on May 26, 2010
There is a place on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island where everybody knows your name. At least, that’s how it feels within five minutes of arriving at the Last Resort, which just may be the friendliest place in the West. As the gateway to Kahurangi National Park and the Heaphy Track, Karamea attracts its share of tourists but is, at its heart, a small town, and the Last Resort is a hub.The resort’s centerpiece café and bar are lively and inviting, with its owners fostering a sense of community—besides hosting gatherings of local friends, they participate in a program that brings famous entertainers to perform in small towns. When I was there people were raving about two comedians who played the restaurant the year before, and the resort was preparing to host a singer-songwriter in a few days.Even without "world-famous in New Zealand" entertainment (as the saying goes), I thoroughly enjoyed the Last Resort’s restaurant. It’s where I had my first taste of the local delicacy whitebait, prepared in an airy but filling soufflé. I also had an excellent pasta dish with mussels and shrimp, paired with a fabulous New Zealand white wine selected by the Last Resort’s owner.My stand-alone cottage was as warm and welcoming as the resort’s common areas. With two bedrooms, an extra twin bed, and a pullout couch, it could sleep seven comfortably and affordably. Someone made great use of its space and included a kitchen table with four chairs, a sofa and chair in a sitting area, and a patio with a picnic table. The kitchen had a fridge, toaster, microwave, two burners, and plenty of plates and silverware for a family to use. Even better, it had everything needed to make a quick pot of coffee or tea.The bathroom, too, was well stocked with plenty of towels and toiletries and a hairdryer. It featured a bathtub and a shower as well as a towel warmer.The Last Resort is homey and laidback and comfortable; it’s not a five-star hotel, and it’s not trying to be. It is instead a home away from home, and it’s highly recommended.
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