Kathleen Davidson stays at The Devon New Plymouth — A Heritage Hotel.
Getting there: Instead of hitting the old State Highway 1 from Wellington to Auckland, I decided to add an extra hour overall to my journey but split it by driving to New Plymouth one day (4hr 30 mins), then Auckland the next (4hr 40 mins) via State Highways 1 and 3. I was really pleased that I did — you go through some beautiful parts of New Zealand, including the Awakino Gorge and the cool small towns of southern Taranaki such as Waverley.
Check-in experience: Easy and friendly. I'd stayed at The Devon before in the early 90s with my family while at high school. But not too much of it was recognisable on this visit, thanks to the massive refurbishments undertaken by the owners (the charismatic former mayor of New Plymouth, Peter Tennant and his family), the most recent of which has just been completed. The conference facilities are top of the line and the outdoor area has many snazzy touches, including illuminated, colour-changing furniture.
Room: A spacious suite, which seemed brand new. It had a divine king bed with a fun blue faux-fur throw and cushions, en suite bathroom with a walk-in shower with a cool blue lighting option, two big-screen TVs with Sky, a Nespresso machine, small fridge and microwave, large dining table and an enormous balcony with patio furniture looking out over Devon St. I could just see the ocean and I had a great view of the fairy-light covered trees that line the property's exterior.
Price: From $149. There are all sorts of room configurations possible.
What's in the neighbourhood? There's lots to do around New Plymouth and The Devon is a great base from which to explore the many sights. If you're in town for a day or two, take one of the complimentary mountain bikes down to the Coastal Walkway on the foreshore.
The CBD and its excellent galleries are within walking distance (the nearby Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre is a must), as is famous Pukekura Park.
Facilities: The Devon has a lovely heated outdoor pool and spa area and a nice courtyard and garden. There's no gym onsite but you have access to the New Plymouth Aquatic Centre and Gym, and you can also get guest passes to Ngamotu Golf Club (subject to availability). There's free onsite parking, a guest laundry and PlayStations and games available from reception.
Food and drink: The in-house Marbles Restaurant is a destination restaurant in its own right and has been feeding generations of locals and travellers its all-you-can-eat buffet for decades ($44 for adults).
Room service: Yes, available 24 hours.
Toiletries: The Devon's own brand.
Free Wi-Fi? Yes and you can connect as many devices as you like.
Perfect for: A stop on a road trip north or south. The Devon is a gem, and brilliant for families, business travellers and couples.