Accommodation reviews, NZ
by MagdaDH_AlexH on October 14, 2010
Smylies is best described as "accommodation provider", although this dry label doesn't quite describe the warm welcome and comforts of the actual place. A motel, lodge, cottage or a hostel, Smylies is all or any of those, and according to own website, offers rooms configured into twins, doubles and dorms as well as motel units set up as studios, a two bedroom family unit and a three bedroom cottage. Take your pick, in other words. We arrived in Springfield after a long and pretty drive through West Coast and Arthur's Pass in September 2010. It was well after dark and we didn't quite know what to expect, but what we were offered was the two-bed family unit, which, although technically a part of the main building (and connecting – through a lockable door - to the cosy communal kitchen), had its own door to the outside (the typical NZ motel glass sliding door with a heavy curtain over it). We only stayed one night, but I wish we stayed more! The unit was very pleasant, with a simple but pleasant décor with a bit of character (including local old pictures and a few – but not too many – ornaments). The main living area had a feel of a private home rather than a motel, and I liked the very comfortable sofas and the varnished wooden floor rather than a carpet (though the rug was rather tatty). The kettle, toaster and crockery were hidden in a large cabinet with a door (I liked that too, that made the living room appear more like a normal living room). The bedrooms were very spacious indeed, and the double bad was huge (larger than king size). The unit was well heated by electric, wall mounted panel heaters and auxiliary oil-filled radiators. The bathroom was fine, with a good shower and some nice home-reminding touches like a thick, fluffy, stripy bath mat that did not match the towels. Smylies is set in a couple of acres space, with grass, flowers, trees (which were covered in blossom during our visit) which make for a generally pleasant impression. I believe they also have a Japanese bath available for visitors (which, to my terrible regret, I had not time to sample) and Japanese meals too, as well as local tours and transport to the ski areas (there are all kinds of packages available). The proprietors are a Dutch-Japanese couple and they were both very polite, friendly, helpful and informative. The place was relaxed and comfortable, and I would have happily stayed for a few days if we had time. We paid 130 NZD for a night's accommodation and although it was a little bit more than we paid in Acheron Cottages in Manapouri (by far the best value place we stayed in in NZ), it was still a good value for what we got. Smylies comes highly recommended for anybody looking for a family accommodation in Springfield or on this (i.e. eastern) side of the Arthur's Pass. I have not had a look at the dorms, but I suspect they are also pretty good! http://www.smylies.co.nz/index.htmlphone 0064-3-3184740fax 0064-3-3184780 mobile 0274-718109
Dunedin Holiday Park calls itself "Dunedin's largest quality holiday park" and although I am not entirely sure whether this suggests that there are bigger ones but their quality is dubious, or whether it simply means that it's big but also good quality, it's not a bad one – and not that big either (which can only be a good thing). Located in the beach suburb of St Kilda, and on the way to Otago Peninsula, Dunedin Holiday Park belongs to the Kiwi Holiday Parks group and offers powered and unpowered sites, basic cabins, en suite rooms in a lodge, en suite units without a kitchen and full self catering units in either studio, one or two bedroom format. We stayed here in mid-September 2010, as a family of four, and had an en suite unit which consisted of a motel-style room with a double bed and two bunks (so in total the room could accommodate 6 people). The room also had dining area with a sink, microwave, toaster, kettle, crockery and cutlery. There was also a bathroom with a separate toilet and a shower room with a decent enough shower. The double bed was a little bit saggy, but just this side of acceptable, and the bunks had comfortable mattresses; all beds had plenty of bedding. There was an electric blanket in the double bed, but as the unit had an efficient wall heater there was no need to use that. The unit was in a terraced row of several similar ones, and in the middle of that terrace was a large, communal kitchen with deep sinks, proper cookers and pots and pans as well as tables and chairs.Altogether our accommodation was reasonably comfortable, clean and altogether pretty adequate, with a basic but not unpleasant décor. The park as a whole was pleasant and cheerful, with a nice playpark for the kids, several cheesy-but-still-funny jokey signs all over the place, and all the staff members we talked to being very friendly, chatty and willing to help with information about the area and region. There is a bus stop in front of the park, and a small shop with basic groceries just outside. Beaches, heated slat water pool and other resorty attractions are within walking distance, while the city centre is about 5-10 minutes drive away. We paid around 110 NZD per night, which was not a fantastic value for what we had but not bad either, and I can just about recommend the Dunedin Holiday Park for those looking for budget family accommodation in Dunedin.
