The Captain's Cottage, Batemans Bay review: Orders from the captain

Read our writer's views on this property below

Ainslie MacGibbon and her motley crew find their sea legs at a shipshape beach house.

'I know it's exciting but don't go too feral, please." I'm attempting to restrain the children before our arrival at the Captain's Cottage, pleading with them to behave at least until the owner shows us through and relinquishes the key. It seems, however, that they catch only a few words and hear instead: "It's exciting, go feral!"

The owner, Lynne Kimmings, greets us at the door and I assure her they'll settle down eventually. Only three are mine and one (the quietest) is a school friend. We will learn during the weekend that Kimmings is to the Captain's Cottage what Julie was to the Love Boat - the house is full of welcoming gestures and things to do.

Her email exchanges with me hinted that the Captain's Cottage was different. Screamed it, actually. Which flag we would like flying on arrival ("the Union Jack, St George Cross, the Welsh flag, the Scottish flag, American flag, the Liverpool Football Club flag, the Aussie flag or the pirate flag")? Are we celebrating a birthday or anniversary, so appropriate decorations can be installed? Do the children prefer mermaid or pirate quilt covers? ("We also have a queen-sized pirate cover for big pirates if needed.")

Another email discloses that construction work is under way on the house next door (this has no impact on our stay). I begin to wonder what my Big Pirate will make of all this.

So it is with some relief when we pull up at a wooden seaside cottage that is comfortable and fun. So much so that I find myself adding to the chorus of children squealing: "Look at this!"

The maritime theme is prominent but it works for us. Each room has a brass plaque: "Galley" for kitchen; "Engine Room" for laundry; "WC" for bathroom; "1st Mate" for second bedroom and so on. And a lighthouse extension has been completed recently. Yes, a lighthouse, comprising three levels: a ground-floor sunroom and barbecue, a first-floor lighthouse keeper's bedroom (which the boys occupy in seconds) and a top-floor Lantern Room, with a 1928 Chance Bros light - "the Rolls-Royce of lighthouse lights". The light comes on for a few hours at night "but we are not allowed to beam it out to sea", one email informs me regretfully.

The one-bedroom lighthouse extension adds floor space to an already large four-bedroom house capable of sleeping 10 people.

The second floor is really something. On this level is the aforementioned lighthouse keeper's bedroom, a larger bedroom with en suite, and the "bridge" of the ship (naturally). The en suite is cute - a shower is housed in a faux beach cabin and a toilet and vanity are in a neighbouring one. The "bridge" has an authentic ship's helm from a 1930s cargo ship. Fresh white lacquered floorboards and two balconies capturing sea breezes make this a perfect parents' retreat. So being members of the what-my-child-wants-I-sacrifice generation of parents, we immediately surrender the entire floor to the children.

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Downstairs we choose the "crew" bedroom (telling), which practically juts on to the sand. Two bedrooms remain spare and we lament not inviting some grown-up friends.

Exiting the back door of the Captain's Cottage goes something like this: screened sunroom, deck with spa, grass with lounging kangaroos, sand dunes, beach, ocean.

There is much to do on what I think of as the "Lido deck". The board games, books and DVDs have a nautical theme - think Battleship, Pirates of the Caribbean, Titanic, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Sinbad, Popeye. There are boogie boards and various sandcastle-making tools (as it's July, the children spend the days toggling between ocean and spa) and a treasure chest brimming with dress-ups. Eye patches and pirate hats are worn while inside - and on my Big Pirate, outside, too. He peppers his conversation with "ahoy" and "me hearties" - a shallow and grating repertoire indeed. My Big Pirate is going overboard. Our borrowed little girl looks nervous.

The children love this house. I haven't seen their imaginations exercised so vigorously for a long time. We leave the house (and our beach backyard) only when it dawns on me that we need more wine ( oh, and food, too). The closest general store is only a five-minute drive away, at Maloneys Beach. There are about six dusty items on the shelves - none complementing any of the others - but it's fine if you need milk, the papers and fenugreek. Otherwise, a 10-minute drive south to Batemans Bay for supplies might be prudent.

While packing at the end of our stay we're still discovering maritime quirks and squealing: "Look at this!" Much thought has gone into each room of the cottage to ensure a comfortable stay - and Kimmings confides it's a work in progress. On the to-do list: a set of brass speaking tubes to be installed in the bridge - with a connecting pipe down to the galley - so cups of tea can be ordered easily.

Captain's Cottage is a real treasure.

VISITORS' BOOK

The Captain's Cottage

Address 12 Sandy Place, Long Beach (five kilometres north of Batemans Bay).

The verdict Quirky but classic beachfront cottage.

Price From $750 for a weekend, two-night bookings.

Bookings Phone 0408 624 851 or see www.captainscottage.biz.

Getting there About 3½-hour drive from Sydney CBD and about two hours from Canberra.

Perfect for Families, or friends, to share - adults looking to relax and children wanting to play imaginatively.

Wheelchair access No.

While you're there Walk the length of Long Beach, keeping pace with dolphins, and explore the rockpools at either end.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.