Remember that scene in the movie The Holiday, when Kate Winslet enters the Los Angeles super-mansion she has house-swapped her English cottage for and drops her suitcase and her jaw, before scurrying about the place, clapping and squealing with delight?
Yeah, well, that was me (sort of) when I arrived at Seawinds luxury beachfront apartment in Terrigal for the weekend.
Stepping out of the private lift into the multimillion-dollar three-bedroom apartment, just one of 48,000 on offer on the members-only home-swapping site Love Home Swap, my husband and I gasped at the glittering expanse of Terrigal Beach immediately in front of us.
We oohed and ahhed over the polished slate floors. We, or rather I, squealed at the enormous open kitchen, and at the gorgeous pool surrounded by lush green lawn and hedges.
Of course, we could have ended up in a villa in Phuket, a cabin in Patagonia, a loft in New York or a chateau in France – all possibilities for those swapping their abodes on Love Home Swap.
With the site now offering non-simultaneous swaps (you accrue points by “renting” your place out, then use them to stay in another Love Home Swap member’s pad for free later on), we could have used our points to escape the next Australian winter.
Not that we were complaining, as our Terrigal sojourn floated by in a luxurious blur. Somewhere in there was an afternoon spent sipping bubbly on the deep leather loungers as the sea breeze sifted through the open doors.
There was a morning nestled in the cushy king-sized bed sipping tea and watching paddle boarders cruise by in the distance. There was a little too much time spent lazing by the pool reading, an early-evening candlelit bath in the island tub and a home-cooked dinner on the spacious terrace, one of two dining areas that make this the ideal entertaining pad.
Basically, we did all the things we would do at home but in super-luxe style. That’s the best part of this whole home swap caper.
Sure, it saves you money (apparently an average of $3500 a holiday, according to Love Home Swap) but more importantly, it offers you a more relaxed experience of an area which, after a couple of days spent in a native’s home, really does start to feel like home.
The writer was a guest of Love Home Swap.
Seawinds Luxury Beachfront Holiday Apartment, unit 1, 130 Terrigal Drive, Terrigal.
Terrigal is 90 minutes’ drive from central Sydney. Take the Sydney to Newcastle Freeway, then the Gosford-Woy Woy exit onto the Central Coast highway.EAT THERE
Seawinds is just 50 metres from Terrigal’s bustling cafe culture. Bellyfish Cafe is the local favourite for brunch. Sapa Vietnamese, about a 10-minute walk from town, serves up delicately fragrant dishes.SEE THERE
Take the 15-minute walk up to The Skillion, the narrow rocky cape on the south side of Terrigal Beach that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding coast. Splash around in Terrigal Lagoon behind the beach, an especially great spot for families.NEED TO KNOW
Love Home Swap offers a free trial membership for 14 days. After that, a Silver membership costs $18 a month.
FIVE TIPS FOR A HOME SWAP HOLIDAY
1 MAKE YOUR HOME LOOK AS STYLISH AS POSSIBLE
The better the photos, the more interest there will be. Think of it like online dating for the home.
2 COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR SWAP PARTNERS
Emails, phone calls and messages all help make sure the swap works best for all involved.
3 BE ORGANISED
Book the home you want as far in advance as possible, as the really incredible places book out first.
4 PLAY IT SAFE
Lock away precious possessions and upgrade your insurance cover if you need to.
5 BE A GRACIOUS GUEST
Tidy the house and leave a little something, such as a bottle of wine or some flowers, for your hosts when you leave.