Papanui Court Motel is located in the area of Papanui, a north-western part of Christchurch, not quite the nearest district to the airport, but not a very far one either: it takes about 15 minutes at the most to reach the airport and less than that to get to the city centre. It's It's also located with easy walking distance of a large shopping centre with a food court, cafes and a supermarket; some restaurants and several take-aways. We stayed there one night before our return flight to the UK in late September 2010. The motel makes a good initial impression, looking new and fresh from the outside. It's located on a corner of a quiet side street and busy main road (Papanui Road), but the entrance is from the side street and all accommodation units open onto a courtyard, which also appears new and is brightened up with some flower borders.We have popped into quite a few motels before we arrived here, and many of them looked and felt substantially more dingy and tired. We asked for a one-bedroom unit (as there was four of us, two adults and two children) but as they didn't have one available, we were offered a studio with a camp bed added. The unit was a ground floor one, suitable for disabled customers and perhaps that's why it was very spacious indeed. There was plenty of room for the camp bed for our nine year old by the side of the double bed already present, and there was comfortable space on the floor for the camping mat on which our four year old slept. I was dubious about getting a studio only, but it worked out fine for us, and we were only charged 100 NZD for the whole unit, which is 10 NZD less than their standard advertised rate for two people, and 20 NZD less than the rate would be with an extra camp bed. The unit we had was a private one, possibly the most private in the motel. The door to the courtyard was a normal (wide) door, not the glass sliding door with a curtain typical of NZ motel units. There was such a door to the back of the unit, leading out onto a small and fairly private patio with chairs and a table and a lawn with some clothes' lines.The inside décor of the studio was pleasant and fresh too: two large, squishy, deep armchairs, a large, very comfortable bed and a well-equipped kitchen area with a table, chairs, kitchen stuff that would be useful if you wanted to self-cater.The bathroom was spacious (as expected from a wheelchair-accessible unit), with a god shower and a selection of nice toiletries. I believe that some of their units have baths, too. Altogether we were very happy with our room, which proved nicer and cheaper than several other motels we had a look at in Christchurch before we plumped for this one.The hosts were an Indian (or Pakistani?) couple, both very polite, friendly and helpful. We had some concerns about our rental car and they recommended a garage to have a look at it, we were also able to borrow a vacuum cleaner to tidy it up. The laundry was complimentary, including the washing powder, although they charged rather high 5 NZD for 25 minutes of drying: the only (not very significant) negative, I felt, as paying 10 dollars to (not entirely) dry one lot of washing seemed rather excessive. But if you stayed longer (or in the summer) you could always line-dry it, of course, so it wasn't a major issue. The motel provides a shuttle to the airport and the train station for 10 NZD. All in all, Papanui Court Motel comes recommended, as it offers good value and considerate service for those looking for a motel accommodation in Christchurch, especially convenient for the airport.
Fox Glacier is very much a resort town (for that read: tourist trap) and consequently, accommodation (an food) wise you are likely to be paying a lot for not very much. Budget family places are hard to come by, and as it was dark when we arrived we simply drove to the Fox Glacier Holiday Park, as we knew it was likely to have some of the cheaper (if not exactly cheap) places, and we needed a bed (or four) for the night. We were offered what is in NZ called a "self contained en suite unit" - in other words, a better kind of cabin, a notch up from a "standard cabin" and a notch down form a "motel". Altogether, the cabin had two bedrooms (a double and a twin), a bathroom and a living/kitchen space. The bedrooms were adequate, with comfortable beds, clean sheets and plenty of blankets. The living space was basic: not particularly spacious, and with nowhere comfortable to seat, it was taken up by the kitchen section and a dining table with four chairs, but there was no sofa or armchairs to relax in. The kitchen part had all the basic kitchen equipment, and if you wanted to self cater here you could, although it certainly was not a place to come back in the evening to relax after a day of walking and exploring. The bathroom looked OK, but next morning I found that the water pressure in the shower was utterly appalling, below even the worst British standards for showers. I foolishly decided to wash my hair and it took me ages to be able to rinse it. The whole place felt tired and a bit cheap, and on entry there was a faint musty smell, understandable (as Fox Glacier is on the West Coast famous for its wet weather) but not particularly lovely. I did not have a chance to sample the common facilities of the park as a whole as we arrived late and left the next morning, though the staff members we met were polite and helpful enough. Altogether, the Fox Glacier Holiday Park was adequate: not horrible, but nothing more than that. Considering that we paid 165 NZD for the night we spent there, which was the highest we ever paid in New Zealand for what was probably the poorest standard of accommodation we experienced, I consider it poor value overall. There was nothing grossly wrong with the accommodation, and on quality alone I would have given it three stars, but in combination with a price it doesn't deserve even that. Stay there if you really need to, but if you can afford it, stay somewhere else in Fox, and if you can't, try to find accommodation outside the tourist trap of the village as you are bound to get better value for your money.
