Recently Ellen Dick and Tessa Stockdale from XYNZ took park in a #ChoiceRoadie. Below is an account of their adventures, as originally published in XYNZ, June 2015.
Ultimate roadie playlist – check. Jucy Fiat Punto – check. Spot on accommodation to rest our heads – check. Reading and rearing for the big-little roadie. Get in.
Thanks to our friends at Choice Hotels, we were sent on a roadie of epic proportions. From 0 to 100 real quick (thanks Drake), to indulging in divine cuisine and cosy accommodation, to being treated to each city’s best attractions; this was an adventure you don’t want to miss.
Setting off from Auckland, to Hamilton and then on to Rotorua, we were ready for anything. Show us what you’ve got: Waikato and Bay of Plenty, we are ready.
Clarion Suites Ambassador
Located in the heart of Hamilton, the newly opened Clarion Suites Ambassador is a quaint yet vibrant place to spend your time whilst visiting the Waikato. Located a short walk from the Waikato Stadium for those rugby go-ers, and a few minutes’ drive to the best restaurants, cafés and nightlife Hamilton has to offer. For the lifestylers – Clarion Suites Ambassador is rated a sweet 4.5 stars. Complete with hot tub, lap pool and in-house breakfast, the hotel certainly ticks the boxes.
Checking in was a breeze, a bay to swing in with your car outside reception made the process during a stormy downpour easy as. With helpful staff and an undercover car parking: our luggage issues, were no longer issues.
The suites are newly furnished, with thoughtful interior touches, free of any cliché hotel décor and featuring tasteful modern shots of local highlights like the Fairfield Bridge and Waikato River. We were impressed to find the rooms were designed and furnished by a collection of various interior design vendors around the region: crisp, clean-cut and welcoming.
Early Saturday morning rolled around and we could have stayed in bed forever. But nope, after indulging heavily in cheese fondues and tasty veggie skewers the night before thanks to the team at Retrospect, the hotel’s onsite dining with its own spin on vintage retro charm; we started our morning with a run along the Waikato River. Only a few minutes from the door of our room, it was the ideal start to the day.
Located next to Clarion Suites Ambassador is its sibling, the Quality Hotel Ambassador. For a slightly lower cost to the Clarion, these retro, seventies inspired rooms are comfortable and cosy. Perfect for those budget conscious travellers with taste; you can find yourself perfectly settled in the newly renovated rooms, from only $99 per night. Thanks to Sarah and her fabulous team for making our stay a memorable one!
Here are some of the sights we took in across the jaunt.
Birds Of A Feather and Sisters on London
Snuggled in arguably one of Hamilton’s classiest locales, Casabella Lane, Birds of a Feather was a delightful start to our exploring the retail therapy on offer. Taken under the ‘wing’ of New Zealand designer Annah Stretton, this concept store brings together all things beautiful, vintage and decadent.
Up the street and tucked away is sisters on london, which is well worth a looksee if you are after designer brands from New Zealand, Australia and the rest of the world. You’ll be sure to find some little gems for a seriously stylish loved one or fashion treats for yourself.
Good George Brewery
Located in the former St George’s Church of Frankton; Good George has brought the craft beer business to Hamilton – raising the beer game 100 fold (take that Waikato Draught). After visiting the states where craft beer was well on the rise, the folk at Good George thought that the kiwis back home would take quite kindly to top notch craft beer too. And Good George was born. Since its first brew in 2011 and opening its onsite dining hall, Good George has expanded to throughout the city, with Little George and Good Neighbour. “It’s a tight knit team,” Carey of Good George Brewery says. “If I need to chat to one of our five brewers I can pop out of the office, and head next door to the brewing shed.”
We were lucky enough to experience the Good George tour which truly proved Carey’s word. The garden bar tucked in next to the brewing gear which chugged along throughout the night, preparing for the next day. Alongside the somewhat complicated looking machinery, we treated ourselves to a tasting session of George’s top three ciders: Drop Hop Cider, Doris Plum Cider and your classic Cider.
