A salty sea dog by the name of John meets us at the pier. The first thing I notice are his bare feet, tanned and sun damaged, a little like the rest of him. Rolled up, sun faded navy pants and a wind cheater complete the look, worn with a cheeky assessment if we might be some rich out of townies or some stowaway locals. John obviously is as local as the pier we are standing on. Perhaps even older. I’d say borderline late 70’s, early 80’s. This story isn’t about him - even though I’m sure that would be a good one - but it’s the first sign that Lilypad Palm Beach as an overall experience is on my right track. A luxury speed boat with a uniformed chauffeur just wouldn’t have cut the mustard next to John, shoeless in his runabout, fishing nets and petrol barrels in the back. This set the tone for what I call a unique stay. “Keeping it real” in the most luxury of ways.
Our time with John is brief, a quick few minutes from Palm Beach Anchorage to the mooring, just metres off shore from Sydney’s iconic Palm Beach. This is the first thing that needs explaining. Lilypad is not a houseboat or a boat of any description. That is wherein lies the genius but I’ll come back to that. It is essentially a pontoon that has been turned into its own piece of real estate. I remember some months back passing it on a boat and it just looked like nothing I had ever seen before. Visually, you have to look twice and then some. The cabin, wood clad and wood decked looked like it should be in the woods, but there it was, amongst the seagulls and super yachts.
So yes, visually it is extraordinary but what really captured my attention was learning that this floating stay was completely self sufficient. It actually sounds strange to me to hear it be called a luxury villa as it feels more hands on than that. More real. The cabin itself is very simple in design, which from a function point of view makes complete sense (the build process was contingent on each product being sustainable; wherever possible they have used reclaimed timbers, such as the external hardwood cladding) but it also blends seamlessly with the water it rests on, not distracting from the natural beauty of it’s landscape.
Our private concierge is an easy going but very organised young women called Kylie. She quickly walks us through everything we need to know for our romantic night away - very aware that this is the place people book to be alone.
Can we drink the water? Yes, we have our own desalination unit on board essentially turning the salt water on which we float into pure fresh drinking water.
Is there wifi? Yes, Lilypad is 100% solar powered, we have an array of 10 solar panels strategically placed across the roof that turn energy generated from the sun into 240 volt power, allowing us to run all the modern appliances you see here. Coffee machine, dishwasher, netflix, wifi all run completely from the sun's energy.
Can I get to shore? Yes, either with John who will be your personal tender for the duration of your stay or you are welcome to use the private vessel to self drive back and forth to shore, explore beaches, fish etc.
What about fishing, paddle-boarding and swimming? There is a selection of equipment at your disposal and a floating daybed.
Right, that got me…floating daybed!! Tell you what else got me, the fireplace. Rarely I am excited about a singular venue for all seasons and you would expect a floating cabin to be a summer destination but there is something very winter about The Lilypad. Wrapped in a blanket on the deck, drinking wine with friends or reading a book by the fire as water laps practically at your feet, no wet toes here. Not to mention lying in the loft in a cloud of high thread count being rocked to sleep like a god damn baby. P.S I did wake up at 4am to a wind change that literally rocked my bed-socks off and enjoyed it thoroughly.
And then there is the big question. Who the hell is the genius that thought of this?! Who came up with the idea of making sea faring so damn luxe and comfy and how the hell did they do it? Local boy does good. Or that’s my headline. I’m not sure if the older, well-to-do folk of Palm Beach would be happy with a young local snapping up the best view in town but I say, “Here’s to you Chuck Anderson!”
Who is Chuck Anderson? An interesting cat from what I can gather, who started his career as a metal fabrication apprentice at the Palm Beach Boatshed, Gonsalves. Many classic boats and high end homes later, he started his own innovative and sustainable solutions business called Little Mill. As a marine engineer, Anderson gathered his diverse hands on experience to bring LilyPad to life, a one-of-a-kind vessel. Motivated by his own life on the water, Anderson set out to create an offering that side stepped the downfalls of even the most luxurious boat- where design is compromised by its overall function to travel.
“Every bathroom on a boat has its tricks and the bedroom is always like, well, ‘being on a boat’. I wanted to break the mould and have people experience all the amazing things that come with being on the water, but then not skimp on the fit-out and finishes of the interior.”
“We achieved this by creating a shape that is less efficient for traveling through the water. It is my belief that most people don’t go boating to travel from A to B, they go boating to be at anchor relaxing (at B). We have secured one of the most spectacular mooring locations in Australia and this blew the design wide open! We can still move the vessel around and relocate her, but it’s a bit more of a process.”
Chuck Anderson from from The Design Files (read their full interview here)