In early March this year, my sister and I stayed one night at the Aqualuna Beach Resort in Coffs Harbour New South Wales.
We had a fun night together drinking Strongbow ‘Blossom Rosé’ sparkling apple cider on the balcony, laughing about how much the neighbouring Sapphire Beach stank like poo and fighting over who Eugene Tooms from the X-Files was going to get first when he squirmed his way out of one of the many creep hatches scattered throughout our rooms.
In case your booking finger is hovering over the ‘Reserve Now’ button, I’ll do something a little different and give my Fishbird rating up front to save you a potentially regretful but hilarious night. I’ll also preface this review to say that I’ve since been on TripAdvisor and read similar comments in regards to the cleanliness and level of care from the management.
- Price Point : $140 p/night approx. for a two bedroom ocean view room.
- Cleanliness : The kind of clean that a 17 year old university student would be bothered to aim for, if their parents were dropping by and staying for a cuppa – but not expected to look too closely at the walls, floors or linen.
- Cosiness : We didn’t want to go to sleep on the bedding, but having a mini road trip with my sister was fun and cosy. It rained overnight and we didn’t get wet or eaten by bugs.
- Overall Fishbird Rating : 5 Fishbirds out of 10. One because my sister was there, two for the laughs, three for the fact we didn’t get attacked by ghosts or carnies, four for the view of the ocean (not the smell), and five for the fact that we left quite early so got to have a nice breakfast in Ulmarra.
Arriving at the Aqualuna Beach Resort, we were initially wooed by the service station right out the front – petrol and ice-creams at your fingertips, who could ask for more! Maybe a petrol ice-cream?? Revolutionary! Seriously though – this was very handy.
The complex looked dated, but tidy from the outside – with townhouse style accommodation set amongst the palm trees and home to a herd of bush turkeys.
Side note … What would you call a herd of bush turkeys? A wattle of wings? A magnificent of megapodes? A posse of prehistoric playmates? Who knows?! Me! It’s all of those!
We were booked in to townhouse number 13. Lucky for some, unlucky for some.
First impressions were not too bad – though I did spot a creep hatch as soon as we walked in.
Can you see it? It’s near the floor. Although I love ventilation as much as the next girl, this is how my brain imagines the family living inside the walls gets their mail.
My sister chose to sleep in the room with twin single beds, kindly giving me the master bedroom.
We dropped our bags and, after taking stock of her room, she announced that she was fairly confident she could make a clean set of sheets by taking different portions from each bed.
The marks on the sheets weren’t too gross, just unidentifiable and not anything you’d necessarily want to touch your face or skin … on account of the mysterious nature of humans.
That kind of set the tone for our stay.
To be clear, we didn’t take this issue to reception – mostly due to the fact that after looking through the rest of the house we weren’t sure we’d get a positive response. Also, my sister had already channeled her inner Dr. Frankenstein and created a monster she was happy to live with for the night.
To make her feel better about the bed situation, I showed her the peep hatch cut out in the back of her wardrobe.
Hey, Mel! This is where people can watch you while you sleep!
Thankfully neither of the lamps in her room worked, so she literally couldn’t focus on the hole during the night.
Anyway, enough about the cobbled together bedroom – look, there’s a second downstairs bathroom to use. How luxurious!
I taught my sister how to check the mirrors to see if they were two way (thanks, Oprah!) – then left her to her shower.
Mel told me that while getting ready for her shower, she looked up and discovered there was an uncovered hole in the roof. So comforting!
It was night time, so we couldn’t immediately tell how many possums were living in there or if the hole went right out into the outside air. Oh well, sweet dreams!
On a positive note, both bathrooms (we’ll get to mine in a second) had complimentary shampoo, conditioner and soaps. All of the towels seemed clean.
After marvelling at the bathroom ceiling wormhole – we checked out the little laundry, and were happy to discover that they’d left us a cat to help with any stray creatures that should appear in the night 🙂
I was a bit reluctant to look too closely at my room, after helping my sister settle in to hers.
Everything in the house seemed ok from a distance, it was only when you got up close you realised that the level of care just wasn’t there.
There was only one working lamp in my bedroom – so I used the non-lightable one as cupboard security, by wrapping the cord around the closet door handles just like a secret agent.
