I’ve never quite got the point of a staycation. According to my maths, there’s still around 100 countries in the world that I haven’t seen yet – and a lot that I haven’t seen nearly enough of.
Taking vacation time to holiday within an hour of my home, therefore did not compute. What’s the point of going somewhere with the same culture, the same food, the same weather I thought…. and then I realised; that is the point.
My epiphany came on a trip to Cronulla, a beachside town about an hour’s train ride away from central Sydney. I was there overnight to check out the newly opened Eventhouse Hotel. The first property of this new boutique brand, the hotels will all be individually designed in ways that reflect their location; for Cronulla this means the surf. Every one of the hotel’s 84 rooms and suites overlook either the rolling waves of the beach or calm bays of the opposite coast. They’re furnished in white wood and ice cream colours which even with a cloudy day outside scream beach-break. Cocktails come in Tiki glasses and there’s even a cut-out surfer dude in the lift in case you don’t manage to spot a real topless hunk heading out to catch a wave.
I spent a few days before my visit doing my normal research as to what to do: at first I was stuck – I couldn’t find any ‘must dos’ as it all felt so familiar- but then I realised, when there’s no pressure to ‘tick the sightseeing boxes’ on your trip, you finally get to relax. That first afternoon, instead of hunting down some obscure food truck, I simply wandered along the seafront to the nearby Cronulla RSL club with its fantastic views of Bate Bay. A leisurely glass of wine, an amazing Mezze plate of halloumi, olives, dip and pita and a dose of ‘vitamin sea air’ later I was ready for a longer walk – a 45-minute hike to the Cronulla sand dunes. These huge, sheer dunes appeared in Max Max 3 and are now used as a training ground for runners, hikers, Australian cricketers like Ricky Ponting or people like me who just have a big lunch to wear off! While the nearby houses ruin a bit of the desolate feel you’d like in a dune, they’re still an incredible sight. If mountain high swathes of golden sand aren’t your thing though, you can also catch the short $6.40 (each way) ferry over to nearby Bundeena where you’ll find coastal walking trails past beautiful seascapes or historical Aboriginal engravings. Find suggested routes and pictures at wildwalks.com.
That evening also saw a change in routine: I ate in my hotel – something I’d never do on a normal trip. But I’d heard good things about the seafood at the hotel’s Red Radish restaurant so opted for some stay-consumption (is that a thing?). I was glad I did – the local Woollooware Oysters, $6 each, have changed my opinion of oysters as something tasting akin to salty snot forever. I also recommend the King Salmon Poke, £20, the Spanner Crab on Toast, $17 and for cuteness alone the Baby Beets on a bed of Brioche soil, $22. If you’d prefer to eat out of the hotel– the pizzas at Queen Margherita of Savoy and the seafood at Henrys come highly recommended.
The highlight of my trip though came the next morning. I finally got time to try stand-up paddle boarding. It’s been on my bucket list for years – but every holiday where I had the opportunity saw a trip to a temple, a theme park or even a shopping mall get in the way. Here there was nothing stopping me. It took about 40 minutes of patient coaching by John Clingan from Cronulla SUP School to get me standing, but I couldn’t stop me beaming once I did. As I finally stood up and paddled back to shore, John gave me a warning. ‘If a dolphin comes and puts her head on your board –don’t panic, she just likes to say hello.’ I nearly fell off the board with excitement. Sadly she didn’t make an appearance but it made me realise that you can find the incredible, the exotic, the truly memorable anywhere: maybe even just one hour from your house.
Rooms at Eventhouse Cronulla start at $199 a night.
Helen Foster was a guest of the Eventhouse Hotel in Sydney’s Cronulla.