The Beach House, Culburra Beach review: The flipper side of turning 40

Read our writer's views on this property below

Nothing holds a candle to a birthday weekend surfin' safari on the South Coast, writes Daniel Dasey.

I had encountered characters such as this while surfing on the NSW South Coast before. Swarthy, smirking and highly skilled, they'd made me look like an absolute monkey by pinching the most surfable waves right from under my nose. Now, in the water not far from Jervis Bay, I again found myself surrounded by an unruly group of the louts. Each one seemed more determined than the last to get in my way.

It sounds threatening, but when the wave hogs are dolphins it's easy to smile and toss surf etiquette aside. Your wave, Flipper.

The encounter took place at Culburra Beach, a little-known gem of a weekend-away destination three hours' drive south of Sydney. Relaxed and largely untouched by major development, Culburra has just the right combination of natural delights and man-made services to be a great holiday destination.

There are large stretches of scarcely used beach and the chance to connect with wildlife. (We had a jaw-dropping experience with nearby whales later in our stay.)

There's also a good collection of shops for food and coffee, alcohol and the papers, as well as clubs and restaurants.

With someone's 40th looming (OK, it was mine), we headed to Culburra with a group of friends for what we planned to be a celebratory weekend of surfing, cooking and laid-back jamming. My partner, Karin, and I, along with our three-month-old baby, Gabby, were the first to arrive at our accommodation, the Beach House, a three-bedroom, single-level home abutting the beach.

Access is from a back lane; the beach house, from outside, looks like your average suburban dwelling. But with holiday houses, location is everything.

Inside, an open-plan living area looks out on to a beautifully mown lawn, then a sand dune and then the sparkling ocean.

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As if on cue, a pod of 20 or so dolphins cavorted in the waves as we stood before the property's big glass windows. The Beach House is a mix of old and new styles. The lounge and bedrooms are comfortable and contemporary, whereas the bathroom and kitchen have a distinctly 1970s styling. Everything was immaculate and functioning and there were none of those nasty surprises you can sometimes get in rented holiday homes, such as poorly washed glasses or cutlery, or a greasy barbecue.

We're in the habit of putting Gabby to sleep with a machine that makes sounds similar to the surf (it replicates the sound of the womb, apparently) but at the Beach House there was no need. In the supplied crib in our room facing the water, she was lulled to sleep by the sound of real waves.

There are better surf spots than Culburra on the South Coast, however there's something unique about strolling out the back door, wandering through the dunes and hopping straight into the water.

The house caters for your return from the waves, too, with a hot and cold shower on the edge of the lawn to wash off the salt and sand. Sitting on the banana chairs on the lawn is a great way to dry off. If you want to dine outside, there's an outdoor setting that comfortably seats six, plus a four-burner barbecue.

On Saturday night, the kitchen proved more than capable of coping with three couples staging a cook-off.

After a couple of bottles of red wine we got down to our planned jam.

Things were going well until Gabby showed her dissatisfaction with one friend's trumpeting, quietening things considerably. Half the group took the jam outside, where they sat softly strumming guitars in the warm night air. A plan to go to the beach so the trumpeter could join in was abandoned for lack of a torch.

Next morning a huge bright sky and the hum of decent, clean waves lured even the groggy-headed of the group into the water early.

From the beach, the non-surfers spotted a mother whale and her calf on their annual migration south. They were joined by other whales, who slapped their fins and tails in a great free nature show.

The writer was the guest of The Beach House, Culburra, and Tourism NSW.

TRIP NOTES

WHERE 115 The Marina, Culburra Beach. See www.stayz.com.au/16388.

HOW MUCH In November, $290 a night, minimum two-night stay. December and January, $395 a night, minimum two nights.

BEST THING The kitchen was equipped with every conceivable appliance, from dishwasher to popcorn maker to milkshake maker.

WORST THING The hidden second toilet. We were a party of six adults but we didn't know it was there until just before we were leaving to come home. D'oh.

LOCAL SECRET Keep an eye out on the road for people selling oysters direct to the public at great prices.