Review: Pacific Views Beach House, Terrigal, eastern Australia.

The beach town of Terrigal and the Pacific Views Beach House were the destination for a road trip on Australia’s east coast.

We met Sue’s parents; sister; two cousins and respective spouses – 10 of us in all – for seven days of relaxation at the beach, located to the north of Sydney.

The house

Pacific Views Beach House is set high on a ridge above central Terrigal, less than five minutes drive from the heart of the vibrant, cosmopolitan town.

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The elevated location has plenty of good points and some minor drawbacks. Views from the house are stunning. From the covered patios, we could gaze across Terrigal to the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

It was an awesome backdrop for bar-b-cues

Sitting so high among the trees also attracts colourful wild parrots.

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They landed on the outdoor tables and chairs, delighting us with their antics.

An unavoidable downside is the steep driveway onto a busy road.

Inside, Pacific Views Beach House is spread over three levels. There are five comfortable bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a large living area and a smaller lounge on the bottom level.

The house has a particularly good sized kitchen and dining area, which was crucial for us, because we had 10 adults to feed three times a day, plus snacks. Everyone took turns with the various parts of meal preparation, shopping for produce and loading and unloading the dishwasher.

Kitchen

There is a big dining table and lots of seating in the living room around a big-screen TV set, equipped with Foxtel cable TV.

Although the three-level design means lots of stairs, the house is clean, tidy and functional, which was exactly what we wanted.

We also loved the balconies. Generally, the weather was ideal in the mornings and evenings to sit on the porch and just enjoy being on vacation.

I’m not generally a fan of beach house decor, but Pacific Views didn’t go overboard with this style. The living area had a modern timber floor; the bed coverings were bright and colourful; and the main lounge was very usable leather.

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Our bed on the bottom level was particularly comfortable and I was pleased to see that it had four power points which allowed us to charge iPhones, iPads, iPods and an electric razor. Two of the power points were close to the bed, so we could use our phones as alarms (this is a pet peeve of mine as I hate to jump out of bed early morning searching for the buzzing telephone)

Pacific Views Beach House also included free Wifi, which is a huge plus in my book.

Overall, I give the beach house top marks – and it certainly provides value for money in a lovely location. The owner, Micah, was there to greet us when we arrived and was helpful when asked for anything. There are a few tiny improvements that I would recommend, such as insect screening all round and the provision of an indoor broom to help people clean up (although a vacuum cleaner was provided)

We have no hesitation in recommending Pacific Views Beach House, Terrigal for anyone mobile enough to handle the three levels.

Australian

Fairmont Resort, Leura, Australia

Perched on an escarpment high in Australia’s Blue Mountains, Fairmont Resort, Leura, has plenty going for it.

We’ve always enjoyed the Fairmont and a road trip through the area gave us the perfect opportunity to return.

Ands we weren’t disappointed.

Fairmont Resort is so entwined with the natural wonderland of the Blue Mountains that we felt part of the festival, rather than  simply onlookers.

M Gallery

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These days, the Fairmont is part of Accor’s ‘M Gallery’ of upscale memorable hotels and offers fine quality and service in an unbelievably beautiful location.

Although only one-and-a-half-hours drive west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a world away from city hustle and bustle – and Leura is one of the most charming centres in the area.

Fairmont Resort is located on the edge of the dramatic Jamison Valley in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park.

Before arrival, did the hotel communicate well?

The stay was organised online months in advance and The Fairmont kept in touch by email to check that everything was running to plan.

What was the first impression?

Fairmont, Leura sits right on the edge of a sandstone escarpment and its mere location ensures plenty of wow factor.

How efficient was the check-in?

Relatively fast and hassle-free. The staff were friendly and efficient. The process took only a few minutes; we were addressed by name; and offered help to carry our bags.

Were we told about wifi and was there a charge?

Yes and Yes. This was disappointing, but the charges were clearly explained.

The rooms

What was the first impression?

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Located on the second floor, our room was spacious and enjoyed a wonderful view of the gardens and lake, bathed in bright pink cherry tree blossoms.

The decor was simple and well designed.

And, as senior travellers, we’ve always found that, despite its mountain location, the resort is readily accessible.

 

 

 

Our room included free tea and coffee bags and containers of milk, which were particularly appreciated after a four-hour drive.

The bed

This was fantastic, with lovely soft linen, soft pillows and a comfortable mattress.

Power points

There were adequate power points for charging phones, iPad, iPod etc. These were well placed close to the bed.

Wardrobes and storage

These couldn’t be faulted and were both spacious and close at hand. We didn’t need the ironing board.

Bathroom

The good-sized bathroom boasted heaps of towels and quality toiletries.

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Restaurants and bars

We spent time relaxing in the bar and, like the rest of Fairmont Resort, the service and staff couldn’t be faulted.

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We celebrated a friend’s birthday with an excellent meal in the main restaurant, again featuring outstanding food and service.

