The Hydro Majestic Hotel: history, scandal and extravagance
The iconic domed entrance and endless stretch of the Hydro Majestic Hotel is a recognisable landmark for anyone who has travelled to the Blue Mountains in NSW. For many, the fabled hotel in Medlow Bath is as much of a destination as the mountains themselves.
While I’d ventured to the region countless times for a day of bushwalking and fresh mountain air, I’d never stopped to have a peek inside the hotel. This only served to sustain the illusion of the mysterious, old-worldly and grand hotel that I’d built in my mind. My imagination would run wild at the thought of what was going on in there; decadent parties that would rival anything Jay Gatsby could throw, scandals and debaucheries, indulgence and opulence.
The Hydro Majestic Hotel, a history
After spending a weekend at the Hydro Majestic recently, I can’t say that my illusions were totally shattered. The hotel’s fascinating history dates back to 1904, when it was first opened by the prominent businessman Mark Foy. Foy’s intentions were to operate it as a hydropathy retreat, naming it the Medlow Bath Hydropathic Establishment. However it was only a few years before this alternative therapy fell out of fashion and he was forced to reinvent his establishment as a luxury hotel, changing the name to the Hydro Majestic.
A hotel that catered to only the rich and privileged, the Hydro Majestic at this time was exactly the one of my imagination. It was known as Mark Foy’s ‘Palace in the Wilderness’ where there would always be lavish parties and extravagant feasts being thrown. The infamous ‘Cat’s Alley’ played host to hordes of gossiping wives and mistresses while the men played billiards and drank inside what’s now known as Salon du The. Rumour has it that there was even a bell that rang at a certain time to remind guests to return to their own rooms before morning light. Not to mention the mobile confessional booth that was set up in the hotel so guilty guests could confess their sins on the go. How’s that for scandal and debauchery?
Heritage Valley View Room
The Hydro Majestic of today is far less scandalous and more family friendly, though it still retains the grandeur and charm of its past. It was bought by the Escarpment Group in 2008 and underwent an extensive modern refurbishment, re-opening in 2014.
The hotel offers a range of luxury rooms and suites, most with simply stunning views out over the Megalong Valley. I stayed in the Heritage Valley View Room during my stay and was pleasantly surprised by its contemporary aesthetic. It featured a simple, clean colour palette of black and white with the occasional yellow accent. The queen size bed gave me one of the best
Dining options at the Hydro Majestic are varied, with multiple premium restaurants and bars to choose from. The Wintergarden is the main restaurant and offers a high tea lunch and a daily fine-dining dinner menu. Prepare to find yourself constantly distracted from your company and your meal thanks to the breathtaking views of the valley from the restaurant’s huge windows. You’re especially in for a treat if you’re there for sunset.
Roaring 20s Festival
A hark back to its more extravagant times, every year in February the Hydro Majestic goes all out for the Roaring 20s Festival.
“The Roaring 20s Festival relives the golden age of the Blue Mountains generally and the hotel
“Thousands of visitors streamed off the trains to check into the guesthouses and grand hotels of Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, Mt Victoria and, the grandest of them all… the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.”
Dressed in my finest 1920s garb (feathers in my hair, a string of pearls around my neck, Mary Janes on my feet), I stepped aboard the Hydro Express at Sydney’s Central station. I was instantly transported to another time. Travelling on the restored vintage train taking passengers up to Medlow Bath that afternoon was an amazing way to kick off the Roaring 20s experience. Everyone was dressed to the nines, looking like they had just stepped out of the pages of The Great Gatsby.
And indeed as all the passengers streamed off the train at Medlow Bath towards the hotel, it was easy to imagine this being a scene replayed from nearly 100 years ago.
The Hydro Majestic Roaring 20s Festival also involved a Charleston Dance for Charity with live music, as well as an evening feast in the hotel’s Majestic Ballroom where guests were treated to live entertainment and a fashion show.
The Hydro Majestic Hotel is a NSW institution with an absolutely fascinating history. Everything from the domed roof of the Casino Lobby to the grilled ceilings in the Majestic Ballroom to the hydronic heaters in Cat’s Alley has a story behind it. The hotel runs daily history tours throughout the grounds that offer insights into its story, its architecture and design, as well as the interesting personality of the eccentric founder. Even if you’re not a history buff, this is a must-do.
The hotel strikes a balance between old-world charm and modern service and amenities. It’s a unique place to stay or simply visit, and offers a great base to explore the rest of the Blue Mountains region.
The Roaring 20s Festival is held annually every February. Head to the Hydro Majestic website for more information.
The Hydro Majestic
52-88 Great Western Highway
Medlow Bath NSW 2780
Nupur Trivedi stayed at the Hydro Majestic Hotel as a guest of the Escarpment Group.