A Weekend At Wilko’s
Hey New South Wales, we’ve got a winter holiday for you.
With most Australians confined to their respective states — dipping a toe in their continent's penal past — many have abandoned hope for a 2020 winter holiday. Goodbye Bali. Farewell Fiji. Maybe next year, Maldives.
But recently, an unlikely hero swooped in to save the day with a domestic travel alternative. No, he wasn’t wearing roller skates or a custom boob wetsuit — it was just plain ol' Matt Wilkinson, all grown up.
OK not really grown up. He’s dressed as a camp counselor. But anyway...
Beginning this month, Wilko is hosting weekend retreats at his property in the Byron Bay hinterland. You get to stay at his luxury holiday house, get surf coaching and local guidance from Wilko himself, training from Johnny Gannon and board advice from Darren Handley. Too sporty for you? Relax, it’s Wilko. He’s happy to take you for a casual surf, help you catch a fish and explore the Byron nightlife.
This is Matty’s first push at this business and, with prices starting at $1,000, he’s grossly underpricing the experience. Take advantage of his naïveté before he wises up.
Stab: Give us the story behind Friday Hut Road.
Matt Wilkinson: We had wanted to invest in a Byron hinterland property for a while, and I've always secretly dreamed of having my own restaurant, so when this opportunity popped up we couldn't let it pass. The house is six bedrooms and overlooks Possum Creek, and the restaurant is a converted schoolhouse built in 1911, which we've recently renovated to make it an epic, light-filled space. It's been interesting getting things up and running — we definitely jumped in the deep end starting up a business in an industry that we have no experience in, but it's all starting to come together now which is exciting!
How has business been?
The restaurant had to shut due to Covid, which was sad and scary, but it has given us a chance to really think about what works in the space. We've changed direction quite a bit which is fun, and we're excited to relaunch in the next couple of months assuming that the 'rona quits fucking with us.
Have you seen an increase in Aussie domestic travel because of Covid?
Yeah, we've been really lucky in Byron Bay. I think it's a natural alternative for those people who would normally head to the tropics at this time of year, and the hinterland itself is becoming a destination so I'm stoked that lots of Australians are getting the chance to explore their own backyards a little more this year.
What inspired you to create Weekend at Wilko's?
Over the last few months, I've had the chance to really appreciate some downtime in Byron. The waves have been super consistent, I've been fishing, golfing and kayaking and I've realized just how much this place has to offer. Since we already have the accommodation it made sense to invite people to come and have an epic couple of days where we improve their surfing, find them the best waves and have heaps of fun!
What can attendees expect?
It will be 3 day/2 night or 4 day/3 night all-inclusive and fully customisable surf adventure to suit private groups, corporate getaways, couples, and individual surfers. Before guests arrive I'll help them organise hire boards to suit the forecast, and from then on we try to take care of everything including airport transfers, transport, meals and luxury accommodation. For the surf sessions, we'll be offering coaching and professional filming/photography, plus session reviews in our private cinema at the end of each day. We're also excited to be working with Johnny Gannon (Taj's trainer) for surf-specific training sessions which can include ice baths and breath-holding sessions. Darren Handley (DHD) is also going to join us for a surf session and give board advice to help people find the right equipment. Our garage is stocked with an MF soft top quiver for guests to have a play around on, and we also want to do a fun novelty comp on the last afternoon with prizes from local brands, including Childe Eyewear.
I don't want the weekend to be all about surfing because Byron has so much other good shit going on, so if people are keen we are happy to tack on other activities including yoga, golf, fishing, kayaking, and anything else that tickles your fancy. Let's not forget about the Byron nightlife, which I've done my fair share of market research on.
How much does it cost?
Prices will start from $1,000 per person depending on group size, camp length and activity preferences.
Do you see this as a retirement plan of sorts, or will you still be chasing the tour when it resumes?
I definitely will still do some competing and a whole lot of good wave hunting, but with all the uncertainty going on I think this is the perfect way to keep me doing what I love without having to stress out if events can't run or travel doesn't open back up. I've lived the tour dream for the last 15 years and now I'm really excited to share my experience, stories, and some tubes with you all.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I'll also be doing one-on-one guided surf days and coaching sessions for locals and people who don't want to commit to the full experience. And if anyone wants to hit up Cloudbreak once the borders reopen, I am in.