Attempting to ascend plain Jane (Strawberry Rekorderlig or your classic Old Mout) cider status, we treated our naïve taste buds to a handful of really great ciders. Tropical bursts lingered on our taste buds from the Drop Hop, rich plum fragrances left us reminiscing of the classic Belgian Kriek curtsey of the Doris Plum; and the tartness of the crisp apple cider, just nailed the Good George cider game.
Head to the Good George site to book in.
Zealong Tea Estate
Disclaimer: Be warned, ladies, after visiting the estate, you’ll want to wrangle yourself a tea growin’ man, settle down in a teahouse, have yourself a 10/10 cuppa and live happily ever after.
Blessed with a bluebird day, our curiosity brewing, we were more than ready to venture into tea heaven at Zealong Tea Estate. Located just north of Hamilton, in Gordonton, New Zealand’s only commercial tea estate has certainly spread out: quality and quantity is the mantra here.
Arriving bright and early we met Sen, our charming tea guide. Showing us around the grounds, Sen talked us through the Zealong journey, from quaint copper sculptures depicting various steps of the tea making process through the perfectly manicured tea fields, up to the tea pavilion. We reached the pavilion and were struck by the grandeur of the outlook (gals, gird your loins, definite wedding destination for the books).
The Zealong founder, Vincent Chen, delightfully described as “a farmer, not a businessman”, first began his journey in pursuit of the tea dream in 1990. It took 15 years to import top of the line tea plants, quarantine and eventually we have the perfect tea specimens they are so proud of today. Organic and proudly “the purest tea in the world” Zealong is the Miranda Kerr of teas. Drink it and weep my friends.
Not pretentious but pure, Zealong certainly seeks to impress. The ‘messy’ (lots of water, lots of fun) tea ceremony brought us up to speed with the traditional way in which Taiwanese tea masters captured every morsel of flavour, aroma and tailored the brew exactly to their tastes. Trying the entire range, green through to black tea, we singled out the aromatic green as our favourite with floral flavours, light but satisfying. We temporarily lost ourselves in talk of travel, tea and tea expos in Vegas (who wouldn’t), where the delightful Zealong team had sneak-prepared a high tea for us to enjoy in their sun drenched conservatory (DREAM).
Hamilton certainly showed us its goods and yup, we were impressed. So off we head to Rotorua, in the Bay of Plenty, pondering just what this ultimate tourist destination has in store.
Having arrived in the sulphurous city of Rotovegas, we headed down to the Quality Inn on Fenton to check in. Greeted by the welcoming staff, we went and settled in. Roomy and centrally located, the Quality Inn on Fenton doesn’t hold back on providing convenience, including super handy parking and free wifi (BIG PLUS). Again, like our Hamilton abode, Quality Inn on Fenton is a dream from only $109 night without sparing the emphasis on Quality (pun intended).
Once the settling in had ceased (jumping on hotel beds, sampling hotel toiletries and thoroughly scoping out the tea selection), we set about planning our next adventures. Boasting a lap pool and heated plunge pool, we definitely added the Quality Inn on Fenton to our list of repeat visit stays.
Settled in at the Quality Inn on Fenton, we headed into town and to check out a spot of the local (fashion) talent. Here we stumbled across Ahu Boutique, where we found uniquely New Zealand pieces: on trend and thankfully, no mass-manufactured pieces to be found. Pieces designed, crafted and sold by New Zealanders to New Zealanders (and more far-afield travellers) certainly hold a special sort of appeal – so naturally, we did some shopping. Tessa snapped up an Adrienne Whitewood number (as per below), as we all know turtle necks are so on trend rn (right now).
Because we hadn’t already had enough luxury for one day, we eagerly set off for the Polynesian Spa. Our charming spa assistant greeted us and gave us soft-as-bottoms robes and we were sent to enjoy. At this point we did consider taking off with the robes, but decided instead to join our tourist companions in the pools. With a collection of hot pools on Lake Rotorua, the view-and-soak combination made for the perfect pre-massage activity.
After our hot spring soak, we settled with our citrus spritzer and waited to meet our lovely spa attendants. We had both chosen the coconut scrub experience and it was certainly one for the books.
