Tasmania is renowned as the mountain biking capital of Australia, so when Chris Cafe and his wife designed and built Hill Street Blue in Derby, they knew exactly what their guests would need.
“We’re mountain bikers ourselves, so we put a lot of thought into it. We wanted to create the perfect set-up so that rain, hail or shine, our guests would have a good time,” he says.
That perfect set-up includes large lockable mountain bike sheds, bike wash stations, a mudroom, shuttle services and a Stoked Stainless wood-fired six seater hot tub in each of the three lodges on the property.
“The hot tubs just worked perfectly with what we’re doing,” he says. “People will go out for a ride, come back, set a fire, grab a beer, wait for the water to warm up and then sit around in the tub and relax.”
He says family members first alerted him to the Stoked Stainless hot tubs after they saw them at the Launceston AgFest agricultural show. He did some research and discovered that the company was created by “some mountain biking fans” from Wānaka who designed the tub specifically to get rid of aches and pains.
“We thought it could be something that would attract more guests and allow us to charge a higher price for that property.”
And they were right. Since adding their first tub around three years ago, they have become a major drawcard for Hill Street Blue, he says, and their two other properties without hot tubs are less popular (Hill Street Blue’s season runs from September through to April and it is at about 70% occupancy for the upcoming season).
“If you go on to our Airbnb listing and you look at our feedback, 90 per cent of it is around the hot tubs. They tend to say something like ‘the accommodation is fantastic, but the hot tubs are awesome!’’
When he initially saw how much the Stoked Stainless tubs cost, he thought they were quite expensive.
“But for the amount of stainless steel you get and the quality and look of them, it’s very reasonable. They are basically bombproof.”
And the ritual of starting a fire and the smell of smoke really does add to the atmosphere, he says.
“Tassie has that whole vibe. It can get pretty cold here so everyone loves having a good fire!”
There are notices up around the property asking guests to have a shower before they get in the tub, but they don’t always heed that advice, he says.
“That means the tubs can get quite dirty by the end of a stay [which averages around 3-4 days]. But you just empty the water out, give the tub a scrub and fill it up again. It’s so easy. There’s no need for chlorine or filters and it doesn’t take a huge amount of water to refill it, either.”
Another benefit of the wood-fired models is that they’re very portable.
“You can just pick them up and move them. When we first set up, we had them in certain spots that didn’t work, but we built decks and just moved them there. If they were hardwired in, that would be a bit harder to do. And you just need to get a garden hose there to fill it up.”
Chris says they successfully use the evocative hot tub imagery in their own social media marketing and guests also regularly post pictures of themselves in the tubs.
“It really does add to the experience and it’s a point of difference for us because no-one else in Derby has them. And we don’t want anyone else to get them, either. It’s our thing. But it’s probably only a matter of time before someone does.”
While the majority of guests are there for mountain biking, he says they are getting an increasing number of bookings from groups on wellness retreats.
“They might do some meditation, possibly go to the floating sauna on Lake Derby and then jump in the hot tubs at night.”
And, perhaps not surprisingly, given all the positive feedback they get, he says he regularly gets requests for more information about the hot tubs from guests.
“I know people who have bought them for their own place.”
Because the Stoked Stainless hot tubs have proven to be so popular with guests and so easy for them and their staff to maintain, he says they are thinking about getting two more for another property.
“It definitely attracts people to the accommodation. And, for a lot of people, the hot tubs are something a bit different … Everyone knows the hot tubs at Hill Street Blue. People are disappointed when they can’t get a booking to come back and they need to stay somewhere else without a hot tub.”