You can’t quite see it in the picture below, but there was a white garden chair set up outside my window. It was facing away from the building and was probably a smoking spot for …. well … um … the bush turkeys (??) but it was disconcerting. Should I be sitting in it? Was it the master chair?
Thankfully the curtains pulled shut ok, and the window had a wooden dowel set in the frame for extra security. Also the window glass was really frosted from ocean salt – so any smoking snoop dogs would see me through a considerate Doris Day filter.
The shower pressure and temperature were ok. I wouldn’t have taken a spa, due to the yellow nature of the spa jets though.
The ledge looking from the bathroom to the bedroom, was pretty gross. It was the kind of dirty that could have washed off. The kind of dirty that you don’t want to see so close to a toilet. I didn’t touch it.
I’m not going to talk about the finger marks on the bathroom cabinet that was in reaching distance of the toilet, so don’t even ask me.
There was a creep hatch directly over my shower. It was a small one, so it wouldn’t normally have bothered me too much – but why was the grating pushed in??
Upstairs, the living area was fairly well appointed with a couch, table and chairs and a balcony to sit out on.
We didn’t use the TV, but the hotel info book advised that it was equipped with Foxtel.
The little balcony was the best part of the whole accommodation. You could see and hear the ocean, and the greenery was lovely to look out on. The unit next to us was empty, and so we weren’t looking directly at other people, and could have a pretty private conversation and enjoy the view.
A creek or some kind of runoff, created a barrier between us and the sea – but that was appreciated later, when we went down to the beach and it smelled like actual poos.
No smell wafted in through the balcony though. You had to put your nose right near the beach to get the full impact.
In the afternoon as we were sitting having our tea on the balcony, a bush turkey gave us a drum solo as he pecked his way through a discarded McDonalds coffee cup.
The living area was comfortable, and the couch served our firm seating needs. We didn’t utilise the dining table, but the chairs and table seemed pretty new. The carpet in the upstairs looked like it had been replaced recently as well.
The kitchen benches were tidy, however the glasses and plates we needed were just the wrong side of clean and needed to be rinsed before use.
A starter pack of tea and coffee was provided, and appreciated – along with a mini milk. We did also pick up a standard human sized milk from the service station at the front of the complex.
We decided to have a snoop around the complex, and headed out from our unit around the back of our property towards the beach.
The resort used to sport a mini golf area, which has since grown over. Along this stretch of grass there were a lot of half hidden golf holes that we tried not to fall into.
A full sized tennis court is on site and looks pretty well maintained.
The closer we got to the ocean, the stronger the poo smell became. I thought for a moment that it might be the creek – maybe the pool of water was breeding a new form of Dr Whovian life that had yet to smell its own body?
The view was beautiful so we kept on walking. My sister picked up a flower to press to her nose as a sweet stench barrier as we made our way towards the water.
We got this far onto the sand and seriously couldn’t go any further. My sister’s flower had started sucking up the poo smell rather than deflecting it and we were laughing so much that we were breathing more of the stench in than we wanted to.
As we drove in to Coffs Harbour earlier in the day, we’d seen signs that the circus was in town. I wondered if the circus were letting their animals come and poo on the beach in the middle of the night. I said to my sister that if I could see a line of circus animals hunching on the sand, the star rating for Aqualuna would increase dramatically. Sadly, this didn’t eventuate.
We wondered if the seaweed had soaked up some kind of rank chemical from the ocean? Had a sewerage pipe split and washed chunks up onto the beach?
Sadly we couldn’t bring ourselves to get any closer to the mix-up that was the clumps in the seaweed, to take better pictures.
When I got home, I googled to see if there was a shipping accident off Sapphire Beach – or for some indication as to why the place smelled so bad. We’d asked the lady at Reception if she knew anything, but she pretended she didn’t know what we were talking about.
The internet tells me that in 2015 a whale carcass washed up on shore. Until proven otherwise, I’m just going to go ahead and assume that it was that same carcass unearthed by curious circus dogs.
To close this review, here is a picture of my sister hacking at a bowl of Maltesers that had fused together into a delicious ball. We ate them and laughed and spooked ourselves out so much we put a chair against the front door to stop the circus folk from coming into the unit during the night.
Even though in hindsight, they could just have come down that uncovered skylight.