Dream Catcher beach house, Shellharbour review: A playground for all seasons

Read our writer's views on this property below

This 'weatherproofed' house is a brilliant bolthole on a wild winter's day, writes Peter Gearin.

A winter weekend away at a beachside hotspot is counter-intuitive; like pulling up the doona to watch the Ashes. But there are good reasons to take a trip to the coast in winter ... crisp, mild days are perfect for long walks and seaside vistas look much better when hordes of sun-seekers aren't in shot.

Such thoughts drove us right to the front door of Dream Catcher, a double-storey house within earshot of the water at Shellharbour on the south coast.

"Shelly", just south of Wollongong, has grown enormously over the past few years. Commercial development has turned parts of this quaint fishing village into a vast shopping complex but the area still offers a lot for those looking for simple pleasures – casting a line, slipping into scuba gear, eating great fish and chips or quietly sipping on a beer in a garden bar while pondering the majesty of the sea.

Whatever your fancy, I would say these are the kind of activities that are always fun, even when the mercury falls. None, however, is all that great when the rain falls ... all day, all night, all weekend.

So it was a blessing we decided to stay at Dream Catcher. Its list of standard features reads like a teaser for a top-class serviced apartment and we felt perfectly happy keeping ourselves cosily occupied indoors. This is a four-star beach house that has been "weatherproofed" – it works brilliantly year-round, regardless of what shades of hell are happening outside the windows.

The large, main living area has slatted windows that catch light and air from all angles, leading to a sizeable balcony with a 10-seater table and day lounge. Down one side is an outdoor kitchen, with a sink and four-burner barbecue, linked to a bifold servery window.

This was all academic for us as the rain crashed and the wind squalled. It was a good thing, then, that the huge kitchen and living area is a great place to dwell. The kitchen is modern and well equipped, with a stainless-steel fridge and dishwasher, plus a separate wine fridge and excellent stove. The seats around the generous breakfast bar invite guests to sit for hours ... unless they are lured to the living area, which has comfortable sofas that offer commanding views of the massive, high-definition, flat-screen television. We spent many climate-controlled hours flicking between stations beamed in via satellite, oblivious to the raging tempest outside.

The digital playground continues downstairs. Another large, high-def flat-screen offers dozens of television channels and is hooked up to a DVD player and PlayStation 3 console. The latest games and movies softened the blow for our teenagers, who realised the inclement weather would rob them of the chance to tour the region's arts, crafts and old book shops. Aww, shucks.

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The downstairs area has two bedrooms – one with a queen-size bed, the other with two singles – and a nicely appointed bathroom with a shower big enough for two. There's also a laundry with washer and dryer, as well as a garage, which kept the car nice and dry.

With the wind, rain and cold conditions driving us indoors most of the weekend, it's ironic that one of Dream Catcher's biggest drawcards – a magnificent six-person spa – dragged us outside. It is heated, of course, which meant that even Arctic-style shards from the sky had no hope against the jets that kept us constantly warm and invigorated. Even getting out of the spa into the chilly wind was no problem – a hot and cold outdoor shower is just three strides away.

A large day bed sat nearby, looking waterlogged and unloved. Very soon, it will have its day in the sun.

The writer was a guest of Dream Catcher and Tourism NSW.

TRIP NOTES

ADDRESS Dream Catcher, 5 Darley Street, Shellharbour Village.

BOOKINGS Phone 0411 225 441.

RATES Two-night stays from $800; three-night weekend packages and weekly rates on application. Sleeps six.

VERDICT

Brilliant beachside comfort with all mod cons.

WHY YOU'D GO Fun and games just a short drive from home.

WHY YOU WOULDN'T With two storeys, two living areas, two bathrooms and three bedrooms, it's not a romantic bolthole.

FIND TIME TO

- Visit the local markets at Berry, Kiama or Gerringong, depending on the day. Maybe get your irises read.

- Take a drive into the misty Kangaroo Valley and keep going until you get to Bowral and Berrima, then come back back via Macquarie Pass.

- Have lunch at Berry — the Berry Sourdough Bakery and Cafe, which is off the main drag, has good food.