A dusty outback town with a population of around 350 isn’t the typical setting for a thriving coffee shop, gallery and community space. But Sydneysiders Matilda Moylan-Blaikie and Kurt Jury have managed to create something of an oasis in the desert.

The young couple discovered South Australian opal-mining town Andamooka – a six-hour drive north of Adelaide – while visiting family. Almost immediately, they fell in love with its otherworldly landscape. “I grew up in the CBD of Sydney so to wake up, walk outside and see no buildings and the colours … we still get so excited at sunset and the golden hour and seeing nothing but the outback.”

The idea of opening a cafe and creative hub in the remote town began as a hypothetical uni project. Moylan-Blaikie presented her concept to Andamooka’s town manager, who immediately offered a space to see the proposal come to fruition.

“We saw that people were meeting out the front of the bottle shop, just standing around their cars and chatting there,” Moylan-Blaikie says. “There was a lot going on but it was in people’s houses because there was nowhere else for it to happen.”

Before long the local community kitchen was transformed into the Andamooka Yacht Club – a tongue-in-cheek name for a venue in the landlocked far-north of South Australia.

The cafe doubles as a gallery space, with artwork from local and interstate artists – such as Sydney painter Lauren Webster and Andamooka opal miner and metalsmith Wayne Dries – on the walls. The small menu consists of toasties, “brekky pizza”, smoothies and rotating daily specials. Coffee comes courtesy of Adelaide roaster Dawn Patrol.

Workshops and events such as painting classes, ping-pong nights, yoga classes, themed dinners and more are hosted in the hall next door.

Andamooka’s population has dwindled since BHP Billiton shelved its multi-billion-dollar expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in 2012. So the Yacht Club relies on visitors from neighbouring town Roxby Downs with its much larger population of about 4000 just a half-hour drive away. “It’s been really good for the other businesses as well,” Moylan-Blaikie says. “The bottle shop here has an awesome selection of wines so they’ll come out here for their coffee and grab their alcohol and go back.

“Since we opened it’s been busy. At the start people wanted to see the ‘new thing’ and a lot of people said it would drop off and that it wouldn’t work,” says Moylan-Blaikie. “It’s awesome to see that it kept going.” Moylan-Blaikie and Jury’s success was acknowledged at the Brand SA Regional Awards last month. The AYC received the Mayor's Choice Award.

Despite their triumphs and accolades, the couple will swap red dirt for green mountains next year to open a “smokehouse” in the remote countryside of Tasmania. Their new venture Forest & Fish will be in Gould’s Country, near Bay of Fires. AYC will continue under the stewardship of their good friends Pip Stafford and Charlie Sim.

“A lot of people have said we should do Yacht Clubs all over the outback and keep the brand going, but we want to be creative all over again,” Moylan-Blaikie says. "We’ve had so much fun dreaming up the AYC and it’s opened our eyes to the potential for small business to create positive change in small places. We want more of that.”

Andamooka Yacht Club closes between November 20, 2016 and January 27, 2017.

Andamooka Yacht Club
118 Government Road, Andamooka

Hours:
Tues to Sat 9am–3pm
Sun 10am–3pm

andamookayachtclub.com/