The old XXXX beer sign outside the Steampacket Hotel has been replaced by a Capital Brewing sign – a lone clue as to the transformation that has taken place within, just in time for the school holidays.
New owner Ben Johnston, who also operates The Old Canberra Inn and Dickson Taphouse, can’t wait for Batemans Bay locals and Canberrans en route to the coast to get a load of the new digs.
“We have a place at Bawley Point, and driving down with our kid in tow, by the time you get where you’re going on the south coast, it’s late on a Friday night and feeding the kids can be a real problem,” he says.
“We always thought, ‘if you could stop just at the bottom of the hill at Nelligen and feed the family, you’d be set’.
“In Batemans Bay, just 10 minutes away, the options for family-friendly venues, especially with nicer outdoor areas that everyone can enjoy, are actually really limited.
“We just knew if we put some effort into renovating the Steampacket, and ensuring the food coming out was high quality, we could check a lot of boxes for people.”
He was right, according to the manager of Big4 Nelligen holiday park across the road, Jodie Carr. She says the refurbishment has plugged a big gap in the area for locals and visitors alike.
“There was a real need for something of this calibre in the area – we were all looking forward to the relaunch, and we haven’t been disappointed,” she says.
“It’s amazing over there now – the friendly service, the food, the atmosphere are all top-notch and it makes it such an enjoyable place to be. Everyone – our guests, our staff and the locals are loving it.”
Jodie, who has become a regular herself, says she happily sends her clients there all the time.
“We tell everyone who will listen to go and check it out and the feedback we’re receiving is that it exceeds expectations,” she says.
Newcomers to the Steampacket will discover the classic Australian pub has retained all its charm but with a fresh and modern interior.
People who have been to the Steampacket before the overhaul will notice a lot more than fresh paint, new flooring and better lighting throughout – entire walls have been moved to open the floor up.
Numerous distinct areas with different decor, form and function allow guests to select the vibe they’re after.
Between the new-look front bar and dining room now sits a room with its own fireplace and jungle-vibe decor: the perfect spot for a relaxed drink with friends.
There are 12 taps up front and 12 down the back to service the bar, dining room and extensive beer garden, lit with festoon lights.
“At night, it’s just magic,” Ben says.”We have also overhauled the stage, so it’s solid and ready to host music events all year ’round.”
Live music is already locked and loaded for weekends in October, as is an outdoor cinema in the beer garden with family-friendly movies and free popcorn.
“There’s already climbing equipment, covered areas with art supplies and plenty of space for kids to run around and maraud in general,” Ben says.
“We’ve only just opened, but we plan on having live music every Saturday and Sunday at a minimum and to have fun school holiday programs.”
Steampacket’s new manager Jake Adams says while the new digs are gorgeous, it’s the food and service that are really stealing the show.
“We’re getting exceptional feedback on the food. The cheeseburger and schnitzels, which are all handmade and crumbed in-house, are leading the way,” he says.
“Punters are also rapt with the service. Our team is exceeding expectations and making everyone who walks through the door feel welcome … It feels we have a great mix of staff, both local and from the coast, who are setting the scene and culture we want to foster.”
Being on the bottom of the Clyde mountain, Jake says the plan is to be the go-to stop for folk coming to the Eurobodalla but also before the run home, and with locals who may not have stopped in returning, he reckons they’re on their way.
“I have been walking down the street in Batemans Bay and had a Nelligen local hang out his window and yell my name. Not knowing anyone in town, I swivelled around and he said, ‘You guys have nailed it, you have done such a great job!'” he says.
“I thought it was awesome to be recognised down the street for being part of an amazing adventure at the pub. It gives us confidence that we’ve nailed the brief and are well on the way to establishing the Steampacket as one of the hallmark venues on the coast.”
Steampacket is open at 963 Kings Highway, Nelligen, Sunday to Wednesday from 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, and on Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am to 11:30 pm. For more information and what’s on at Steampacket in Nelligen, visit Facebook.