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Our History

Founded by Mark Foy in 1901, the Hydro Majestic was Australia's pioneering health retreat, featuring cutting-edge facilities like its own electricity supply before Sydney. Opening in 1904, it quickly became a haven for celebrities, including Dame Nellie Melba and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Perhaps as early as 1901, Mark Foy, dashing retail baron, world traveller and sportsman, sold off shares in Mark Foy’s Department Stores to finance what was to become Australia's first health retreat.

Most of the construction of the Hydro Majestic took place in 1903, the same year Mr Foy successfully applied to have the name of the township changed to the more appropriate "Medlow Bath" The inner workings of the resort were all thoroughly modern and included a steam-driven generator imported from Germany. This generator produced electricity for the resort and the neighbouring township of Medlow Bath. In fact the Hydro Majestic had working electricity four days before the city of Sydney. The resort also had its own water supply, steam laundry, freezing works, sewerage treatment works and a telephone system connected to the Sydney exchange.

Views from Majestic Point Lookout

Mr Foy hired Dr George Baur formerly of the "Shoeneck" health spa on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland to devise and supervise a program of diets and weird and wonderful treatments.

The Hydropathic Establishment officially opened on July 4th, 1904 during a snowstorm. A group of special guests arrived by train at Penrith where Mr Foy had a fleet of motor cars waiting to drive them to the Hotel. Artworks collected from all over the world were housed in a gallery several hundred feet long. Entertainment took place in the Casino Ballroom (it was never used for gambling) the magnificent dome is still in place today. The dome was pre-fabricated in Chicago and shipped to Australia. The guests strolled along the picture gallery to reach the Grand Dining room, the half barrel vault ceiling with its gilded features, is still much admired.

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The Hydro Majestic attracted guests from around Australia and the world. Famous Australian Opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba sang at the hotel a number of times as did English Opera singer Dame Clara Butt and Nellie Stewart.

Australia's first Prime Minister Sir Edmund Barton actually died in the hotel in 1920. Other famous guests were Sherlock Holmes' creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Julius Blau of 4711 perfume fame, and the Rajah of Pudukkutai with his Australian-born wife, the former Molly Fink.

Cats Alley Hallway

A number of well-known Foy family friends also stayed at the hotel including Hugh Ward, Dame Nellie Melba's Australian manager and his son naturalist and anthropologist, Melbourne Ward and Freddie Lane who was the first Australian swimmer to win gold at the Paris Olympics Games in 1900.

 In 1922 fire destroyed Belgravia and the gallery. Mr Foy however, took this loss in his stride and commenced work on the New Belgravia, which was to take fourteen years to complete. In 1942 the Hydro was taken over by the U.S. Defence Department and turned into a hospital for American casualties from the battles of the Coral Sea and South Pacific. HM external 1 1

In 1946 a new building was opened with bedrooms on the upper floors and a large lounge downstairs complete with a huge fireplace.

Mark Foy died in 1950 aged 85. His family, politicians, sportsmen and other dignitaries attended his funeral. His many significant contributions to Australian life spanned the areas of medicine and sport to retailing and tourism. Certainly he was a true pioneer of the Australian hospitality industry.

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Hydro Majestic History Tours

Discover the history of yesteryear with a guided tour of the Hydro Majestic commencing in the Casino Lobby. The tour will take in history of the Casino lobby with its iconic domed roof, the magnificent Salon Due Thé and Cat’s Alley, the elegant Majestic Ballroom and concludes in the Hydro Majestic Pavilion which showcases vibrant displays of Hydro’s historical past along with boutique and regional food and wine from the Blue Mountains and its regions.

Tour Hours

  • Available daily at 1pm
  • Please ensure you arrive 10 minutes prior to the commencement of the tour
  • All tours run for approximately 30-45 minutes and start from the Casino Lobby and finish in the Hydro Majestic Pavilion


  • $10 per person
  • Bookings are essential 
  • Full prepayment is required for all tour bookings.

Discover the Hydro Majestic Pavilion

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Hydro Majestic History Book Series

Historian Jim Smith, with advanced degrees and a resident of Wentworth Falls since 1974, has released two volumes of a triad on the Hydro Majestic's history, drawing on extensive research and a vast personal collection of over 1000 Hydro-related memorabilia items.

Jim Smith’s determined research over the last few decades has now resulted in three books, two of which are currently available. These are:

The Life and Loves of Mark Foy. Creator of the Hydro Majestic Hotel

Mark Foy, the Victorian entrepreneur behind Sydney's Mark Foy’s department store, invested his wealth in constructing the Hydro Majestic, a hydropathic retreat infamous for its hedonistic revelries, which stands as his lasting legacy despite his later life of troubled finances and restless travels. His personal complexities extended from a passion for hydropathic treatments and 'Orientalist' art to clandestine romantic liaisons, all captured in a book rich with untold stories, rare photographs, and vintage car imagery.

The Curiosity of Melbourne Ward and his Great Barrier Reef and Blue Mountains Museums

For two decades, Mel Ward's 'Gallery of Natural History and Native Art' housed within an unpretentious shed on the Hydro Majestic hotel grounds, offered an extraordinary array of anthropological and biological treasures, leaving a lasting impact on visitors with its vivid exhibits and his own charismatic guidance. This book captures Ward's unique life, from his theatrical beginnings to his passion for indigenous legends, and the indelible mark he left through his tours, media appearances, and especially the popularization of the Three Sisters Aboriginal legend.

Both books are available for purchase at The Hydro Majestic Pavilion. 

the life and loves of mark foy creator of the hydro majestic hotel 9780994387233 517410