After a gentle massage warm up, the therapist set to work sloughing away our skin with the heavenly coconut scrub. This was followed by a full body massage/shower, all whilst laying upon the massage table. Then setting to work with coconut oil, it was the stuff of next level tropical island daydreams.
Feeling refreshed, rested and super cotton-soft, we made our way out of town, along the lakeside, to Mokoia Restaurant. We were treated to four fantastic courses, the perfect way to top off the ultimate gals day. From green lip mussels, to pinky perfect venison medallions, with mochaccino profiteroles and coconut cream brulée, washed down with a winning selection of Marlborough vinos, we certainly weren’t disappointed.
Early Sunday morning, having given the Rotorua night life a miss on Saturday, we rose early and threw on our running shoes (exaggeration: we got out of bed reluctantly, to compensate for our four courses and multiple wines from the previous evening). Heading out from the hotel, straight into town, we ran to the government gardens and explored the steamy lake front. We definitely recommend this – cheap, healthy and an awesome opportunity to grab a gram (don’t hate us).
Returning to the Quality Inn on Fenton, we headed over to breakfast, with great anticipation (safe to say we’re both keen eaters), our appetites thoroughly whetted by our explorative run. Met with the full breakfast selection, we started our breakfast feast with the fruit and yoghurt selection and finished it with the best omelette this side of the world (sorry, boyfriend). Prepared by our charming breakfast host, we were more than partial to seconds.
Ironically the day of rest, Sunday was our action packed adventure day: first up, Skyline. We arrive at Skyline and are greeted by the friendly team, ushering us hurriedly into a gondola and we’re hanging out in mid-air in no time. The next level panoramic views heading up the mountain temporarily calmed the nerves for what was coming next. Cue: SKYSWING.
Atop the mountain, we found the device of great pleasure but also great fear. The Skyswing was a real adventure, definitely in the bungee jump, sky dive territory – so yeah, we’re pretty brave. As we’re strapped into the swing, we’re nonchalantly informed that once we’ve been hoisted up to the top of the swing (it’s outrageously high if you’re having trouble picturing), one of us were to pull the cord, sending us to certain death.
I cannot begin to describe the inner (and probably outer) emotional turmoil we experienced whilst being pulled away further and further from the earth. From pure fear to pure joy in seconds, the swing is the best adrenaline injection EVER.
On a come down from our big swing, we ventured across to the lovely ladies at the zip line. All kitted up in a full harness/helmet ensemble we channelled our inner dauntless (cue Divergent) for the sail down the mountain. Four hundred metres later, we’re lowered down and prepped for the next activity, a ‘fun’ jump. Whilst our zip liner gal explained it was ‘not a biggie’, a thirteen metre backwards trust fall did rate on my personal challenge barometer. However, our matching competitive spirits saw us complete the jump and head keenly back up the hill to jump on the luge. Cue childhood go-cart nostalgia.
After the Sky Swing, the Zip line and the Luge, we grabbed a coffee and spent our last few moments soaking up the million dollar view, before jumping back on the gondola, and making our exit.
Back in the Fiat, we take a left and head just North of Rotorua, to the infamous Zorb: the world’s original adventure sport where one throws themselves down a hill in a plastic ball inside a plastic ball, partially filled with water, for fun. Groovy. We head outside to take a look at the various tracks and are wrapped (petrified) to find, following the initial ride, there are various zig zag and 4WD type tracks that will “really smash you around”. We suited up, jumped in the truck and were taxied up to the Zorb launch.
Thrilled, we find that the best (only) way to mount or enter the Zorb is to dive head first, at which point every normal human gets stuck at about bottom level. Having ungraciously wiggled and flopped our way into the giant ball, with a quick thumbs up, we’re off (see entertaining footage). Having enjoyed the Zorb 100% more than anticipated, we left exhilarated and with a chronic case of the giggles.
Finally, we were on the road home, back to the big smoke. In reflection, the Choice Roadie has only touched on some of the wild and wonderful (if not slightly absurd) attractions New Zealand has to offer. We’re high on the road-trip-travel buzz and ready for our next adventure. Until next time, folks.