provides luscious sea views down onto Great Mackerel Beach. Photo – Luisa Brimble.
Stunning! Photo – Luisa Brimble.
The house is only accessible by ferry… Photo – Luisa Brimble.