Justin Hemmes to turn Glasshouse Rocks property at Narooma into nature retreat

GARDEN TIME: Justin Hemmes in his garden in Vaucluse with a chook. Photo James Brickwood
GARDEN TIME: Justin Hemmes in his garden in Vaucluse with a chook. Photo James Brickwood

SYDNEY hospitality mogul Justin Hemmes has revealed some of his plans for his stunning Glasshouse Rocks property at Narooma.

Apparently he plans for it to be a nature retreat for his family and friends and is looking forward to diving for lobsters and abalone and maybe even having a few chooks and cows.

Earlier this year, Hemmes purchased the spectacular, sea-hugging, 60-hectare Glasshouse Rocks property just south of Narooma for a reported $7.5 million. He now calls it “the farm”.

In recent weeks, the Narooma News has received reports that Hemmes has also been seen hanging out at The Dromedary Hotel in Central Tilba and walking his dogs at Mystery Bay.

He spoke to the Good Food section of the Sydney Morning Herald for in depth article about the expansion of his Merivale company.

Eight new Merivale outlets are scheduled to open – some within already owned properties, others bought for an estimated total of $66 million – with vast amounts more money flowing through them via refurbs and restorations.

Hemmes became Merivale CEO in 1997. He quickly stamped his signature on both the operation and Sydney's CBD with the opening of the fashionable, buzzy bar-restaurant-nightclub the Slip Inn. Since then, amid a whirl of headlines everywhere from the business to the social pages, he appears to have barely paused for breath.

Merivale has more than 50 sites and the empire is expanding. Shortly after his father's recent death, Hemmes bought the Newport Arms in Pittwater for a reported $50 million but when it comes to the size of the business, beyond the fact that Merivale employs about 2500 people, he is politely evasive.

He told the Good Food section that by necessity and by choice Merivale is now more food-focused.

"It's a better way ... food and beverage should be enjoyed together," Hemmes states, before bursting out with a laugh: "Also, I'm getting old. I don't go to clubs. This is a prime example of how the business shifts with my age."

In the Good Food article he is described firing up his mobile phone again to reveal pictures of "the farm", his new retreat, taken with his drone, and floats the fantasy of populating this new kingdom with a quasi-commune of like-minded friends and their children.

THE FARM: Justin Hemmes calls his new Glasshouse Rocks property "the farm" and hopes to spend time there with family and friends. Photo supplied

THE FARM: Justin Hemmes calls his new Glasshouse Rocks property "the farm" and hopes to spend time there with family and friends. Photo supplied

It will be a place of simple, practical, nature-based activities far away from the city rush, the CEO told Good Food. He describes fishing for lobster, abalone and prickly sea urchin, a creature most people wouldn't know how to open. "My kids are going to know how to do that by the age of four.

Mr Hemmes this year lost both his father and one of his oldest friends Angus Hawley.

"I've learned so much in the last year because of the intensity of what's happened," he adds thoughtfully. "Losing Dad and then Angus ... falling head over heels with Kate and then the baby coming, and then all these developments and growth of the business – such confusing emotions.

"I try to see the positive in everything now."

Comments