Bannisters Hotels injecting $7 million into Salamander Shores transformation featuring a Rick Stein restaurant

A $7 million overhaul to Salamander Shores is set to create further employment, tourism and dining opportunities in Port Stephens by the end of the year.

Bought by Bannisters Hotels in 2017, the “tired” and “outdated” Salamander Shores is now under construction and transforming into a four star boutique hotel featuring a Rick Stein restaurant.

“We’ll be offering barefoot luxury in Port Stephens,” Bannisters Port Stephens general manager Peter Bacon said. “We're really excited about the changes we're making. It's going to be spectacular when it's done.”

Bannisters Port Stephens, as the hotel will be named, will be similar to the group’s hotel in Mollymook.

Mr Stein, an English celebrity chef and television presenter, and wife Sarah Stein have operated a restaurant in Bannisters at Mollymook for eight years.

The pair said they were excited to be branching out into Port Stephens.

“Port Stephens is another beautiful stretch of NSW coastline, like Mollymook,” Mr Stein said.

“I will be working closely with head chef Mitchel Turner designing a menu featuring local king prawns, Yellowfin bream, flathead, calamari and school whiting, not to mention the fabulous oysters.” 

Sarah and Rick Stein in their Sydney home. Picture: Lee Besford

Sarah and Rick Stein in their Sydney home. Picture: Lee Besford

The existing structure of the Salamander Bay hotel will largely remain the same, but the facade will be updated to give it a “Hamptons” look and feel.

The hotel will offer 80 rooms, which will include six luxury suites and a penthouse. Of those rooms, 50 will have ocean views.

A pool and cocktail bar will be added to the rear of the hotel, which will be near the wet-edge infinity pool that will look out over the water.

“Everything about it is going to be special,” Mr Bacon said. “It will complement the Bannisters brand, but the hotel will be unique in its own sense. The lobby will be spectacular, the pool bar will be really special.”

Salamander Shores in the 1970s. Picture: Vicki Rutten

Salamander Shores in the 1970s. Picture: Vicki Rutten

Mr Stein’s restaurant will be located to the rear of the hotel, above the tavern. The tavern is the only aspect of the hotel that is currently trading.

It will remain operational once the hotel is up and running, which is expected to be by Christmas 2018.

“The pub is staying,” Mr Bacon said. “We want to do right by our locals. They're our bread and butter, especially in the quieter months.”

The slab to the restaurant was poured last Wednesday. It was the first major milestone in the hotel’s revamp, which Mr Bacon said was exciting.

A small handful of Salamander Shores staff will stay on with Bannisters. Mr Bacon and the hotel’s commercial director, Alice O’Hara, will run a recruitment drive for staff later in the year.

A “small army” of staff is needed to run the hotel, Mr Bacon said.

“This will create a whole new opportunity for jobs,” he said. “We’ll need a mix of full time and casual staff for all aspects of the hotel, which will be a 24-hour, seven day a week operation.”

A bird's eye view of Salamander Shores.

A bird's eye view of Salamander Shores.

In addition to employment, another aspect of Port Stephens life the hotel will be involved with is tourism.

“People will be staying with us two or three nights,” he said. “They won’t want to just stay in the hotel, they’ll want to experience what the area has to offer.

“Accommodation affects the local area because people want to go out, see what’s on offer. Port Stephens has a lot of offer, the area is unbelievable, and the Hunter Valley is so close to.

“We’ll want to work with tourism companies to get our guests out in Port Stephens. Working together benefits everyone.”

Salamander Shores: a history

The Salamander Shores hotel first opened in 1968.

Operating under the name The Salamander, the hotel featured nine two-bedroom family rooms, seven double suites, a swimming pool, jetty for boats, a public and club bar and lounge.

A sign at the site of where The Salamander, now known as Salamander Shores, was being constructed in 1968. Picture: Arthur Renforth

A sign at the site of where The Salamander, now known as Salamander Shores, was being constructed in 1968. Picture: Arthur Renforth

During the years, the hotel has expanded to include 91 rooms and changed hands a number of times.

The hotel has previously been run as an All Seasons Hotel and a Comfort Inn. It was sold to a Sydney-based consortium in 2002 for reportedly $7 million.

The All Seasons Salamander Shores Hotel, as it was then known, was placed on the market in 2012 with no record of a sale. 

Accor Hotels Australia leased it to Ibis Hotels who operated the 91-room hotel and tavern until 2016 when it was once again listed for sale.

Port Stephens councillors inspecting the site of the new hotel at Salamander, October 1967. Picture: Arthur Renford

Port Stephens councillors inspecting the site of the new hotel at Salamander, October 1967. Picture: Arthur Renford

The 91-room hotel also had restaurant and bar facilities, four function rooms and car parking for 100 vehicles.

Ibis Styles Salamander Shores Hotel was sold by private owners including eastern suburbs-based realtor Chris Herbert.

Bannisters Hotels bought the hotel in 2017 for an undisclosed sum. However, the hotel was expected to be sold for between $7 million and $9 million.

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