Just 20 minutes from Queensland’s Gold Coast, but a world away in lifestyle, ANNE MAJUMDAR and family take heed of a priceless insider tip, and relish the relaxing pace of a winter warm-up escape in picturesque, coastal Kingscliff.
A seawater-sodden Labrador bounds along the sand, kicking up a trail of sand in his wake. Hot on his heels is a little girl, no older than two – still a little unsteady on her feet. She catches him between small pudgy fists and the pair flop face first into the rippling dunes as her puffed parents follow in chase. Besides us, these are the only people on this vast sweeping beach as dusk casts a rosy glow across the squeaky sand.
It’s easy to forget that just on the other side of the boardwalk and shrubbery that fringes the beach is our resort – an enclave packed with restaurants, cafes and bars. It’s certainly harder to think that just 20 minutes down the road, the glittering lights of the Gold Coast are just flickering on as the bars and restaurants get ready for the nightly onslaught.
So much to see and do in Peppers Salt Resort & Spa Kingscliff
We might as well be on another planet here in the sleepy northern New South Wales coastal town of Kingscliff, which offers the perfect getaway for families. Having arrived earlier that day, we came armed with big plans for the weekend. Maybe we would take our sea-creature obsessed, almost-two-year-old tyke to visit Sea World, or one of the drawcard theme parks. We mention the plan to Norm, the chap who greets us and lets us into our Balé apartment at Peppers Salt Resort & Spa.
But Norm smiles knowingly, and suggests we might be better off staying put and just enjoying our immediate surroundings. He’s so adamant, we don’t push the point. Without a rental car, we are put off our amusement escapade by the one-hour taxi ride so we decide to take Norm’s advice.
It doesn’t take long for us to realise how right he was.
Stunning sunsets in Salt Beach
The $1 billion Salt complex has everything required for a top notch family holiday. As the sky deepens into twilight’s pastel hues, we wander down to the ocean for our first glimpse of the beach. Wow. The long stretch of sand is almost surreally pristine.
While the sun sets, we run in and out of the shallows, trousers rolled up to our calves dodging the still icy froth that tickles the shore. The Labrador scrambles over to join in our game with relish – it’s clear he’s played it a few times before. But when the family lead him off reluctantly home for his dinner, we realise how hungry we are too.
Fins is probably the fanciest dining spot on the small strip, but it’s still early so the dining room is deserted, aside from the giant fish hanging out in the tank. Our almost-two-year-old is transfixed by his new gilled friend and, when the novelty wears off, staff swiftly provide a stash of crayons and colouring sheets. I devour a bowl of crab saffron broth, followed by a spiced lamb rump served with smoked eggplant and lemon labna and while my other half tucked into a plate of yellowfin tuna tartare and then a juicy pasture-fed eye fillet steak. Mr nearly-two dabbles messily in a plate of aglio e olio spaghetti.
Back in our gigantic apartment, our small human enjoys a sploshy splash in the giant spa bath before bed, and we kick back with wine and a movie.
Even though we’re smack bang in the middle of winter, the temperature the next morning is hovering around a very pleasant 29 degrees Celsius. A friendly focal point of the village is the village green, so we head down for a lap of the playground. But tackling the tube slide 30 plus times can be sweaty work, and this is definitely swimming weather. After months of hiding pasty flesh away under layers of itchy woollen clothes, it doesn’t take much to persuade us to strip off and don swimwear.
A relaxing beach-side escape
Kitted out, we were faced with an array of options. There’s the sea, of course, but the water’s still a little on the cold side, and warning signs inform us of currents and the possibility of stingers and sharks at Salt Beach, so we opt for a tour of the resort’s many swimming pools – four to be precise. First up, we try the heated spa pool and then the gorgeous lagoon pool, complete with a sandy beach and warm enough for a good splash in the shallows, and a proper dunk under the blazing sun.
We spread our towels on the loungers and settle in for the day, pretending we are on a tropical island, and grateful that the café at Peppers is within splashing distance so we don’t need to move. For lunch we snack on coconut prawns before reclaiming our spot on the sand.
Kingscliff dining options
There are many eateries in this tiny village. As well as Fins, there’s another fine diner, a Thai restaurant, a pizza joint, a café and a big pub complete with kaleidoscope slides and, a stroll along the coastline to the town of Kingscliff proper, offers even more options. This is also the site of a popular market on the last Sunday of every month.
Venture even further afield and you will discover the new hip hotel, Halcyon House, with its much- lauded restaurant Paper Daisy, or, take a 45-minute drive to explore Byron Bay.
We, of course, did none of these things. We didn’t budge from our special little spot, and we loved every minute. Norm is a very wise man.