Mt Maunganui: Mission unwind

By Sue Baxalle

Sue Baxalle heads to Mt Maunganui for a relaxing and leisurely weekend by the sunny seaside.

Mt Maunganui's hot salt water pools. Photo / Supplied
Mt Maunganui's hot salt water pools. Photo / Supplied

Go for a weekend of relaxation and pampering. A serious mission indeed - and an appealing one.

Visions of lounging under palm trees may spring to mind, however since a Fijian-style idyll was rather out of our timeframe, we headed south to Mt Maunganui.

The sun certainly played ball for our assignment after several weeks of gloom and storms. In fact, as we sat on the balcony of our accommodation - the fittingly named Pacific Apartments - looking out to the sea, it was getting easier to think of that island paradise.

The 10-storey apartment building was completed about 18 months ago and houses a mixture of owner-occupied and units to hire. Our apartment, a one-bedroom unit fully equipped with all the mod cons, made childhood memories of weekends away in down-country motels pale in comparison.

Slaving in the kitchen was not part of the weekend's plan, so we headed off out to Mount Bistro.

The restaurant run by chef Stephen Barry is renowned for its seafood and wild food, having won the Monteith's Beer and Wild Food Challenge in 2007 with his Sword and Sauce-ry entry - still a popular order judging from the amount of times the lights were dimmed in the dining room to best present the flaming dish of skewered scallops, prawn tail, crayfish, salmon and fresh fish.

In the morning, after a leisurely breakfast at a Marine Parade cafe it was time for a stroll along the boardwalk before heading off to the reef.

Not the sort of reef inhabited by fish, but the Mills Reef winery in Bethlehem, about a 20-minute drive from the Mount.

Established by Paddy Preston in 1989, the complex houses the brand's winemaking and bottling facilities, cellars, and a wine-tasting room next to its restaurant. The winemaking team is now led by Paddy's son Tim Preston and Paul Dawick.

Taking us through the tasting experience was Ken Cotterill, who explained the philosophies of the winery and the nuances of the different types of wine from the top tier hand-picked Elspeth brand and the Reserve brand, from low-yielding vines to the Mills Reef label - for more casual occasions. I would definitely recommend allowing time for the wine tasting before a meal, to fully appreciate the winery.

On entering Mills Reef's restaurant, we were impressed by the ambience of casual stylishness and spaciousness. Looking out over the winery grounds on a sunny day, it was perfect. Each item on the lunch menu has a suggested wine to accompany it or we could choose a "paddle" of glasses, each with a 60ml sample of several varietals. We went with the selections on the menu. The waiting staff were fantastic, friendly and helpful, right down to wisely recommending we leave room for the divine desserts.

After the leisurely meal, it was back to the Mount to get busy relaxing again. In case I had any difficulty getting to this state of mind, Lisa Shea, owner of Sanctum Beauty Therapy, had the solution. A Pure Fiji Tropical Body Glow treatment, described as "an invigorating body treatment that gently buffs away dead skin cells, cleanses, unclogs pores and restores your skin to a fresh glow".

There's that Fiji word again.

Lying on the table with the soft sounds of island music playing in the background, Lisa massaged away the tensions with a dry sugar rub to exfoliate the skin, then drizzled a warmed coconut bath milk over it to dissolve the sugar to a honey-like consistency, which allowed the sugar to start a process of natural chemical exfoliation. Once all the sugar granules were dissolved she hot-towelled the area and applied a hydrating body lotion. Delicious.

Sunday morning dawned with the call of the sea. Mike O'Neill, owner/operator of Sunfish Charters, took us out for a leisurely cruise on the harbour to take in the sights.

The retired civil engineer says he has always been a keen game fisherman, fishing the world's seas, so the decision to make it his life was a natural one. He imported the 12m Sunfish I from the United States and for the past four years has taken groups on excursions from a few hours to overnighters in search of anything from snapper and kingfish to big game marlin, as well as charter sightseeing tours such as ours.

And no trip to the Mount can be complete without a soak in the hot salt water pools. The main pool, between 32C and 35C, is fine for swimming, but it was the hotter spa pools, with their massaging jets that pushed all the right buttons for us.

And so came to an end our weekend of leisure. Mission accomplished.

Traveller's tips

Where to stay: Pacific Apartments, 8 Maunganui Rd, Mt Maunganui, 0800 862 8642

Where to eat: Mount Bistro, 6 Adams Ave, Mt Maunganui(07) 575 3872

Where to drink good wine: Mills Reef, 143 Moffat Rd, Bethlehem (07) 576 8800

Who to cruise the harbour with: Sunfish Charters, Pier F33, Bridge Marina, (07) 579 3816

Where to soak: Mt Hot Pools, 8 Adams Ave, Mt Maunganui, (07) 575 0868

Where to be pampered: Sanctum Beauty Therapy, 12 Prince Ave, Mt Maunganui(07) 575 9523

More info: Bay of Plenty Tourism, (07) 577 6234

- NZ Herald

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