When Mez Keith returned to Australia after working in New York for five years with her husband Hamish, an opportunity arose to buy Hamish’s family sheep farm in Bathurst. So with that, she tapped into her skill set as a Project Manager, and Hamish, as an Event Producer, and combined with their obsession for design made transitioning Wilga Station into a luxury accommodation business the most natural thing in the world.
Tell us a little bit about Wilga Station.Wilga Station is our luxury accommodation business. Based on the family property of the same name, Wilga Station is a working sheep station just 12 minutes from Bathurst and 35 minutes from Orange. It kicked off with The Farmers Hut, a gorgeous, romantic getaway for two. Perched on a hill, under a curved grass roof, our eco hut is 100% off-grid and allows visitors to unwind and experience what we’ve always loved about the farm. Next came The Shearers Hall, our luxurious converted shearing shed, which sleeps up to 10 and allows you to experience The Sheep Trail (our very own bushwalking track) and natural swimming pond with the family or a group.
However, in 2022 we expanded our accommodation offerings into Bathurst City and launched The Wool Store. In the heart of Australia’s oldest inland settlement, we bought and renovated an old Wool warehouse and converted it into 6 luxury New York-style serviced apartments. So Wilga Station now caters to those looking to escape and unwind at the farm, or those looking to be in the heart of Bathurst’s CBD heritage district.
What inspired you to turn Wilga Station into luxury off-grid accommodation?
When my husband, Hamish and I returned to Australia after working in New York for five years, an opportunity arose to buy Hamish’s family sheep farm, making him a third-generation owner. We knew we wanted to get out of city apartment living and we jumped at the opportunity to give our kids the same farm upbringing that Hamish had. However, we had also just come out of a decade-long drought and were acutely aware that working a farm in the Central West came with great risk and no certainty of financial gain. As such, we knew we had to diversify our income streams. We would continue to graze white Suffolk sheep and keep the farm productive, but we also wanted to introduce luxury accommodation to supplement our family income and make us less dependent on such a natural disaster-prone industry. We were able to tap into both our skill sets, Hamish as an award-winning Event Producer and myself as a Project Manager. That combined with our obsession for design made transitioning Wilga Station into a luxury accommodation business the most natural thing in the world.
What makes Wilga Station so unique?
We knew that for Wilga Station to be successful it needed a wow factor, and a hook, but it also needed to be unique and offer guests something that other accommodation options couldn’t provide. The hook was our Farmers Hut. Its sleek shape with a curved grass roof makes it appear as an extension of the hillside. Natural and rustic on the outside, sleek, and modern with high-end design on the inside. Not only does it look incredible, but the grass roof acts as a natural insulation and keeps the temperature between 16-24 degrees year-round. Using 100% collected rainwater and 100% solar energy, it's like Hobbiton meets Grand Designs!
However, the thing that makes the Farmers Hut and the Shearers Hall so unique is that both reside in the middle of a sheep paddock! There are no fences, no gates, and sheep literally walk and prance right past your window. It's an amazing experience to watch sheep in their natural habitat, completely unaware of your presence.
To stand out from the crowd, we wanted to be a destination in itself so we created two great experiences exclusively for our guests. One is the Sheep Trail, a natural sheep track turned bushwalking track that takes you from both accommodations down to our stunning, willow-lined, Wilga Creek. The other is our new two million-liter natural swimming pond with its pontoon and islands laced with weeping willows. Beautiful to swim or paddle in, the swimming pond is a brilliant way to cool down in Summer, or sit beside and toast marshmallows in the cooler months.
How do you balance work & life responsibilities?
It’s hard! For me, it's about being able to share the work responsibilities and share the mum's responsibilities equally with my partner. Both my husband and I are hands-on when it comes to parenting and the business. We both have different skill sets and have organically divvied up the roles and activities equally between ourselves. Without that division of labour we wouldn't be where we are today.
For me personally, it's also about the separation of mum and work life. I know that I can't work when the kids are running amuck around my ankles - I learnt this the hard way during Covid lockdown and unsuccessfully trying to do my corporate job from home whilst also teaching my kids. So I don't try. When kids are home, work gets put aside (for my well-being as much as theirs!). I'm lucky right now in that both my kids are school-age, so school hours are for work and after-school hours are for being home with my family.
What’s on the horizon for Wilga Station in 2023?
So much! Maybe too much! We just launched our natural swimming pond, complete with pontoon, in December 2022. In 2023 we’re focusing more on guest experiences and collaborating with like-minded local businesses and tourism bodies. This includes working with inbound tour operators to create multi-day experiences across Bathurst and the Central West for international tourists, particularly from the US, who want that authentic rural Australian experience. Part of this is also working with local Elders to create a First Nations experience onsite at our spectacular granite and weeping willow creek.
We also want to showcase more of the amazing local produce of the region by developing additional gourmet hamper offerings and beverage packages for guests, such as a new sundowner package that we have in the works, partnering with The Grange Bathurst, the region’s newest Gin and Whisky Distillery.
Location: BATHURST | NSW