Natasha Jojoa Burling checks into The Duke Motel, Russell.

Getting there:

From North Shore Auckland, it's about a three-hour journey but add half an hour while SH 11 between Kawakawa and Opua is being repaired following a slip. You'll need to catch the ferry from Opua to Okiato. Driving the winding eastern route will probably take you about the same time. Waipu Cafe and Deli and Kawakawa's Hundertwasser toilets are good stop-off points.

Check-in experience: The friendly receptionist showed us to our room and helped carry our bags.

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Room: A two-bedroom unit that sleeps five. The kitchen has a stove, microwave, tea and coffee. There is Sky TV in lounge and kids' room, which is ideal to give parents a sleep-in.

Price: From $310 per night for a two bedroom unit during peak season to $210 in winter. See dukemotel.co.nz for prices for smaller rooms and different times.

What's so good about this place?
It's so central. We loved the funky, retro furnishings and heated pool.

And the bad? Some surfaces were dusty and the window frames needed cleaning.

Otherwise the standard of cleanliness was high.

What's in the neighbourhood? The centre of Russell is a five-minute walk and so is the wharf, where you can catch boats to Paihia and The Hole in The Rock. Long Beach, which is great for swimming, is a five-minute drive over the hill.

Toiletries: Lovely hotel-style toiletries.

Food and drink: None on site but the town centre has a number of great restaurants.

The bed: Comfortable with a choice of pillows. A bunkbed and a king single in the kids' room. Enough warm blankets.

A room with a view? We had a peep of the sea from our upstairs unit.

Bathroom: Has a toilet, shower, a large spa bath and a hairdryer.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes.

Noise: It was very quiet but there weren't many guests the night we were there.

Room service: None.

Value for money: Not bad considering it sleeps five.

Exercise facilities: There's a free, off-site gym and access to tennis courts, which we didn't visit. Also, there's a clean, heated pool, with modern outdoor furniture, but it's not open all year round.

Contact: (09) 403 7008 or get them on email at hello@dukemotel.co.nz.

Perfect for: Families, especially since you can cook there, and there's a pool.

The bottomline: We loved it and would definitely visit again.