Shandelle Battersby checks into the CityLife Hotel, Central Auckland.

Location:

This 4.5 star hotel is as central as you can get in Auckland, with an entrance off Queen St, near the Wyndham St intersection, and the main entry down Durham St, with valet parking available.

Check-in experience: Friendly and efficient on a busy Saturday, with a kids' pack, complete with activity book and coloured pencils quickly produced for Jake, the 5-year-old with us, which entertained him for ages.

What's in the neighbourhood? What isn't? We went to the Sky Tower in the afternoon, and were within walking distance of the Smith and Caughey Christmas windows, the giant Santa at the corner of Victoria and Queen Streets, the waterfront and Britomart. The next day we drove to Kelly Tarlton's in about 10 minutes.

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Exercise: There's a well-equipped gym and an indoor heated saltwater lap pool, which the youngster had the time of his life in.

The rooms: We were in a luxurious and comfortable Directors Suite on the 23rd floor which had three bedrooms (all with king-size beds; the master with a telly and en suite), a large kitchen; laundry comfortable lounge with a DVD player and TV; and a wraparound balcony offering sensational views of the city, Rangitoto, and out towards the Auckland Museum (from $959 per night). The hotel's two-bedroom, two-bathroom suites are also a good option for families, with the same features (from $459).

The bed: All were tested and all came out tops.

Bathroom: One with a gloriously deep tub and separate shower, while the ensuite had twin vanities and a shower.

Toiletries: The Manuka Spa range.

Free wifi? Yes, 1GB per day in the rooms and 500mb free in the lobby.

Noise: Early in the afternoon we heard a TPPA protest on Queen St, other than that, just general city hubbub.

Food: Knackered and starving after a day of sightseeing and the intensive session in the pool, we ate a delicious room service dinner from the in-house Zest restaurant, and enjoyed an excellent breakfast there the next morning - you can choose from continental, cooked or a la carte and you can also order fresh raw juices and smoothies. Kids under 14 dine for free for breakfast when accompanied by their parents. Jake said the hot chocolate was "the most delicious thing I've ever drunk" and thanked the staff at least five times. Good manners.

Would I return? As an Aucklander, this is the sort of place you'd get for a special occasion - a celebration, a big night out, a gathering with mates. For someone from out of town, this is an ideal spot from which to enjoy the Big Smoke.

Contact: heritagehotels.co.nz