Sunshine Coast: Welcoming an old friend

By Shirley Sinclair -

It was a pleasant surprise - just like an old pal who breezes back into your life after many years' absence.

I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I laughed. I reminisced about old times, pointed out favourite haunts and rekindled the friendship I'd badly neglected.

We'd met in simpler times. But busy lives and career responsibilities could not excuse the imaginary distance I'd put between us.

The moment I walked to the reception desk and looked out into the majestic foyer - with its cavernous space, quiet lounge areas, tranquil pools and waterfalls, and beautiful recycled timber - I gave a heartfelt sigh and admonished myself for losing contact in the first place.

The truth is, I'd always loved staying at Novotel Twin Waters Resort.

With friends living in Coolum, this was the perfect place to meet for a weekend away with our two boys and theirs. With the ocean, the pool, the lagoon and two water mad families, we were in an aquatic heaven as we swam, floated around to our heart's content or used all manner of craft to sail, skim or surf the waves.

We'd have our fill at the buffet, and the bar was only steps away. Everyone felt safe, secure and happy.

As I discovered, none of that has changed. I did have to admit, though, my "friend" never looked so good.

Novotel Twin Waters has had a fresh multi-million-dollar makeover to look years younger.

But the change is more than cosmetic. She is much more mature in her service, more attuned to her guests' needs and is the perfect hostess - as seen, for example, by the popularity of the Wandiny Room and Lily's on the Lagoon restaurant as wedding reception venues and large function areas (we counted three weddings at Lily's during our stay).

I constantly had to do a double take as I showed my youngest son around and tried to jog his memory of happy holidays as we made our way to our lodgings for the next two nights.

Our king suite - Apartment 421 right over the water of the seven hectare, beach-lined lagoon - was somewhere I'd secretly always wanted to stay. After all, these suites were good enough for Queen Elizabeth II during CHOGM in 2002.

We could have been in Fiji or Tahiti, except for the distinctly Australian architecture, reminiscent of old Queenslanders but with a modern touch.

My 14-year-old loved his mother just that little bit more when he first saw the view from the side patio, inspected the massive spa bath, then realised he had a Playstation 2 at his disposal in the apartment.

After a few sunset photos and a quick shower, we walked only metres to our first engagement - mocktails and cocktails in the new-look Aqua Lounge + Bar.

By the time our media colleagues and dinner guests had arrived, we had already settled into a section of the open, comfy lounge.

To our left was a view of the storm looming over the lagoon and families bundling up toddlers from the pool; to our right, plasma TVs offered the cricket Test match live as the bartenders juggled happy hour.

Executive chef Matt Lonne had planned a treat for us for dinner - a five star barbecue, cooked right before our eyes, and presented to us on the bar terrace.

We were spoilt for choice, from the antipasto plate to entrees including succulent prawn cocktails, to the tenderest of eye-fillet steak and flavoursome sausages with a touch of spiciness, and from the fresh garden salad presented in tiny "deep-fry" baskets to a selection of desserts to die for including chocolate mousse and cheesecake, not to mention fresh local strawberries.

For the next four hours, I chatted and helped solve the problems of the world as I watched the passing parade of resort guests - a mix of big family reunions, pre-Christmas holidays for mum, dad and the kids, and lovers walking hand-in-hand.

Surprisingly, though we sat through "bewitching hour" (usually between 5pm and 6pm, as any parent of young children knows), we heard no tantrums or young lungs exercising screaming rights.

It was as if the resort had laid a blanket of calm over the late afternoon, soothing away the demons and tiring out energetic young bodies until they had given in to the dying light.

As early risers, my son and I took to the patio at 5am to drink in the total quiet except for the birdsong and, somewhere in the distance (but in reality, just over the road and through the trees) the faint sound of surf.

In such a national park-style environment, it easy to forget you are so close to the ocean.

We watched birds gliding over the water, enjoyed a visit from a currawong and watched mullet jumping with their scales glistening in the early morning light as they broke the glassy surface and returned with a splash.

Then we took a leisurely stroll around the lagoon and meandered along the path through the gardens before our hot buffet breakfast in Nouveau Restaurant.

Nouveau, formerly Zanth's and before that Zanthorea's, is a relaxed, large, uncluttered, airy room with intimate "alcove" and veranda areas suitable for large groups as well as many smaller tables and window settings.

With the emphasis on glass and good ventilation, coupled with the brown rattan fans, casual décor, long white curtain dividers and folding glass doors opening to the deck, I felt like I had walked into a

Somerset Maugham novel, set in the last days of colonialism in India or the Pacific.

The indoor and outdoor open-air options for dining are great for family gatherings or intimate dinners, making the most of the lake vista.

The rest of the day was ours. And while we could easily have ventured off-site for a short drive to Sunshine Plaza, Noosa or even the Eumundi Markets, we had plenty to amuse ourselves.

The moment the water activities centre opened at 9am, we launched ourselves into a double kayak and explored all reaches of the lagoon.

By 9.45am, I returned to the apartment to freshen up for my 10am Swedish massage, while my son tried his hand at sailing a catamaran.

And after an hour, it was debatable who had had the best time - Bodi in mastering the cat or me in having that glorious energised feeling you get after a massage.

My therapist had expertly manipulated all the stubborn kinks, pushed out the tightness, rolled away the tension and recirculated parts of me I hadn't felt in years - a "pleasure and pain" experience that almost saw me fall asleep.

So after a short kip back at the apartment, we decided to take a picnic lunch from the Nouveau takeaway counter and sit under a big pandanus tree beside a quiet section of lagoon. His chicken Caesar salad and my smoked salmon and avocado salad completed a decadent morning.

The afternoon held more free activities - catamaraning, jumping and diving on the water trampoline, windsurfing and swimming.

After a walk to the beach to sit for a while and gaze out over Old Woman Island to the left and down to Point Cartwright to the right, we returned to the apartment to take turns in the spa bath and lazing on the patio.

The view from the patio took in a game of badminton, a family making sandcastles below us, bike riders gliding past, cormorants diving into the water, a touch footy game across the lagoon and flashes from the jetty as a bride and groom posed for wedding photos.

What could be better than this? Only the seafood buffet that night in Nouveau, where we had our fill of fresh local king prawns, sandcrabs, oysters and mussels, as well as an extensive array of salads and carvery dishes, fruit and specialty desserts.

After two days and nights of reacquainting myself with my long-lost "friend", I promised to return again soon.

And being 20 minutes down the Sunshine Motorway, I really have no excuses.

NOVOTEL TWIN WATERS RESORT

Novotel Twin Waters Resort is 5km from Sunshine Coast Airport, nestled between the Maroochy River and the Pacific Ocean. This pristine beachfront location boasts 14 hectares of natural bushland and manicured gardens, situated around a private lagoon. Twin Waters Golf Club is nearby on Ocean Drive.

The 365 newly renovated resort-style rooms and suites offer garden and lagoon views, are close to a full range of resort facilities and services, and feature LCD flat-screen TVs and broadband internet access.

- SUNSHINE COAST DAILY

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 26 Dec 2014 03:11:08 Processing Time: 825ms