In Style + Design

Set Sail On Sydney’s Three-Tiered Glass Island

For a city defined by its striking harbour, Sydney has surprisingly few floating venues.

Party barge The Island opened in 2011, later joined by Hamptons, Seadeck and on-water villa Lilypad. But there’s never been anything like Glass Island.

A three-level lifestyle concept, the rebirthed vessel was pulled from its 19-year-long past as a wedding and corporate events venue. Now with hospitality hotshot Scott Robertson at the helm, Glass Island is the city’s newest floating party destination, setting sail from King Street Wharf every weekend.

“I am always on the lookout for exciting new opportunities and, for the last few years, would see Sydney Glass Island cruising around the harbour on occasion,” says Robertson, referring to the venue’s first incarnation. “Even back then I could see its potential.”

Robertson is also behind the aforementioned Seadeck, an experience he wanted to further with Glass Island’s ingenious redesign. For this, he looked further afield and drew inspiration from affluent international venues like Soho House, where each level has a completely different look and feel.

“When it came to the design, I looked past the fact that it was a boat. I wanted to take a completely different approach to this project.”

The result is a cohesive blend of three distinct spaces, borrowing from tropical paradises like Miami Beach and the Mediterranean, with a splash of opulence lurking underneath the water.

Bespoke furniture by Robertson’s long-time design collaborator Alex Zabotto-Bentley and his team at AZBcreative was brought in and used alongside a cutting-edge sound system and newly-built bars.

For the open-air top deck, Zabotto-Bentley and Robertson looked to iconic Mediterranean beach clubs and presented a palette of red, burnt orange and white. Custom-made lounges are neatly organised around the space, and VIP areas stand shadowed by crimson-toned umbrellas and leafy ferns.

Clearly the more party-minded floor, it sports a design geared towards glistening harbour views and leaves enough room for a dancefloor. Aside from the umbrellas, there is little to disturb the head-spinning panorama of Sydney’s icons as the boat makes its way across the harbour.

This is also where the venue’s custom-made Void-Acoustics sound system comes into play. The powerful set-up is especially valuable given Glass Island’s weekly programs, bringing in top DJs from around the world. “Music is and always will play an integral part in everything I’m involved with,” says Robertson, who also owns Oxford Street nightclub Goodbar.

glass island

The middle floor, completely framed in tinted glass panels, shifts the vibe to Miami’s South Beach, inspired by the city’s glamorous pool clubs and beachfront hotel lobbies.

A seven-metre-long custom bar flecked with mint-hued tiles stands as the centrepiece, facing a colourful smattering of lounges and other seating. The raw timber flooring looks like it was lifted from a vintage movie set.

Importantly, the surrounding floor-to-ceiling glass panels can slide open to usher in the sea breeze, or shut to block out any rain. Robertston says this was a lesson learned from Seadeck, where weather was one of the biggest challenges. Now if things take a turn for the worst, Glass Island can close the top deck and guests can enjoy the other two fully-enclosed floors.

Not only is the lower deck Glass Island’s “hidden gem”, but it’s also Sydney’s very first bar technically underwater. Though windowless, this understated Champagne and cocktail lounge is a classy escape from the top two decks.

Natural wines from Not Wasted feature heavily behind the elegantly built bar, alongside treasures like vintage Dom Perignon and Don Julio 1942. Cocktails here lean more towards the classics, while those served on the middle deck focus on “summery and fresh” recipes and the top deck gets by with several variations of the spritz.

glass island

“We wanted to create a space where guests can escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy some of the finer drink options available on the boat,” says Robertson.

“The unique design of Glass Island’s different levels means it appeals to a broad demographic,” he says. “I see some groups who will come on board with no real interest in the top deck; they’re more than happy to socialise on the middle deck drinking cocktails and enjoying the view.”

With a snack-focused food menu being one of the few constants across all three levels, Glass Island successfully strings three lavish atmospheres into one venue.

“That is the beauty of Glass Island,” says Robertson. “You can change your experience just by moving around the boat.”

(All images: Glass Island / supplied) 

Published 26 February, 2020