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The Observatory review, Port Macquarie: Weekend away

TIME : 2-26 17:44:56

The Observatory review, Port Macquarie: Weekend away

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Our rating

4.5 out of 5

THE PLACE

The Observatory, Port Macquarie

THE LOCATION

Directly opposite the town's most popular beach where iconic Norfolk pines line the shore, the multi-award winning 4.5 star Observatory, one of only three carbon neutral hotels in Australia, looks across parkland, golden sand and rolling surf. It's a couple of minutes' stroll to Town beach, where you can join the nine-kilometre coastal walkway, while the township is a short distance away. Port Macquarie is a four-hour drive north of Sydney and is a popular holiday destination and retirement hotspot.

THE SPACE

At first glance, The Observatory looks no different to any other modern strata apartment hotel. The difference is the warm and friendly staff who go the extra mile for guests, while a wall-mounted monitor at reception provides an up-to-date picture of the hotel's energy savings – giving the first clue to the hotel's phenomenal carbon-neutral status. More than 200 solar panels on the hotel's rooftop generate enough electricity to support the energy usage of 100 hotel guests weekly (more than 5000 visitors annually). Guests can recharge electric vehicles free of charge in the car park, a 22-kilolitre rainwater tank refills the pool and spa, while energy efficient lighting and appliances are par for the course.

Port Macquarie's most fashionable digs, winner of Australasia's Best Sustainable Boutique Hotel (2014 World Boutique Hotel Awards), unearthed some hidden gems during construction, given the town is one of modern Australia's earliest British settlements. The Observatory catalogued these historical treasures, which are preserved in display cases in the hotel's twin entry halls.

THE ROOM

The Observatory offers boutique beachfront accommodation with 34 hotel rooms and 57 ocean view apartments, including two penthouses. For an additional $50 per stay, guests purchasing an O-Zone package receive fair trade tea and coffee, Wii Fit DVDs and exercise equipment, a welcome platter of local produce, green bathroom products and an environmentally themed library of DVDs and books. A free beach ball and complimentary use of adult and kids' bikes is thrown in. The package helps fund local sustainability initiatives; including native bush regeneration, tree planting, and the rehabilitation of sick and injured animals at the nearby Koala Hospital.

We stay in the swanky house-sized Penthouse apartment with incredible views up the coastline to Point Plomer from the ballroom-sized balcony accessible though retractable bifold glass doors. The penthouses are ideal for large families or friends travelling together, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms stocked with eco-friendly amenities and sugar cane-based toilet tissue. The decor is contemporary and the apartment is light-filled and comfortable, with every conceivable mod con.

THE FOOD

The Observatory's apartments have full kitchens, while on-site are seafood restaurant Scampis and Milkbar, which is a popular beachside cafe with decent coffee, house-made icy poles and terrific breakfasts. A stroll up the road will bring you to the Stunned Mullet, the region's only hatted restaurant, perfect for long lazy lunches overlooking the sea. Hip local hangout, Social Grounds, on the way in or out of Port Macquarie, offers arguably Port's best coffee (house blend and single origin) along with creative cafe-style dishes.

STEPPING OUT

Borrow one of The Observatory's iPods and take an audio-visual self-guided tour to the picturesque Tacking Point Lighthouse, and be sure and spend time at one of Port Macquarie's eight gorgeous beaches. Billabong Zoo is a fun day out, offering a fabulous snow leopard encounter and new cheetah exhibition featuring Warrior and Vongani recently arrived from South Africa. Award-winning Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries (15 minutes drive away) does hands-down the best Devonshire tea on the coast, with scones handmade by a local woman and jam produced from the hydroponic farm's lush pick-your-own strawberries.

THE VERDICT

If a hotel stay is all about location, you can't beat the Observatory's plum beachfront position, while its impressive green credentials make you feel extra-virtuous about your stay.

ESSENTIALS

40 William St, Port Macquarie. Rooms start from $175 a night. Two night stays receive a "Savour the Flavour" pack including two bottles of local wine, cheese, chutney and lavash, handmade chocolates and a four-pack of Black Duck Beer until December 24. Phone (02) 6586 8000, see observatory.net.au.

HIGHLIGHT Watching sunrise over Town Beach from the rooftop terrace.

LOWLIGHT No room service, however some local restaurants will deliver.