When I started the “on tour with the kid” project, it was to ensure I made the most of the year before my little one started school. I’m thrilled, of course, that her school life has led her to great friends and lots of after school activities. However, between Saturday morning sports, birthday parties and the need to be home on Sunday afternoon to be ready for the week ahead, finding time for a weekend away is difficult. With most of the people I know working in the same industry as I do, meaning we are all busy at the same time, a weekend away with friends feels illusive.
Recently though, all the stars aligned. The Choirboys were playing at Shoal Bay Country Club on a Saturday night. Only an hour north of Newcastle, it meant being able to get to a Saturday morning football game and still make it the beachside venue by lunchtime. We booked a two-bedroom villa at the adjoining Ramada Resort and planned to meet friends there later in the day.
It’s often hard to wind down if you are only away for one night, but from the moment, we turned onto Shoal Bay Road, there is a sudden sense of calm. The majestic mountains frame the pristine coastline. The fresh white exterior of the Country Club extends across two blocks of absolute beach frontage.
We checked into our villa, set above the Country Club itself as the accommodation is built into the natural rise of the hill. A beautiful natural amphitheatre to maximise the view of the main act, Shoal Bay Beach. The villa itself was expansive and perfectly set up for a longer stay, full kitchen, laundry and a bathroom for each bedroom.
There was no time to relax, however, as the Kid had spotted three pools on a quick walk from reception. The weather was on the cool side, and it had just begun to rain, which made the heated indoor lap pool and mineral spas our go-to destination. I didn’t need to search for our friends as they had a similar conversation with their own kids and also came straight to the pool on arrival.
It was difficult to pull the kids from the water, but eventually, it was time for dinner. The Country Club has recently undergone a 6-million-dollar renovation, and you can feel this comforting blend of upscale 1950’s style and old Hollywood glamour.
We are seated by the Maitre d, who had this beautiful way of making us feel like regulars despite this being our first visit. The menu was expansive, with something to please even the fussiest of eaters. My child fits that category but that night she tried a bit of everything as the table filled will steak, seafood, ribs and buttermilk fried chicken wings. I’m sure we didn’t need the wings, but they sounded too good not to try.
As darkness fell, the outdoor courtyard below the restaurant was lit by hundreds of fairy lights as the crowd milled around, cocktails in hand, awaiting the start of the show. The unmistakable tones of Mark Gable's voice began in the main bar; the crowd moved in. Classic Aussie rock at it’s best delivered in the way that only The Choirboys can. The room was full, and the crowd was happy.
I always find the worst part of going away is that you see posters for things that are happening after you leave. The sensational part of Shoal Bay Country Club is that it is close enough to home to come back to without having to plan an overnight visit. We have returned twice since our first visit, both prompted by a poster we saw that night about their extensive school holiday program for kids — activities every day, including slime workshops, petting zoos, and rock painting. We already have plans to revisit in the upcoming October Holidays. It’s a refreshing change, for someone who travels the way I do with the kid, to see somewhere that caters for the whole family with that blend of sophistication and fun.