Copa Beachside, Central Coast review: Holiday state of mind

Read our writer's views on this property below

Jacqui Taffel slips into a laid-back version of reality in a cool Copacabana beach house.

We know we're nearly at our destination because of the bellbirds. Their clear, tinkling call greets us at the top of the hill, before the final descent into Copacabana. This chorus, heard each time you enter or leave the small Central Coast town just south of Avoca Beach, is a little bit magical. It's a signal we're travelling from one dimension to another - from everyday life to holiday time.

Driving down the steep, green hill, the ocean spreads out to the horizon. Yes, we've arrived.

We've holidayed here before but this time we're at a different house, Copa Beachside. The name might give the impression it's right on Copa's main beach but it's more lagoon-side, across the road from the tannin-orange-brown stretch of water that separates Copacabana from MacMasters Beach. The ocean beach is a two-minute walk down a flat road.

The house feels instantly welcoming. It's owned and used by a Sydney family who built it with their own hands 25 years ago. They have added to it over the years as their family expanded but there's nothing haphazard about it - with the soaring cathedral ceiling and clerestory windows of the main living area, the place looks architect-designed.

The fitout is tastefully arty, with sculptures and paintings, including a large driftwood piece on the wall and a John Olsen print in the downstairs bedroom. There are two more double bedrooms upstairs, one also with double bunks, and more beds on the upstairs landing. Then there's the self-contained studio out the back with its own living area, bathroom, fridge and television. An architect did design this bit and it's the perfect place for my parents to stay for a night. They're thrilled with it.

The house is also very child-friendly. There's a plastic Ikea high chair and gates to block off the stairs, useful when holidaying with a roaming two-year-old. The arty touches aren't at all dauntingly breakable; the place feels casual and comfortable and it's well stocked for large groups. The pantry has a good selection of staples that guests might have forgotten to bring, such as tea bags, spices and olive oil, and I've never seen so much cutlery in one house. But the owners are choosy about their guests - it's not a house for party animals (see visitors' book).

The icing on the cake is the outdoor verandah with a long table that overlooks the lush garden, decorated with colourful Balinese flags and more sculptures. It's not a huge expanse but it's big enough for a small boy to kick a ball around. An outdoor laundry sink and shower and a large barbecue complete the scene.

It's a tailor-made indoor-outdoor beach house with a touch of class.

Copa hasn't changed since last time we were here. The people are still friendly and the local shops convenient, including a post office and general store. The rock pool at the northern end of the beach is our favourite place to be.

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We also like the rock pool at the southern end of Avoca Beach.

Although the locals no doubt recognise us as Sydney blow-ins, our holiday house makes it easy to pretend we live here, in Central Coast suburbia. We have neighbours with children, the local paper turns up on the driveway and there's a barking dog across the road. It adds a layer of fantasy to the break: that we really live in this airy house, where we head to the beach twice a day and sit outside on the shaded verandah when it's too hot to go out.

For visitors without small children, or with children who might be a bit more laid-back than ours, this would probably count as a restful weekend. We don't get much rest unless our son is asleep but my parents' presence means we have an evening alone, just the two of us.

I had hopes of dinner at Bells at Killcare, about 15 minutes' drive away, where chef Steve Manfredi tends his kitchen garden and puts the results on his diners' plates. But in the end, we decide to stay close to home. We walk two minutes down the road to Copacabana's small bar, Fubah, which is packed. It's live music open mic night - uh-oh. But fortunately the standard is high, including a man who plays a mean blues harp. The crowd is cheerful and diverse.

The food is good, too, including a huge pile of moreish whitebait - like crispy, fishy shoestring fries with eyes - and a good stone-baked seafood pizza. With the addition of a glass of Rascals Prayer verdelho, Zilzie merlot and some beer, it's a rollicking night out, made even better by being able to stroll home afterwards. Quite slowly.

Next day, when holiday time is up, we drive back up the steep hill. The bellbirds signal our return to reality and echo behind us as we head for home. We hope to hear them again soon.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.

VISITORS' BOOK

Address 270 Delmonte Place, Copacabana.

The verdict A special place for a relaxed beach break close to Sydney.

Price A weekend costs $900-$950, minimum two-night stay. Other nights cost $280-$300 a night.

Bookings Online only, see stayz.com.au/7826.

Getting there About an hour and 15 minutes' drive north of Sydney.

Perfect for Large family groups or mature friends. The owners emphasise the house is not suitable for "school leavers/hens or bucks nights/large events" or groups of under-30s. However, it says well-behaved dogs are welcome.

Wheelchair access No.

While you're there Watch a film at Avoca Beach Picture Theatre, the local cinema with loads of character; visit Gosford Regional Art Gallery for exhibitions, outdoor sculptures and a good gift shop; swim at Killcare, MacMasters, Pearl or Terrigal beaches; walk and swim in Bouddi National Park.