Sometimes you discover exercise can be fun when you're on holiday, writes Keith Austin.
Novotel Pacific Bay Coffs Harbour Resort
The Metaqua classes were a pleasant surprise.
The gym really needs a good spruce up.
Coffs Harbour might have the Big Banana but it also has a reputation as the place you drive through on the way to somewhere else. This is a pity as this relaxed little town has a lot to offer – and with budget carrier TigerAir offering flights from Sydney for as little as $49, there's never been a better time to go. The property is set just back from the coast in 40 hectares of lush, beautifully landscaped tropical grounds with a nine-hole golf course meandering through it. It also offers short all-terrain Segway trips, laser clay pigeon shooting and splash golf for the kids (see timeoutadventures.com.au).
The main accommodation is in an old apartment-style block that is crying out for a makeover. The two swimming pools, the Tranquility health spa and the separate dining/reception building are all perfectly adequate but the down-at-heel gym with its rusty equipment could really do with a major refit. Get rid of that torn and stained carpet for a start.
For our two-night stay we are in a one-bedroom spa apartment on the fourth floor. The rooms are spacious, simply furnished, and all have private balconies. There is an open-plan kitchen for self-caterers, or the complex's two main dining areas are a short walk away. It's not posh, it's not uber-luxurious but it's perfect for a family holiday with a couple of boisterous sprogs.
There's an all-day dining option at Charlie's Bar in the main pavilion with a large selection of classics – and when we say large we mean portions bigger than your head. You can eat in the bar or sit outside on the delightful alfresco terrace overlooking the lagoon and the golf green opposite. For a slightly more up-market night there's Charlie's Restaurant, right next door. It's all good, unpretentious fare.
If you need to leave the resort, the buzzy little marina is a 10-minute drive away - or there's the stunning Solitary Islands Coastal Walk, which you can take from nearby Charlesworth Bay. The walk takes just over an hour and features long sandy beaches, rugged, wave-bashed coves and pretty inlets. The Latitude 30 restaurant at the marina has amazing views across the bay from its top deck, or order fresh fish cooked as you like it at the fish and chip shop.
ONE MORE THING
Our favourite part of the weekend was the Metaqua class in the resort pool, a new exercise system devised by Bowral native turned Coffs Harbour resident Sally Walsh. Using fins and kickboards the exercises increase your metabolic rate without getting your hair wet. As someone who hates doing laps in pools I went along fully prepared to dislike it but managed 40 laps and am now hooked. It's easy to do and is a great full body workout no matter how fit you are. It's also perfect for the less mobile and for people returning to exercise after injury.
The Novotel might be in need of some TLC but it's got its heart in the right place. Great for a family holiday – as evidenced by the number of generations gathered around the dinner tables at night.
Superior resort rooms from $169 a night, buffet breakfast included. One bedroom spa suites (up to two adults and two children) start at $219 including breakfast. The Metaqua "Reshape and Stay" packages are also available, including overnight accommodation for two, breakfast and one Metaqua (see metaqua.com.au) lesson. Phone (02) 6659 7060 or see pacificbayresort.com.au for more details.
The writer was a guest of the Novotel Pacific Bay.