Weather or not, here we come

Mal Chenu battles bored kids and pouring rain with surprising success.

A sinking feeling starts to spread as we set off for a weekend away with three kids in the back seat amid howling winds and sheeting rain. Our destination is only 90 minutes away, up the F3, but even Pollyanna would have a hard time hoping the sun will be out by the time we get to Wyong.

We were armed with ideas that mostly involved being outdoors - pelicans and playgrounds, sandcastles and sailing - the usual suspects on the Central Coast.

The car fought its way along the sodden freeway like an ark and we fought to maintain a sunny disposition, telling the kids it would still be fun. The toddler believed us, the teenagers didn't but thanks to the friendly attitude of the place, we, like Noah, were able to say: "Told ya."

We were relieved to find our accommodation at the almost factory-new Mantra resort spacious enough for the five of us to easily spend time indoors together. The two-storey, townhouse-style suite has four stars, three bedrooms and two bathrooms with an open-plan kitchen, dining and living room.

Then there was Foxtel. Lovely, wonderful Foxtel with its endless stream of Nick Junior. And the movie channel. And a DVD player.

The resort, set on a golf course - which must be pretty good as people were still hacking away despite the weather - opened earlier this year and is still so shiny it feels like it has just shrugged off its cellophane. We were the only diners the night we tried Karinyas restaurant. Ditto the gym, pool and jacuzzi.

Being the only customers in the place for much of the two-day stay, the staff were friendly and attentive. In the open-plan, funky decor restaurant, they were happy for our toddler to set himself up in a corner with Finding Nemo on his portable DVD player so we could enjoy dinner. I had the fish and my wife had the chicken and both were excellent. The fussy teens were impressed, too.

The 25-metre, indoor heated pool was a great substitute for outdoor exercise and the adjoining spa was a steamy, blissful escape from the rain. The gym was shiny and blinking with the latest electronic gear but remained as untouched as my treadmill at home. And given the conditions, it was a shame the day spa wasn't finished as it was perfect beauty-treatment weather. (The Endota Spa is now open every day from 10am to 5pm, except Tuesdays.)

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The second day dawned with a spectacular rainbow arcing onto the eighth fairway and the day seemed full of promise. But the clouds regrouped and spoilt our plans. We drove to the coast for a look at a wild McMasters Beach and managed 13 holes of mini-golf between showers.

At The Entrance they feed the pelicans at 3.30pm every day, rain or shine. The pelicans were as well-behaved and easy to please as our toddler, which is to say, not at all. They (birds and brat) squawked, shoved and chased each other for half an hour. We laughed.

Through overworked windshield wipers we could see all manner of enticing attractions at The Entrance and hope to return one day when the flood waters recede. We want to try the fairground rides, swings, Vera's Water Garden and the alfresco cafes.

That night we stumbled across the Panarottis pizza restaurant at nearby Tumbi Umbi. As part of the Mingara Recreation Club, this is a child-friendly noshery with a playroom featuring movies, video games and computers. The pizzas got the thumbs up and the staff were brilliant at coping with the demands of our little person. We recommend making a booking though, as it's popular and has children-eat-cheap deals on different days.

After dinner, the Krispy Kreme drive-through just outside was a big hit with the teens, who took an eternity to choose their mixed dozen.

The rain let up on the way home (naturally) so we visited the Australian Reptile Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, near Somersby. It was a welcome stop before piling into the car for the sun-soaked trip home.

The writer was a guest of Kooindah Waters Resort and Tourism NSW.

TRIP NOTES

Address: Mantra Kooindah Waters Golf and Spa Resort, Kooindah Boulevard, Wyong.

Bookings: Phone (02) 4355 5777, see mantrakooindahwaters.com.au

Rates: Three-bedroom villas from $399 a night to December 23. Book by November 30 for high-season special rates of $456 a night.

VERDICT

Roomy, modern digs with lots of things to do.

Why you'd go: A great region for golf nuts; kids get good-quality distractions.

Why you wouldn't: You want to be closer to the beach.

FIND TIME TO

* Visit Mingara Recreation Club with adventure golf, leisure centre and child-friendly pool. See mingara.com.au.

* Head for surf beaches at The Entrance, Shelly Beach and particularly the rock pool at Norah Head, a 10-minute drive away.

* Get your skates on at Erina Ice Arena. See erinaicearena.com.au.

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