It’s mid-winter and I’m spending a weekend away exploring Coffs Coast. Coffs – our country cousin to the north, our nearest and dearest, yet different in many ways. But, while Coffs vies vigorously with Port and Taree for a share of the tourist dollar, it shares so much in common with us.
Where travel exchanges between both regions are concerned, we’re bosom buddies; sporting contests, especially, generate two-way traffic.And this year, as purse strings draw tighter and we’re urged to holiday at home, the old adage “a change is as good as a holiday” rings true too. A change of scenery, an easy two- or three-hour drive from home, makes a refreshing budget-priced break from humdrum routine – for a celebration, a surprise, or just the novelty of some new horizons to shake off winter blues. From Port, there’s the novel option of making the trip by air. The flight on Brindabella’s terrific – scenic – and it’s a real thrill to set down in Coffs after a mere 20 minutes in the air. Whether it’s across the road or across the world, I reckon the least time spent actually getting there, the better. We could have flown to Coffs and used a hire car locally, but chose the road trip this time. Yet for a special occasion, for elderly drivers who prefer avoiding highways, or just to save precious travelling time and have longer at your destination, Brindabella’s a great idea.
Our luxury spa suite at beachfront Pacific Bay Resort is just $165 a night*, sleeping up to two adults and two kids with breakfast for four thrown in. It’s like a holiday house: ocean views across the golf course, main bedroom with walk-though robe, vanity room, ensuite, double spa bath, shower. Normally I avoid spas and the bugs they’re said to harbour, but a bathroom sign assures me the spa jets here are flushed and cleaned after every guest departure. Full marks! Additionally, the suite boats a totally separate combined sitting-dining room (with sofa bed for kids) running to a balcony with outdoor setting, open-plan kitchen including microwave, dishwasher and full-size fridge, and a laundry with washer and dryer. Also: satellite TV and wi-fi internet. If it rained all weekend, we could happily spend our time right here!
There’s much to do at the resort: two heated swimming pools (a third being refurbished); pool table, games centre, trapeze lessons, trampoline and kids’ club; gym and golf for adults and 19th hole with nibbles and newspapers; and beach at the resort’s edge. I enjoyed pampering and a luxurious pedicure in the Tranquillity Spa. It offers a great menu of really practical massages and treatments but, most notably, is one of the least fussy and pretentious spas I’ve experienced: male clients would be very comfortable trying the special treatments for men offered here.
Dinner at the resort is excellent, but we chose mostly to cook for ourselves or eat out at nights. Breakfast, though, can easily morph into brunch, to set you up for the day. Taken in the waterside restaurant, service starts early and runs till 10.30am.
One of the charms of Coffs is its jetty strip of eateries: a dozen different cuisines deliberately grouped together in a row so diners can stroll, browse and select their favourite scran. There’s also a wonderful al fresco area running along the pavement edge, where it’s fun to pull on a sweater and dine casually outdoors in the bracing cold climate – with a gas mushroom-heater gently warming the space. We loved the immaculately-clean Tandoori Oven – with real clay tandoor – but there’s also award-winning Italian, among other choices, here too. We warmed up elsewhere with a trot to the coastal vantage point on Mutton Bird Island and a sauna-style experience in the high humidity of Bonville’s Butterfly House. (Wear red if you want them to land on you!). We visited the delightful Porpoise (and seal) Pool, and Coffs’ terrific shops.
A weekend away – with the restorative value of a week.
*Valid to July 31. See www.pacificbayresort.com.au. Rooms from $135.
Susie Boswell travelled courtesy of Tourism NSW.