Oaks Waterfront Resort, The Entrance review: Rush hour at pelican central

Read our writer's views on this property below

The big birds are the drawcard as the The Entrance dozes out of season, writes Angie Schiavone.

The Entrance has changed dramatically since the regular visits my family and I made during the 1980s and '90s. The most noticeable difference is the number of high-rise buildings that have gone up (surely too many, judging by the quietness of the streets and main shopping strip). One such building, right on the water in The Entrance's small hub, houses the Oaks Waterfront Resort - our base for an overnight Central Coast escape. The Oaks is undergoing restoration but this doesn't affect our stay.

As noticeable as the changes at The Entrance are the things that have stayed the same. One constant feature that still draws a crowd after more than 20 years - even on chilly weekday afternoons - is the pelican feeding. The Entrance is known as the pelican capital of Australia and the daily feeding is an institution, taking place at 3.30pm, year-round, at the foreshore, about 100 metres from the Oaks.

There's no excuse for out-of-towners not to catch the daily show - especially those like us staying so close. Just after 3pm, we amble towards a growing crowd of people and pelicans. I confess, we're expecting to be underwhelmed - perhaps because the closest thing we've seen in years is seagulls stealing chips at Bondi Beach. Soon enough, though, we're captivated. While the 30 or so birds mill about, waiting for the fish feed to begin, they preen their feathers, twist and turn their long necks ("Whoa, look! That one's almost turned its head inside-out!") and stretch the elasticised pouches on their bills. The semicircular steps around them fill with spectators - families on day trips and couples deciding how close they're willing to get to the sizeable birds.

During the show, a local expert shares facts about Australian pelicans: they eat an average of two kilograms a day and can fly for 24 hours continuously and up to 3000 metres high.

When the show is over, we walk further along the foreshore to start the Entrance Heritage Walk, which follows the waterline and has historic photos to view along the way. There are some great shots, though we detect some bitterness in the caption under a black-and-white picture of The Entrance from 1904, showing the channel "in its unspoiled state, long before 'improvements' of many kinds were effected".

There's certainly a sense that the party is over at The Entrance but it is likely this feeling isn't so pronounced in warmer months, when the beach and town are full of holidaymakers.

The wind is picking up and rain looks likely, so we head back to the Oaks. We're staying in a one-bedroom apartment, cleverly laid out with sliding wood-panelled doors around the bedroom that open to transform the room into a spacious studio with kitchenette, bathroom and laundry.

Dinner is a flashy affair, a few minutes' drive away at Ocean Restaurant (102 Ocean Parade), where the specialty is seafood and the view is expansive. The prices are high but the food is refined and the view - a brooding scene lit by lightning strikes - makes it a memorable package.

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By morning, the storm has passed and sun is shining, so we take a quick swim in the Oaks's dazzling blue rooftop pool before checkout. There's a bit of that "party's over" vibe here, too, with the spa and wading pool closed for maintenance and a swim-up bar closed for business.

It might seem The Entrance isn't quite the charmer it once was but dig a little deeper and there's plenty to see and do, from walks and bike rides around Tuggerah Lake to fishing (hire fishing gear from local bait and tackle shops), golf (there are several courses nearby) and shopping at weekend craft and farmers' markets. Maybe the party is just getting started.

VISITORS' BOOK

Oaks Waterfront Resort

Address 89 The Entrance Road, The Entrance.

The verdict Good location and comfortable rooms, though nothing too flash.

Price Studios from $109 a night; one-bedroom apartments from $114; one-bedroom lofts from $159; two-bedroom apartments from $199.

Bookings Phone 4334 8000, see oakshotelsresorts.com.

Getting there About an hour and 40 minutes north of Sydney, or about an hour south of Newcastle.

Wheelchair access Yes.

Perfect for A base for exploring The Entrance and surrounds.

While you're there See the daily pelican feeding, go fishing, swimming, play golf, hire a boat or aquabike and play in the water without getting wet.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.