The Mercure Resort’s Bella Char restaurant has been serving acclaimed cuisine since the property’s rebrand, with a list highlighted by Australian baked scallops ($19), fresh prawns (250g for $18), beef fillet ($39), braised lamb shoulder ($35) or baked barraumundi with grilled scampi, jumbo prawn, ouzo garlic butter and herb leaves ($39). With the wines, keep it local and order the Coolangatta Estate Chardonnay – save a glass to enjoy with the banana doughnuts, served with milk chocolate ganache, salted caramel semi freddo and crushed honey popcorn. Save room! Address as above.
Drive south for two hours, take the Gerringong exit from the Princes Highway and the first hotel you will come across is the Mercure Resort Gerringong by the Sea. This one-time motel was given a massive revamp a few years ago, turning it into a hip, boutique property in an area that’s loaded up with holiday parks, B&Bs and pub stays. Book a deluxe king balcony room, which offers a little extra space, and take time to indulge in the adults-only pool and day spa. You might not have come here for the wine – you’ll likely have a fishing rod and set of golf clubs in the boot if you’re Gerringong-bound – but you’ll find plenty around, and one winery that’s been consistently stealing the limelight is Coolangatta Estate. It’s not named after the popular area on the Gold Coast, but the nearby town of Coolangatta, which is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘splendid view’ (they weren’t wrong). They specialise in wines made from savagnin and tannat, two grapes rarely found outside Europe. In the town of Gerringong, homewares stores abound – we say hit up MAS Traditional Homewares for French vintage aplenty and the Balinese-inspired Siang House and Garden. Also visit the Village Craft Shop and Mayflower Nearly New op-shop (all on Fern St, Gerringong 2534). Mercure Resort Gerringong by the Sea, 1 Fern St, Gerringong 2534. 02 4234 1359.