The budget-friendly destination that's less than 2 hours from Sydney but still feels like a holiday.

It's that time of the year when almost everyone you know is on a holiday. Your Instagram feed is full of destination pictures and all anyone will talk to you about is their upcoming plans. But if you have no leave, are feeling the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis, or maybe both, you're probably dreaming of an easy getaway that doesn't break the bank or your leave balance but still feels like a holiday.

Thankfully for you and I (if you live in Sydney) many such destinations do exist. And one I recently rediscovered is Terrigal, the costal town on the Central Coast of New South Wales that is less than a two-hour drive away. It's so close you could probably get there with your eyes closed (though we don't recommend you trying it).

Given you don't need to take too much leave to visit (it's perfect for a long weekend getaway) and you can save on travel costs by driving instead, you can have a relaxing time away on a relatively small budget. Here are some of the great things you can do when visiting Terrigal:

Stay at the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific.

The view of the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific from our Ocean View Room. Image: Supplied.


My husband and I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific which has a variety of rooms available at rates to suit any budget, often with breakfast included. We stayed in an Ocean View room that had a beautiful outlook over the beach. It was easy to get in and out as they offer on-site parking and the staff were incredibly friendly and accommodating throughout our stay.

Our Ocean View Room. Image: Supplied.


The Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific has a very central location being directly across from Terrigal Beach with a short walk to restaurants, shops and bars so once you're there, you really don't need to leave. And if you really don't want to leave the hotel itself, you can enjoy a swim at their outdoor pool or book a treatment at Endota Spa while the kids enjoy the Family Zone which is available seven days a week during school holiday periods.

The outdoor pool had a beautiful view over Terrigal Beach. Image: Supplied.


Swim at Terrigal Beach.

The best part about a trip to Terrigal is once you are there, there are lots of free activities you can enjoy like a swim at Terrigal Beach which was the first thing we did when we arrived. It's easy to get to as it's directly across the road from the accommodation, meaning you can get there early and secure yourself a great spot for the day. As the water is flat, it is perfect for a swim, especially for kids. And if you pack a snorkel, you can venture down to the small ocean rock pool tucked into the cliff at the southern end.

Eat at Meribella.

The potato with caviar and salmon tartare, roasted pumpkin tart and caviar and gold leaf tart at Meribella. Image: Supplied.


When it comes to food, you really are spoilt for choice. But in the true spirit of not venturing too far from our surroundings, my husband and I dined at the newly opened Meribella, located within the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific. And by no means did it disappoint. We enjoyed the six-course tasting menu with matching wines by Head Chef Joshua Mason which focuses on the seasons to inspire the menu.

The crudo of snapper, coconut and lime paired with the 2023 Ciel 'Amuse Bouche' Pinot Grigio, Eden Valley SA. Image: Supplied.


The starters on their own were so special we could have stopped there consisting of scallops, salmon tartare and even a caviar and gold leaf tart that looked (almost) too beautiful to eat. But while everything we were served was delicious, my favourite was the freshness of the crudo of snapper in coconut and lime. And despite all the courses, I couldn't go past the dessert of champagne and vanilla sponge with mandarin, white chocolate and ricotta. We were also lucky enough to sample some wines from Ciel, Mason's own winery that were my favourite in the selection.

The champagne and vanilla sponge with mandarin, white chocolate and ricotta. Image: Supplied.


While the meal was very special, we were so full afterwards we had no need for dinner and since our breakfast was included in the stay, a meal at Meribella was a real treat.

Walk to the Skillion lookout.

We could see the Skillion lookout from our room as well as Meribella and lots of people we chatted to recommended giving it a visit. Just a short 15-minute walk along the beach, the Skillion has incredible sprawling views of the coastline and ocean once you reach the top. Many of the locals consider it one of the best lookout spots in the area and if you're patient enough, you will also be able to see whales, dolphins and seals nearby. Paying it a visit before we headed home was the perfect end to a truly relaxing weekend away.

What are your favourite local holiday destinations that are only a short drive from where you live? Tell us in the comments section below.

Mamamia travelled as a guest of Meribella. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's own.

Featured image: Supplied.

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