10 April 2024

Historic Mount Kembla Village Hotel pedals into mountain bike tourism with new cafe and accommodation renovation

| Kellie O'Brien
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Mount Kembla Village Hotel

Outside the Mount Kembla Village Hotel are licensee Daine Blackburn, UCI Bike City ambassador Samara Sheppard and new cafe operator Kath Walshaw. Photo: Supplied.

The historic Mount Kembla Village Hotel has launched a cafe, and renovated its former miners’ lodgings to open accommodation for the first time in decades, to support mountain bike tourism ahead of the upcoming completion of the Illawarra Escarpment Mountain Bike Network.

Licensee Daine Blackburn said the beautifully restored hotel, which is the oldest weatherboard hotel in the Illawarra, was first opened in 1898 and had been a community hub for Mount Kembla since.

Daine said the family-run business was now being adapted to provide for an influx of mountain bike riders keen to experience the nearly completed world-class trails, which included the 26-km section of trails around Kembla Heights.

His family bought the hotel 17 years ago when it was “very much run-down and a shell that needed a lot of work”.

“Our strength is that it’s an historic building, it’s got a heritage component to it, and we’ve restored it in keeping with that.”

After meetings with Destination Wollongong about the upcoming mountain bike trails, Daine decided to provide facilities for riders, starting with opening a cafe three weeks ago run by his partner Kath Walshaw to service early morning crowds.

“We’ve also now opened a cafe to cater for coffee and breakfast to provide an option to riders as they start the day, and we have a very nice beer garden for them after,” he said.

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“We’re looking to support the riders and be a destination for food and beverage before and after a ride.

“We’ve put a lot of work into how we accommodate the cyclists in terms of storage, bike stands, fixing up the driveways.”

Daine said they were also looking to provide a charging station for those needing to recharge their bikes.

He said the historic property would also soon offer unique accommodation for the first time in decades, using the upstairs accommodation originally set up for mining workers and later used by hotel owners.

“Upstairs has been restored in keeping with downstairs, so all the bedrooms have been restored and we’re looking to put ourselves in a position where we’ll be able to open up eight accommodation rooms,” he said.

He said with the tracks within a couple of kilometres of the hotel, it was exciting for mountain bike trails to be so close and easily accessible for people within Mount Kembla and the Illawarra.

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“I haven’t been up to have a look at the works that have been completed so far, but I have had quite a few mountain bikers come in and talk about how good the trails are and how it’s beyond their expectations and world-class,” he said.

“There is going to be a lot of people come here and that’s good for Mount Kembla, good for Wollongong tourism and good for the region.”

UCI Bike City ambassador Samara Sheppard, a world-class mountain bike rider in her own right, said the Mount Kembla Village Hotel should be congratulated on establishing themselves as a bike friendly business.

“It’s the perfect spot to grab a pre-ride coffee or unwind with friends after a ride and swap tales from the trails,” Samara said.

“I’m excited about the upcoming opening of the Mount Kembla mountain bike trail networks and with world-class trails in our back yard, Wollongong becomes an even more enticing place to live and visit.”

Mount Kembla Village Hotel Cafe is located at 274 Cordeaux Rd, Mount Kembla and will be open seven days a week from 7 am.

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