Breakfast

The Fairmont breakfast is well known – and justly so.  It is a buffet breakfast with a wide range of choices.

A range of complimentary newspapers is always a nice touch.

Leisure amenities

Fairmont Resort boasts a mini-maze, and numerous outdoor leisure facilities, including several excellent swimming pools – both indoor and outdoor.

On this occasion, unfortunately,we didn’t have time to use them.

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We did, however make use of the resort’s well equipped billiards room and several of our friends  enjoyed themselves on the adjoining golf course.

Would we stay again?

Without hesitation.

In this instance, we couldn’t recommend the Fairmont Resort Leura more highly.

Australian

Review: Cockatoo Island accommodation

Cockatoo Island is an Australian gem, located among the blue waters of beautiful Sydney harbour.

Sydney harbour from Cockatoo Island

Featuring breath-taking harbour and city views – the 17.9 hectare island is an imaginative heritage and maritime park.

Steeped in history, Cockatoo Island also abounds in accommodation and leisure facilities, waterfront camping and areas for events and picnics.

Named after the sulphur-crested  birds that once flocked to the island, the area was off limits to the public for more than a century until it was opened in 2005 and later given World Heritage listing.

Now, it is a spectacular attraction that both fascinates and absorbs its many visitors.

Dawn from Cockatoo Island

Formerly a base for indigenous fishing, the island played a role in Australia’s convict history after it was chosen in 1839 as the site of a gaol to ease overcrowding at the penal settlement of Norfolk Island.

Convicts at Cockatoo Island quarried high quality sandstone from the island’s cliffs to build their own barracks, a military guardhouse, official residences and the Fitzroy dock to service Royal Navy vessels.

Many of these structures remain and can be inspected today.

Cockatoo Island convicts also dug as many as 20 bottle-shaped wheat silos in the sandstone to help the colony of Sydney guard against crop failure.

By the end of 1840, more than 500 tonnes of grain was stored in this way, but the British government instructed that the stockpiling of wheat be stopped to allow the free market to determine the price of the grain.

Escape attempts from Cockatoo Island were rare, but the notable exception was prisioner, Fred Ward, who swam to freedom  – with the aid of his wife – in 1869 and later become the bushranger known as ‘Thunderbolt’.

Convict gaol cell, Cockatoo Island

Construction of Fitzroy dock required the removal of sandstone cliffs 45 feet high.  It took nine years to build and became Australia’s main shipbuilding facility.

After the gaol closed in 1869, Cockatoo Island was used as an industrial school for girls and a type of prison for female felons.

At the same time,  the navel ship, Vernon, was anchored off the island as a facility for orphaned and wayward boys.

Despite a 10 foot fence designed to keep the girls and boys apart, the island gained a notorious reputation and was gradually dedicated purely to shipbuilding and repairs.

Sign, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour

Shipbuilding continued for 134 years until 1991.

It was Australia’s primary shipbuilding, refitting and repair facility and, as the nation’s first naval dockyard, it played a huge role in maritime history.

When Singapore fell to the Japanese in World War II, Cockatoo Island  became the main shipbuilding and repair centre in the South-West Pacific.

More than 250 ships were repaired or converted at the island  during the War, including the liners, ‘Queen Mary” and ‘Queen Elizabeth’, which were refitted to operate as troopships.

Slipway and dock, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour

Later, Cockatoo Island was responsible for naval support during the Korean and Vietnam wars and for refitting submarines until the dockyard closed in 1991.

Today, the island’s heritage is preserved by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, which has revitalised this once-great shipbuilding centre and former penal establishment – while striving to preserve its unique character.

Visitors who catch a ferry across Sydney Harbour can wander among the island’s key sites and see the former convict areas, docks, wharves and slipways.

Self-guided audio tours will take you over each precinct and allow you to wonder at the island’s huge tunnels, including one which was reinforced with concrete for use as a World War II air raid shelter.

Waterfront camping facilities on Cockatoo Island

There are several accommodation options on Cockatoo Island, including camp sites; tents for hire; luxury camping or ‘Glamping’; units; and studio apartments with astonishing views over the harbour.

Cockatoo Island is also popular with photographers, who regularly line the cliff tops in the early morning to catch a view of the sun rising alongside Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The island is fast becoming a centre for concerts and similar events and is considered a good location to catch Sydney’s traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks.

So, to experience this wonderful park and everything it offers, head to the Sydney Quay waterfront and catch a ferry across the magnificent harbour to Cockatoo Island. And, to see the best of this memorable destination, why not book a stay in a studio apartment or join the campers along the waterfront (above).

There’s no need to worry about food. It can be purchased or ordered in advance from the island’s well equipped bars and restaurants.

These include The Island Bar, which has gained prominence because it is made from recycled shipping containers, in line with Cockatoo Island’s industrial and maritime heritage.

You won’t be sorry.

Australian