My family's annual southern trip to visit the in-laws in Sydney concluded early this month. As we made our way back to Brisbane, we kept to our resolution about taking a few days to explore a new part of the beautiful Northern NSW coastline. Having stayed in the beautiful Port Macquarie last year, this year we agreed upon Coffs Harbour.
I can be a very meticulous person when it comes to accommodation. I pore over every available apartment or hotel near the intended destination, then cross check prices across all available booking websites. Once I narrow the field of candidates down and locate the absolute best going rate, I pit them against each other in the facilities and extras stakes. Ocean view? Breakfast included? Free Wifi? Who wins out? I'm sure many of you know the drill.
This year I was unconsciously suffering a comfortable post-Christmas lethargy and was a little too distracted by my return to work. The result? For possibly the first time, I had forgotten to do my research and book accommodation until the last minute. A soon as I realised my mistake, my lethargy disappeared and I got down to business.
What became immediately clear was the available accommodation options were decidedly slimmer than what I was used to. I found really only 1 option that met the mandatory family and budgetary requirements: Aqualuna Beach Resort.
Not that I had much choice in the matter, I went ahead and did some research of the available reviews for Aqualuna – suffice to say some of the reviews were a little underwhelming. I consoled myself with the knowledge that the price was excellent and the extras generous, so I took the plunge and paid up.
The Sydney to Coffs Harbour leg of our return journey to Brisbane was a good 6 hour drive, with a lot of road works between Taree and Kempsey slowing our progress.
We arrived at the resort around 7:45pm with the last remaining sunlight rapidly fading. My first impressions were neutral. The resort seemed nice without coming close to knocking any socks off.
Checking in was a quick and straight forward process and all necessary information was provided and explained with clarity by a courteous staff member. We grabbed the keys and eagerly made our way to apartment number 39.
My first reaction upon entering the apartment was pleasant surprise. The apartment looked tidier and far more pleasant than the few photos we had seen online.
It wasn't clear when booking that we were getting a 2 story apartment. I was subconsciously expecting a single level apartment so I was a little surprised to see a large set of stairs upon entry. Thankfully my children are all quite familiar with stairs so this wasn't really an issue, but it's definitely something to take into account if you're holidaying with smaller children.
A good sized main bedroom featuring a large ensuite with spa, air conditioning and plenty of wardrobe space.
A small laundry with top-loading washing machine and clothes dryer.
A moderate but fully equipped kitchen including fridge with freezer, dishwasher, kettle, microwave, oven and more than enough cutlery and crockery for a full complement of occupants. Tea, coffee (instant), milk and sugar are also provided free of charge.
An open plan living and dining area with dining table, sofa bed, 32 Inch LCD TV (with cable) and micro sound system.
Considering we paid only $135 per night, we were extremely satisfied with the layout, size and condition of the apartment. My only (very) small reservation being that the apartment was beginning to show a little bit of age and wear and tear. The second bedroom showed a slightly crude wall plastering repair and one of the bathroom vanity handles was broken and had been 'repaired' with electrical tape. Other than this, the apartment was very clean and tidy throughout and provided a comfortable surrounding, without being luxurious.
Resort Facilities & Extras
Aqualuna Beach Resort provides the range of extras and facilities you would expect from a 4 star resort.
The resort pool area is divided into 3 pools of varying depths catering to all age ranges. My children thoroughly enjoyed the 'kids' pool while I made use of the 'adult' pool when I managed to escape supervisory responsibilities. Some of the pool furniture had seen better days, but overall it was a nice space for children and adults alike.
The resort provides a small gym for guests free of charge. It contains basic equipment like treadmill, cross-trainer and exercise bike. While I didn't make use of it during our stay, I did notice a steady trickle of holiday makers heading there to complete their daily workouts.
The resort also offers a tennis court that is available for guests to book. Again, I didn't use the court (I am more of a squash player these days) but passing it on the way to the beach, it appeared in very good condition. Tennis racquets and balls are available to hire from reception.
Free wifi is provided to all guests and for our 2 night stay we were given a very generous 3GB download limit. Various hotspots are available throughout the complex so signal strength will vary depending on your room or apartment location. We were able to get 3 bar signal strength which was perfectly adequate on the few occasions we were online. Please be aware that only 1 device (laptop, smartphone etc.) can log onto and use the resort provided wifi at any given time.
Aqualuna Alfresco Restaurant
Aqualuna comes with its own fully licensed alfresco restaurant and bar overlooking the ocean. It provides breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our booking price included a full buffet breakfast for up to 4 people for the duration of our stay. Suffice to say, we all gladly took advantage of the offer. The buffet wasn't gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, but it was extensive, hot and appetizing.
The hot food section provided hot plates, bacon, scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, fried mushrooms, tomatos and baked beans. All hot foods were diligently refilled or replaced when stocks began to run low.
These were not gourmet sausages, the hash browns looked like what you'd get at McDonalds and the bacon was definitely not premium short-cut. Nevertheless, I wasn't 'paying' for it, it was hot, it was tasty, it was a buffet and it completely satisfied my holiday craving for a large, slightly greasy cooked breakfast.
The continental section offered muesli, a selection of cereals, yogurt, fruit and bread/toast.
Beverages included water, apple and orange juice, tea and coffee.
Two days of tasty, filling breakfast for the family included with the booking price saved time and money and made the stay that little bit more relaxing and enjoyable.
The dinner menu provides a moderate selection of standard modern Australian type dining fare in the $20 - $30 price range. On our first night we ordered mains that we collected from the restaurant and brought back to the apartment. The chicken Wellington and creamy chicken and bacon pasta weren't exactly bursting with freshness but after a long drive, and with the kids safely tucked away in bed, it was bliss to sit back with solid hearty meals in the comfort of the apartment.
Chicken Wellington & creamy chicken and bacon pasta
Only a short walk from the resort, the beautiful and secluded Aqualuna beach is available to guests and accessible only via a locked gate. This means that you have to take your room keys with you to the beach. This isn't exactly ideal, so make sure you keep the keys secure while you're there.
The beach itself isn't patrolled so please be sensible and keep a close eye on conditions if entering the water. The waves were really choppy when we were there and it was blowing a gale, so definitely not conducive to swimming. Despite the less than perfect conditions, the kids and I did have a long and thoroughly enjoyable paddle.
Aqualuna Beach resort is a 4 star rated resort, and I think it is certainly worthy of the rating. The resort doesn't have all the trimmings or the luxury of a 5 star rating, but it provides clean and comfortable accommodation with amazing ocean views and close proximity to a beautiful private beach. Keep your expectations consistent with the 4 star rating and you won't be disappointed.
Overall, a really relaxing beach resort in an amazing location that is excellent value, especially if you can get your rooms at a special rate.
Add aqualuna to your holiday to-do list. You won't be disappointed.
David - I clicked on the Acqualuna Beach Resort to bring back memories of a lovely stay we had there a couple of years ago. Like you, on our way back from Sydney. Your photos are exactly as I remembered it. Comprehensively reviewed. Well done.
Thanks Jan, the feedback is appreciated.
Hopefully the article can encourage others to give Aqualuna a go. Like you, we also had a lovely stay and would have no hesitation in heading there again in the future.