IF YOU ARE LOOKING to truly get away from everything, look no further than Captains Rest, possibly one of the most remote Airbnbs in Australia—an 80-year-old heritage listed absolute waterfront cottage in Lettes Bay Village, just outside of Strahan, Tasmania, with its own jetty at the front to be precise. Lettes Bay Village itself is a heritage shack community—busy in the summer and quiet in the winter.
Owned by Sarah Andrews, a one-time scientist turned free-spirited designer and host who grew up on a farm by the sea in Western Australia. Her life path is a fascinating one, beginning with work in spatial science and leading to a life sailing across the ocean on a boat that would be her home for a few years. Andrews’s career as a spatial scientist had her working in Australia and overseas and came to an end with a high-pressure consultancy in London in her early 20s. She spent the next few years exploring the world, living in Africa, Europe and the United States, eventually ending up in the latter, where she bought the boat that would be her home for the next few years.
“I basically just travelled by falling in love with people and moving to their country and then breaking up and leaving the country” she mused in an interview.
Andrews’s adventures on the seas ended one fateful night in 2008, when while sailing the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico, with an engine that had stopped working and some damage to the sails, two nights in, the boat hit something, damaging it and causing it to slowly sink. After spending five hours trying to save the vessel, Sarah managed to steer the sailboat onto a rocky outcrop to wait for the Mexican Navy to arrive and rescue her and her deckhand. Her home was left behind as it sank, taking all of her belongings down with it. After the rescue, Andrews spent six months in Mexico without a passport or visa, working out how to get home.
Back in Australia, the adventurer went back to university to study design, then set up her own graphic design studio. This period of her life was filled with study, work, marriage and buying a house. A move to Alice Springs for her partner’s work would bring unhappiness, as the place wasn’t a good fit for her, and her work, which began as a creative outlet, had become the same as the office job she had left behind.
In 2016, serendipity would lead Andrews to a run-down cottage in Strahan, a small fishing village and former port on the west coast of Tasmania—while flipping though a magazine about Tasmania, she happened upon a small shack for sale and bought it, sight unseen. When Sarah arrived at the property, she found the shack in a desperate state and without power or running water. Renovating in Strahan was already a challenge and on top of that, the nearest hardware store was an eight-hour roundtrip away in Hobart. With the help of a builder, Andrews restored the cabin, designing the entire floor plan from scratch and replacing windows and doors (which had been hanging off their hinges) and finding pieces to bring the interior to life. Her styling budget was just $800. A combined lounge and kitchen area were added, as well as a separate bedroom and bathroom with a clawfoot tub. All offered stunning views of the water through large antique windows that Andrews had installed.
“I just thought this faraway cabin was my solution. I thought I’d go down there for half the year and work in this beautiful little place that felt like being on my boat, then half the year I’d come back … and deal with the real world. So that was the plan” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.
This was not to be. Suddenly, Andrews’s plans changed: a second skin cancer diagnosis (the first, around her eye, had been successfully removed); not working and a marriage that was falling apart ended with a move back home with her parents. The place that was meant to be her refuge was now listed on Airbnb to try to raise money for herself and to pay her medical bills following a messy divorce. Sarah used her science and design background and all of the contacts she had made through her business “to help with marketing, photography, styling and press—all of the things you needed to make a successful Airbnb business,” she said.
Andrews also researched how other Airbnbs were successful and experimented on her cabin, developing new knowledge about why people book places, how they find places, what makes them fall in love with spaces. Captains Rest was listed in mid-2017 and since then, all types of guests have stayed, including elopers and honeymooners to international companies using the space for product shoots.
And it’s no wonder—Captains Nest is filled with antiques found both in Australia and around the world; oil paintings and dried flowers; charming curated collections and fine bed linens; warm textures such as wicker and velvet and a cosy wood-burning stove. And then there’s the view…
Modern conveniences include a full kitchen, satellite wifi, television, picnic amenities, wood heater, electric blanket, wall heater, basic provisions and firewood. There is also plenty of room for parking, including for those towing a boat or caravan.
Today Andrews works as a stylist, photographer, designer, and host. Additionally, she teaches other budding hosts how to succeed with a Hosting Masterclass, where she conducts workshops both in-person throughout Australia and online around the world. She is also renovating a home in the south of France.