Drive three-and-a-half hours towards the sun and you're just about there. The hotel is a 10-minute walk into Paihia's ferry wharf where a sizeable dining and drinking precinct has sprouted up. A 10-minute walk the other way puts you at the entrance to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
Check-in experience: Emily is in New Zealand for a couple more months before her visa runs out and she returns to Sweden. With her help, check in was smooth. She reports that living in the Winterless North is lovely (though it was certainly a bit more "Winterfull" on the day we arrived) and she'd like to stay longer. Someone find her more work and a visa, please.
The best part about our arrival was that a friend — a wise, glamorous and charming friend — knew we were coming to town and had arranged for three bottles of Emmerson's beer to be on ice when we arrived.
The room: We were in a premium two-bedroom suite. Our party included me and my two kids and my good mate Sam with his two kids — the kids are all aged under seven. So it took some brain power to finally settle on the right sleeping combinations and right bed space for everyone, with two bedrooms and two rollout beds in the living area. The rooms and bathroom all come off the main living area, which has an oven and a whopper fridge — they have family stays in mind.
Decor was fresh and up to date, and not too-worn. They also have a premium hypoallergenic suite "prepared with allergenic free products". Smart marketing. An idea not to be sneezed at.
The bed: The two rooms can be fitted with Queens or a pair of singles. With six in a crew, we also had two roll-out beds in the living area. They tucked away neatly during the day. I can report that the Queen featured a comfortable mattress, right up until the moment my bed was visited by three kids before 7am.
View: Stunning. The balcony looks straight out over the Bay of Islands — postcard views of prime New Zealand scenery. Get up early enough and there's a cracking sunrise to be had. What's that? You're never up early enough for sunrise? Try travelling with four kids under the age of seven.
Bathroom: The giant shower space was ideal for hosing down four kids at once. Nice toiletries, too.
Food and beverage: There's a fish and chip shop a few doors up towards Waitangi and a bakery, too. But we had dinners in Paihia — there are some tremendous dining options there now.
Entertainment: There's a wide-screen telly, with Sky feed. Out in front, there's a beach that would be lovely for swimming during the summer. For us, it was a much-needed space for the kids to let off steam, sprinting around and collecting random piles of shells and driftwood. We met a lovely family of hippies from Kerikeri out picking up litter. Good folk, Northlanders.
Perfect for: Families with children (young or old). Have your kids gone to the Treaty Grounds yet?
Price: The two-bedroom premium suite with the view starts from $265 in winter. For bargain hunters there are sometimes specials for a one bedroom deluxe suitable for a couple, around the $100 mark. Winter is a quiet time up there and you'll still get good deals during shoulder season.
In a nutshell: A fine base for your family on a northern adventure.
The Sea Spray Suites are at 138 Marsden Road, Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. Phone: (09) 402 0013.