ANGELA SAURINE finds a big, comfortable hotel room hits the spot on a journey up the coast of NSW
Mercure Centro Hotel Port Macquarie
Road trips up the Pacific Highway are a summer rite of passage for many families, and Port Macquarie – which lies halfway between Sydney and Byron Bay – is an obvious place to break up the trip. Conveniently located in the CBD, this modern hotel makes a great base to explore the area.
Port Macquarie – halfway between Sydney and Byron Bay
Port Macquarie is around four hours’ drive north of Sydney and six hours’ south of Brisbane on the NSW north coast. Situated in the main street, William Street, between the ocean and the Hastings River, Mercure Centro Port Macquarie is surrounded by eateries, with a park across the road. It is a short stroll to Town Beach and the iconic breakwall, which is lined with colourfully painted rocks.
Rooms available in King, Twin, and Queen bed with sofa bed
There are six room types to choose from. Walking into our 60sq m Superior Spa Room after a long day driving was pure bliss! The huge, open-plan room overlooks the park and has a corner balcony, king size bed, corner chaise that folds out to a double sofa bed, and a TV that swivels between the lounge area and bed. My three-year-old son loves the bubbles in the spa bath and hiding under the cushions on the lounge. Superior Queen rooms are another great option for families, with configurations available in King, Twin, and Queen bed with sofa bed. Rooms also have large smart TV, air-conditioning, a dining table, tea and coffee making facilities, and a separate shower. Children under 12 stay free in a room accompanied by adults when using existing bedding. Extra charges apply for the use of a sofa, rollaway or cot. Mercure Centro also has ramp access for wheelchairs, wide hallways and large lifts. Two of its rooms are accessible, with wide bathroom doors and a wheelchair-friendly shower with rails and a seat.
Outdoor pool with lounge chairs for mum and dad to relax
The main drawcard for kids is the outdoor pool, which is heated year-round and surrounded by lounge chairs for mum and dad to relax. It is open from 6.30am to 9pm. Towels are available at reception.
Restaurant Synergy and Port Macquarie’s iconic seafood restaurant, Whalebone Wharf
The hotel’s in-house eatery, Restaurant Synergy, has an impressive seasonal menu, which makes the most of the abundant local produce. During our stay it included pan seared Atlantic salmon with roasted chat potatoes, asparagus, tiger prawns and lemon butter sauce; mushroom risotto with shaved Parmesan; and Dukkah-crusted lamb backstrap with couscous salad, seasonal greens and Greek yoghurt (I chose the latter, and it was divine!). Kids’ meals, which are $12 for kids under 12, include chicken nuggets with chips or vegetables, and fish and chips. Room service is also available. Port Macquarie’s iconic seafood restaurant, Whalebone Wharf, is also a must visit, while Pancake Place is good fun for families and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Bago Maze and Winery, Billabong Zoo and Wildlife Park
Kids will love picking fruit at Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries, ten minutes’ drive north of the town. It offers free guided tours at 11am each day. Bago Maze and Winery boasts one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, with more than 2000m of pathways, bridges and hedges. You can also meet koalas rescued in the summer 2019/20 bushfires at Koala Hospital Port Macquarie and see more than 80 species of animals at Billabong Zoo and Wildlife Park. It’s also worth making the trip to Timbertown at Wauchope, 15 minutes’ drive away, to wander through the historic buildings and ride on the steam train and in a horse and carriage. While you’re there, try panning for gold and gemstones, go pedal boating on the lake, and see farmyard animals. Other options include dolphin and whale watching cruises, camel rides on Lighthouse Beach, and horse riding, plus there’s a cinema in town for rainy days.
The writer was a guest of Mercure Centro Hotel Port Macquarie