Some­thing for ev­ery­one

Fam­i­lies are well catered for at a beach­side hol­i­day park on the NSW north coast

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - PAULINE WEB­BER

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

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