by MagdaDH_AlexH on October 13, 2010
Manapouri is a small resort village located twenty kilometres south of Te Anau, the main hub for the visitors to New Zealand's spectacular Fiordland.In addition to the obvious attraction of the Milford Sound, two hours drive along a high alpine road north, the immediate vicinity of Manapouri has a lot to offer, from decent walks to water pursuits on Manapouri Lake. Manapouri is also where the cruises for Doubtful Sound (the second, and the last of New Zealand's South-Western fjords reasonably accessible to visitors – though, in case of the Doubtful sound, at a price) depart from. We stayed in Manapouri for three days in September 2010, during which time the Milford Road was closed to traffic. We never got to see the Milford Sound, after all, but we had nice time around Manapouri and one of the reasons for that was the excellent accommodation we found at Acheron Cottages. Located a couple of kilometres out of town (and thus not ideal for those without a car), the two cottages are situated on a large plot of open land, few hundred yards from the main house in which the hosts live, and with all-around views of mountains, hills and towards the lake. The cottage we stayed (I believe both are identical) had two bedrooms, bathroom and a large, L-shaped kitchen-dining-living area. Despite being "self catering accommodation", the cottage was serviced daily during our stay (this consisted of replenishing supplies, collecting rubbish, tidying up the bathroom). Talking about "supplies", we were very happy about what actually was on offer: in addition to standard tea, instant coffee, sugar and milk, we were also provided with hot chocolate, real coffee for the French press (which was included in kitchen equipment), as well as laundry powder. We also found those small items that one forgets to buy when staying in self-catering places: salt, pepper, cooking oil and washing up liquid: all small touches, but showing how thoughtful the owners are in providing for their guests. The kitchen was bright, new and well equipped, with cooker, microwave, fridge and a good selection of pans, pots, crockery and glasses. There was also a large washing machine and a clothes drier, all included in the price (and you could, actually, operate the washing machine on "hot" setting, which in itself is a rare occurrence in Australia and New Zealand). The décor in the living area was neutral but pleasant and reasonably up to date. The large, glass, sliding doors typical of New Zealand motels and holiday park cabins were equipped with heavy, long curtains more appropriate to the weather and season. The heating consisted of one air-conditioning/heating unit in the main living space, but this worked well, and kept us warm enough, though I am not sure how well it would cope with winter nights, especially if the visitors wanted to close the bedroom doors: I didn't notice any heaters in the bedrooms. We were warm enough, though, and comfortable. In the living space there was a comfortable sofa, a cushy armchair, a coffee table and a round dining table with four chairs (as well as a large TV). We found the space pleasant and welcoming, warm but not too cluttered, and easy to feel relaxed in. There was no ornaments one might worry about misplacing or being broken by children, but there was some easy-reading novels and picture and guide books on New Zealand provided for entertainment and inspiration. The first 20MB of wifi Internet access was included, and more bandwidth could be bought easily online. The cottage had a terrace (with a roof – great for smokers) and there was also a picnic table outside as well as a barbecue – for warmer days and more barbecue-inclined guests than us. The bedrooms had each a wardrobe and bedside tables with drawers, there were also extra pillows, hair-drier and I think I even spotted an ironing board and iron (though the idea of ironing anything while touring Fiordland seems misguided). The beds in were very comfortable indeed (I like those soft and padded New World beds very much!).The bathroom had a good, hot, strong shower and plenty of nice, white towels. We didn't book but simply turned up and stayed for three nights, extending every day. We paid 110 NZD per night (although the standard on-night price for low season is 120 NZD, but we stayed three days and paid in cash). This was, in my opinion, by far the best value (though not the cheapest) accommodation we had in New Zealand, measured by the spaciousness and standard of décor and equipment of the cottages, the laundry included, the stunning views and the general thoughtfulness of the provision. I can't think of anything that was missing! Ideally, a bath would be nice for soaking tired muscles after walks, but in all honesty, this is just being picky. The low season is April through September, and from October through March they charge 170 NZD. Extra guests are 10 NZD per head, I am not sure how many more they would accommodate (but there are beds for four and room in the living area for at least two more). We were not charged for children aged nine and four. Our host Zeb was friendly, relaxed and helpfully informative about local area. We felt that the Cottages were a result of a labour of love and can really recommend them for anybody looking for a place to stay in Manapouri (or Te Anau for that matter). We didn't partake in the Doubtful Sound cruise but they offer a 5% discount on bookings.
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