Weekend Away: Crowne Plaza, Terrigal review

Read our writer's views on this property below

Sean Mooney takes the family to stay at a refurbished old Terrigal favourite that's still in the pink.

LOCATION

Looking for a weekend getaway to squeeze in between the Saturday morning sports run and Monday morning school lunches, we take a quick spin up the F3 Freeway to Terrigal on the central coast.

THE SETTING

Many Sydneysiders will remember trips to Peppers by the Sea Resort, the great pink pleasure palace built in the late 1980s on the site of the old Florida Hotel. It's now the Crowne Plaza Terrigal, and while it's still very big and just as pink, everything else about the hotel has changed. Everything except the beach, beer garden and pine tree vibe, which is not unlike that found at the seaside strips of Manly or Coogee - just with less traffic and fewer backpackers.

THE SPACE

The exterior still looks as 1980s as the fashion at Scott and Charlene's wedding, but inside it's a different story. Thanks to a series of refurbishments in recent years, the hotel's public areas are quite modern. A bit of old-school pizazz comes courtesy of the grand staircase and the marble fireplace of the Lord Ashley Lounge.

THE KIT

The outdoor heated pool is central to the hotel - most rooms overlook it, so once the kids spy it from our balcony, they're down there in a flash. The spa can get busy, but it's big enough to accommodate several families. The Water Dragons Kids' Club is open during school holidays, offering activities such as cupcake decorating and pyjama parties for children aged 5-12. There's no charge for guests, unless you choose to have meals provided. A giant chessboard, basketball hoop and tennis court are also free.

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COMFORT FACTOR

The rooms are clean and bright, with large TVs, comfortable beds and large bathrooms. Most rooms face the ocean and have their own balcony. In-house movies are available, but bring the kids' favourite shows and borrow one of the hotel's free DVD players.

THE FOOD

The Florida Beach Bar is the town's main drinking hole, and has benefited greatly from its refurbishment in 2011. With a heated open-air dining area, it's not just a daytime option in winter. There's also a large cafe and a sushi bar at the base of the hotel. We choose to have dinner at the main eatery, Seasalt Restaurant, and we're not disappointed. The food and service are fantastic, and the kids' menu has enough variety to keep most children happy. Breakfast is in the same space, and it's an event in itself - big, busy and really excellent, with a comprehensive buffet and possibly the busiest baristas on the Central Coast.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

We walk breakfast off with a hike to the top of a nearby headland known as the Skillion, past countless scuba divers and paddle boarders. We even have a quick mid-winter surf right in front of the hotel. Bellyfish and Bella Natural Food cafes are worth trying, while TreeTop Adventure Park and, of course, the Australian Reptile Park are good stops to consider on the way home.

THE VERDICT

A great beachside break for families with limited time.

HOW TO GET THERE

Terrigal is a 1½-hour drive north of Sydney, via the F3 Freeway.

ADDRESS

Crowne Plaza Terrigal, Pine Tree Lane, Terrigal.

ESSENTIALS

Priced from $279 a room, a night, on weekdays, and from $319 a room, a night, on weekends. The Family Focus package includes accommodation for two adults and two children, free dinner for children under 12 years from the kids' menu, breakfast for everyone, and a family pass to the Australian Reptile Park.

BOOKINGS

Phone 13 83 88, see crowneplazaterrigal.com.au.

The writer was a guest of the Crowne Plaza Terrigal.