Stacey Morrison has a staycation at the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour.
: As its name suggests, the hotel is right by the water in downtown Auckland but sits slightly off the Viaduct so is easier to get to than the CBD. Expect travel time of around 45 minutes from the airport during the week on the motorway.
Check-in experience : Effortless in our case, welcoming staff greeted us with a "Bonjour" and a level of professional friendliness that was consistent through our stay, and a real highlight for us. Efficient valet parking.
Room : True five-star quality, but welcoming and comfortable as well. Luxurious and liveable thanks to the decor and furnishings, making a haven that's perfect for a winter escape. There are plush carpets and comfy couches and the floor-to-ceiling windows offered sunrise and sunset views.
Price : From $306 per room, per night in winter.
What's so good about this place? Waking up to harbour views, relaxing in a cocoon of comfort in the middle of Auckland city, with everything you need in-house. The So Spa couples massage was a stand-out — details like downy blankets on the relaxation chairs really add to the comfort, as well as the steamroom and heated pool.
And the bad? We found it hard to leave. I couldn't figure out the intricate shower system initially, but the multi-direction shower heads were worth figuring out.
What's in the neighbourhood? Auckland's Viaduct Harbour for ferries, bars and restaurants, Silo Park for playground, events, and eateries. Wynyard Quarter, Victoria Park, ASB Waterfront Theatre.
Toiletries : Hermes shampoos, shower gels and conditioners, loofah and makeup wipes, with other noteworthy accessories being a hair straightener, good-quality hairdryer, and good robes and slippers.
Food and drink : On our first night we dined at Harbour Society at So/Auckland restaurant in Customs St, which is five minutes away. The chef, Marc de Passorio, is the former owner of French Michelin-starred restaurant L'Esprit de la Violette, in Aix-en-Provence, so presentation and taste expectations were high. These were easily met — the food was delicious and sophisticated, and the excellent service included advice on perfect wine matches.
Breakfast : A $1 hot breakfast at Lava Dining in-house at Sofitel Viaduct Harbour (yes you read right) during winter means you can't go wrong, and, along with a varied continental breakfast, the perfectly-cooked soft eggs had me in raptures. Lava Dining was also the site of our second evening meal, which was again outstanding. Chef Emmanuel Jerz tantalised and satisfied the big eater among us with a hearty roast rack of Canterbury lamb. After a delicate, flavoursome entree, I appreciated the depth of flavour in the free-range chicken supreme. Fitting in a dessert is easy when petite profiteroles are on offer, with a chocolate sauce I've since been dreaming of. There is however, a "de-light" menu if you're counting calories.
The bed : Plush, big and comfortable, turned down at night, with calming tea, water and slippers left bedside.
A room with a view? Auckland harbour at its best, and even a picturesque Sky Tower snapshot at night.
Bathroom : Deep baths, spacious showers and double vanities, separate toilet, with frosted glass doors.
Free Wi-Fi? Yes.
Noise : None. It's very serene above the busy city.
Room service: We didn't try this, thanks to the restaurants in-house.
Value for money : Winter stays receive $25 off and the $1 hot breakfast makes for great value for money on a luxurious escape.
Exercise facilities : Treadmills, weights, bikes, pool, steam room and spa, nice change rooms — excellent.
Contact : accorhotels.com
Perfect for : A couple's treat, a beautiful way to break up winter, and when you know you deserve a warm, cosy and luxurious winter getaway.
The bottom line: We live in Auckland but felt a world away, such was the excellent service, atmosphere, food and comfort levels. Dreamy, and envy-inducing for friends, I'm told.