The Sebel Harbourside, Kiama review: Gnome man's land

Read our writer's views on this property below

Nick Galvin ultimately loses his battle with market forces on the South Coast.

It is clear the gods are smiling when we arrive in Gerringong just in time to see a chap taking down the vinyl "markets here today" sign outside the town hall. "What a shame," I say to my wife, with all the sincerity I can muster.

It was a close-run thing but I now feel reasonably secure that this weekend I won't be forced to spend two hours admiring plaster-of-paris garden ornaments or hand-lettered signs saying "Didyerbringyergrogalong".

I am not a fan of weekend markets.

The previous day, with the threat of a market visit the only cloud on the horizon, we had checked into the nearby Sebel Harbourside Kiama after a dream run through unusually light Friday-night traffic.

Acquired by Mirvac and reopened under the Sebel flag about six months ago, the hotel is placed perfectly overlooking the water at the foot of the peninsula on which the lighthouse stands.

The welcome is friendly and efficient and soon we are ensconced in our two-bedroom, self-contained apartment with glasses of red in hand.

The suite is obviously new and quite wonderful. The colour scheme is trendy beige and chocolate browns. Inexplicably, the decor has a generic African feel, which is pleasant though a little odd by the beach.

The kitchen, unusually for a self-contained apartment, is of a decent size with a generous benchtop. It is also well equipped but with a couple of surprising omissions no coffee plunger or washing-up sponge. However, a quick call to reception and all is swiftly rectified.

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There are other pleasant surprises: free parking, free cable TV and free wireless broadband.

Exploring Kiama on a clear, warm mid-autumn day is a revelation.

I had only ever seen the place on brief stopovers while driving to and from destinations further south, which hardly does it justice. Just out of the holiday season, it is much more laid-back as locals emerge in place of the tourists.

We take the obligatory walk up to the lighthouse and blowhole, which stubbornly refuses to blow. A blowhole that's not blowing is possibly ever duller than a seaside market so we meander on, taking in one of the prettiest football grounds in the state, perched high on a promontory over the ocean.

Equally impressive is Crooked River Wines, a beautiful winery at Gerringong, which we visit later and put on the (now very long) must-come-back-for-lunch-without-the-children list.

That evening, we can't think of a good reason to stray far from the hotel so it's cocktails in the Blue Diamond Brasserie, with spectacular mocktails for the deeply impressed Pink Princesses, and dinner afterwards at the hotel's Nirand Thai restaurant.

Sunday morning, with nothing much on my mind other than a good breakfast and a leisurely drive home, I throw back the suite's curtains and I'm confronted by the sight of hundreds of market stalls that have sprung up mushroom-like overnight in the park opposite the hotel.

Resistance is useless once Mrs G and the Pink Princesses spot what's going on.

In fact, they are fairly bouncing on the spot with excitement at the prospect of inspecting so many garden ornaments and whimsical signs.

I resign myself to a wallet-punishing lost Sunday morning but at least the sun is shining.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.

VISITORS' BOOK

The Sebel Harbourside, Kiama

Address 31 Shoalhaven Street, Kiama.

The verdict Stylish rooms and faultless service in perhaps the best spot in Kiama.

Price From $359 a weekend night for a two-bedroom apartment.

Bookings Phone 4230 7500 or see mirvachotels.com/sebel-harbourside-kiama.

Getting there 120km from the CBD.

Perfect for A relaxing break with as much or as little to do as you want.

Wheelchair access Yes.

While you're there Have lunch at Crooked River Wines, visit Minnamurra Rainforest Centre or stare hopefully at the blowhole.