Stephanie Holmes checks into the country's newest five-star hotel, So/Auckland.

Getting there:

Simple, especially if you're using public transport. It's close to the Ferry Building and Britomart Transport Centre. For those travelling from further afield, the Skybus airport service stops on Customs St East, less than a five minute walk away. If you're driving, there is valet parking available but, like all parking in the CBD, it will set you back a pretty penny — $50 per day.

Check-in experience: We were offered a strawberry, pomegranate and kawakawa iced tea, sprinkled with bee pollen, which was coolly refreshing on a hot summer's day. There was a small form to fill in, which we completed in the comfort of a plush, velvet sofa in the middle of the lobby, which has a distinct Alice in Wonderland/down the rabbit hole feel.


There's a giant chandelier that makes you feel as if you've drunk the potion that makes Alice shrink. Large black sofas are rotated 90 degrees to make over-sized armchairs. The space embodies the hotel's "rebellious" ethos. The staff wear mismatched uniforms — many in casual, printed T-shirts and sneakers. These elements are thanks to New Zealand's Benny Castles, from fashion brand World, who is the hotel's Signature Designer.

Price: From $469 per room, per night.

What's so good about this place? Location for one. For another, the excellent rooftop bar Hi-So, which is what Auckland has been seriously lacking for a long time, and the decadent restaurant, Harbour Society.

And the bad? The hotel, which launched in December after a three-year construction, is still being completed, so from the outside it looks like a bit of a building site. Don't let that put you off; inside all is well.

What's in the neighbourhood? Everything you could possibly want or need, from Britomart's restaurants, bars and Saturday morning farmers market, to luxury shopping, to Spark Arena ... and so much more. I know out-of-towners will tut at this, but Auckland really is New Zealand's best city.

Room: On the 12th floor, in a corner suite, we had epic views of the Waitemata Harbour, Rangitoto, a glimpse of the harbour bridge, as well as a bird's-eye view of the comings and goings at Britomart. The view can best be enjoyed from the small balcony, although anyone with a fear of heights should stay well back. All rooms have one of three themes reflecting Auckland's volcanic geology — Liquid, Vapour or Solid. We were in a "Solid" room, with lots of earthy tones and rich golds. The sitting room and separate bedroom each have a large flatscreen TV.

The bed: A Sofitel king MyBed, huge and supremely comfortable, with high-quality linen and feature headboard.

Bathroom: Spacious, with black marble tiled floor and walls, shower and toilet in their own separate cubicles behind frosted glass doors, and a large, deep, free-standing bath. I ordered a "Bath Butler" service, where after dinner one of the hotel's wellness consultants came up to our room and ran a luxurious bath for me, complete with bubbles, rose petals, body scrub, massage oil and a glass of crisp champagne. Obviously she left the room before I got in. I spent close to an hour in there, reading and relaxing and getting a little bit tiddly thanks to the heat and the booze.

The bathroom after the Bath Butler’s visit. Photo / Stephanie Holmes
The bathroom after the Bath Butler’s visit. Photo / Stephanie Holmes


So Sofitel own brand shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion, all in refillable dispensers to save on plastic waste.

Entertainment: The in-room TVs have complimentary movies, with a raft of recent release blockbusters and old classics.

Food and drink: This is where the hotel really excels. Hi-So is already proving popular as a social destination for Aucklanders, thanks to its outdoor space and stunning harbour views. The cocktails are excellent too. And even if you're not staying at the hotel, I would recommend visiting Harbour Society for a meal. The menu has been created by executive chef Marc de Passorio, the former owner of Michelin-starred Provence restaurant, L'Esprit de la Violette, and it's excellent, showcasing New Zealand's best seafood, meat and fresh produce. You can watch Passorio at work, thanks to the open, working kitchen and he may even pop over to check you're enjoying yourself as he did with a number of diners on our visit. The breakfast buffet was wonderful too.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes, unlimited, with no password required.

Noise: Although there's a lot of construction going on in downtown Auckland, we weren't disturbed at all. The glass seems to be well soundproofed.


Room service: Available, but we didn't try it.

Wellness facilities: The gym, swimming pool and spa are due to open on February 1.

Perfect for: A luxurious mini-break in the big city, a fancy dinner, or glamorous after-work drinks.