The Hilton Auckland is a slick harbourfront favourite with destination dining and some of the best views in the city
Location: At the tip of Princes Wharf, as close as you can get to the Waitematā Harbour, without getting wet.
Style: Modern multi-national hotel, with maritime accents
Price: King Hilton Guestrooms start from $280 per night. Bow Suites start from $870.
Perfect for: A relaxing staycation for Aucklanders/a place to see the City of Sails' magic for out-of-towners.
First impressions: Check in was friendly and provided a warm-welcome. Staff were all wearing face masks and there were Covid contact tracing QR codes displayed in prominent positions, with multiple hand-sanitising stations. The lobby was clean and beautifully lit, with a nice buzz coming from Bellini, the hotel's ground-floor bar. "We've just lit the fire," the receptionist told me, "if you want to come back and settle in for a drink". Tempting, but I wanted to get up to my room as soon as possible, because...
The King Bow Suite on the eighth and top floor of the building is a sight to behold. I arrived at golden hour, as the evening light was bouncing off the Waitematā Harbour, of which the room's extensive floor to ceiling windows give a panoramic view. You can see from the Harbour Bridge, round to Takapuna, Devonport, Rangitoto and out to Motuihe, Waiheke and Brown's Island. You can also look down on the Cloud and back into the city's high rises and downtown ferry terminal. It's absolutely epic – quite possibly the best view from a hotel room in Auckland. The wraparound balcony means you can feel the fresh ocean breeze on your face, too.
The almost triangular shaped suite (like the bow of a ship, geddit?) is dominated by a huge super-king bed, with glass dining and coffee tables, dark wood wardrobes and a couple of comfortable seating options (leather arm chair and soft felt sofa). A large wall mounted LG TV faces the bed, and the lamps have a modern nautical style.
Bathroom: Relatively compact, which is fine as you appreciate the space being used for the bedroom and deck, rather than unnecessary extra space in the bathroom. Marble walls and tile floors give a fresh, clean feel. The wonderfully deep free-standing bathtub would have been a real treat were Auckland not under water restrictions, but the separate shower had excellent pressure from both the rain head and nozzle attachments. Twin sinks, Crabtree and Evelyn toiletries and an abundance of fluffy white towels completed the luxurious feel.
Food & drink: This is where Hilton Auckland really excels. Executive chef Uelese "Wallace" Mua was apologetic that his dinner menu at FISH restaurant had been pared right back during this time of fewer international guests and uncertainty, but we had absolutely no complaints. The food was excellent and there was a great range to choose from – the super-fresh seafood being the absolute highlight. We were delighted with the Te Kouma oysters, kingfish sashimi and crayfish tails, and also enjoyed a beautiful burrata, torched salmon fillets and warm-from-the-oven sourdough with the most delicious whipped brown butter. The wine menu features a range of local and international vineyards.
The hotel is working around the fact self-serve buffets aren't an option during Covid times – guests select buffet items using a tick-box form and wait staff then bring each option to your table. It's still possible to massively over order, just like you would at a regular buffet. Trust me.
A real highlight was the weekend High Tea. For just $59 you'll receive a huge selection of savoury and sweet treats with a fine-dining twist – Mua spent a few years working in restaurants in France, and the skills he picked up shine through in the menu. Cornbread tartine, goat's cheese croquettes with onion soubise, egg and beurre noisette sandwich, delicate macarons, profiteroles and choux pastries were just some of the treats we enjoyed. Tea is unlimited – all are blends from Zealong estate in Hamilton. Pay just $20 extra and you can enjoy bottomless prosecco.
This high tea comes highly recommended – whether you're staying in the hotel or not. But make sure you book well in advance – it's very popular and often fully booked.
In-room dining is also available, and the menu features many of the meals you'll find in Fish.
Facilities: Free wi-fi, valet parking, gym and outdoor lap pool. The hotel is a popular conference and meeting venue.
Housekeeping: The Hilton recently introduced its Clean Stay programme in its hotels around the world. Between guests, housekeeping staff remove all used items from the room, such as bedding and towels, before performing a full clean of the room and bathroom using hospital-grade cleaners. All switches, electronic controls, handles, bathroom surfaces and remote controls then receive an additional disinfectant step. The room is then sealed with a Clean Safe tag on the door so you know no-one has entered between cleaning and you checking in.
Housekeepers then only visit the room on request. Public and staff areas are cleaned at scheduled intervals, with hourly maintenance of high-touch areas such as elevators and public bathrooms.
In the neighbourhood: The hotel is in easy walking distance to the Viaduct, Wynyard Quarter, Commercial Bay, the Ferry Terminal, Queen St and Britomart. However its location on the end of Princes Wharf means you can also feel removed from the city's hustle and bustle.
Accessibility: A selection of accessible rooms featuring a roll-in shower and shower chair. Throughout the hotel, Bellini and FISH (minus one section with a step) are both wheelchair accessible.
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