Something for everyone
Families are well catered for at a beachside holiday park on the NSW north coast
DADS love the giant jumping pillows, which is not surprising as these serious air-toys are not for wimps. During the two days I spend at the NRMA-owned Darlington Beach Holiday Park, just north of Coffs Harbour on the NSWnorth coast, I see many a father battling his pre-teens for maximum bounce.
In camping parlance, the 4.5-star Darlington Beach is a tropical ‘‘destination park’’. People like to just ‘‘pull up and stay’’, is how park manager Michelle McAllister puts it. ‘‘One guy came for a NRMA four-day special offer and stayed six months.’’
It’s easy to see the appeal. Campsites, two and threebedroom cabins and topcategory spa villas are dotted about the beautifully landscaped grounds.
A cluster of buildings at one end houses the activities centre, cafe-restaurant, games room and a little shop that sells essentials such as milk, ice cream and newspapers. The cafe is pleasant but functional (easy-to-wipe surfaces for sticky little fingers) with a kids’ menu; it’s licensed, too, so a bottle of wine can be enjoyed with dinner after a hard day on the golf course. The coffee is good and a big open fire and lounges make it a snug spot during winter.
The real buzz, though, is around the activities centre. The Kids Club operates every day except Christmas Day, and in high season the park accommodates 1400 visitors a night, which means at least 10 staff are on the go from dawn until late at night, keeping kids happy. Then there are the swimming pools, go-karts and mini-cars, tennis courts, BMX track, bowling green, pool table, Wi-Fi and, of course, those jumping pillows.
The school holiday program emphasises activities children and adults can share. The best part of the ice-cream-eating competition, I’m assured, is seeing the kids go into hysterics as mothers grapple with a huge bowl of creamy vanilla, no hands allowed.
The beach is a great long stretch just beyond the golf course. Darlington is not a swimming beach but Corindi, next along, has supervised swimming and, for the adventurous, a surf school. I spend an enjoyable hour around sunset sitting on the sand, watching a beginners’ class brave the waves.
Nature can be glimpsed everywhere. Kangaroos nibble the sweet grass on the manicured lawns, rainbow lorikeets swoop down and take seeds from a child’s hand, seabirds wheel and dive over the ocean.
If you fancy a day out, take a bucket to a blueberry farm and pick your own, or explore the trails that wind through the rainforest in the hinterland.
Or drop in at the nearby town of Woolgoolga and visit the Sikh temple.
Darlington is a community in miniature. People return year after year and develop lasting friendships. McAllister tells me one family has come every Christmas for 29 years. Now they bring their grandchildren.
Holiday parks can be an inexpensive option for a family holiday but, as McAllister says, it’s not really about the finances, it’s about being part of a supportive little society. Pauline Webber was a guest of NRMA.
The Spa Villa at Darlington Beach Holday Park