1. Best Western President Hotel, Auckland

Rated well despite initial misgivings about the location. This turned out to be brilliant, really central, walking distance to everything, good supermarket and umpteen restaurants of all ethnic persuasions. The apartment itself was spacious, well equipped and comfortable. We would all stay here again.

2. Sunseeker Cottages Motel, Paihia, Northland

We all loved our little cottage, bright, light, well equipped, verandah with BBQ, cats...... There was a good supermarket just down the hill and the town centre and tourist activities in easy reach. Bedrooms a bit small, but all usable. A great bathroom. You need transport, but that said, the two tourist excursions we took picked us up at the gate.

3. Aqua Soleil Villa, Whitianga, Coromandel Peninsula

This looked very good at first sight, well furnished, attractive, until you looked more closely. It had been invaded by ants but the manager got rid of them in short order. Bedrooms and bathroom upstairs, but washing machine and drier almost unusable. Fine for a short stay.

4. Baker's Home Stay, Whakatane, Bay of Plenty

This purpose built cottage had lots of potential but the weather turned very, very cold and the heating was inadequate. The location was a bit remote, some 15 kms out of town, but not too bad, very quiet, there was just nothing - supermarkets, restaurants etc any closer than the town centre. The bedrooms were upstairs (I am glad we had these last two before I damaged my knee!) and the miniscule shower and toilet were at the furthest end of the house, downstairs. The lounge was full of furniture (armchairs, sofas, occasional tables) in lots of different configurations but we needed to be wrapped in blankets to read or watch TV, it was so cold.

5. Ann's Volcanic Motel, Rotorua

Only a two nighter and, even though being "upgraded" to the spa suite, it was quite cramped. Nevertheless, we had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, always useful. The weather continued bitterly cold and the unit was inadequately heated. We shared it with two praying mantises who obviously didn't like the cold either. Ann herself couldn't have been more welcoming and helpful. I would probably find a more central location if we returned.

6. Drake's Place, Lake Taupo

We all liked this pretty place. The sun poured in to the lounge all afternoon, leaving it beautifully warm, and the "heat pump" beefed it up at night. The location was great, very close to town, view of the lake, car parking off street. It was very well decorated, with even the dish mop and tea towel co-ordinated and the kitchen was well equipped. There was a washing machine but no drier but the fresh wind and sunshine quickly dried two large loads on the line. Only complaint was the distance to the toilet from the bedrooms (a recurring theme) and the hearthstone for the woodburning stove (which we couldn't use) in the middle of the lounge, directly on the way through to the toilet and bathroom, which Mac stumbled over until we left a lamp on overnight. Worth a return visit, hopefully not crippled.

7. Midsummer Cottage, Napier

Another character cottage (as they say in Escape to the Country) timber built and almost certainly predating the 1931 earthquake. It was nicely decorated and furnished although the lounge furniture was not as comfortable as it looked. Getting a bit old and tired. There were three bedrooms and the lounge and dining in the front, then a step down to the kitchen (another trap for the unwary) and another step down to the bathroom and finally (again) the toilet. Toilets definitely seem to be an afterthought, probably started as outhouses. The kitchen was well equipped although the fridge was very small, like in England and the owner had left a bottle of wine and a packet of jam tarts for us. Very nice. The location was very convenient, close to town and although a very steep hill with closely packed houses we had off street parking, always one of our requirements.

8. Ruby Holiday Home, Porirua - Wellington

Of all the houses we stayed in, this was the dump. A torn curtain visible from the road and a large crack in the glass front door did not impress, doors scratched and needing a lick of paint, unusable washing machine. However, it did appear to be clean and the kitchen had most of the things we need. It also had a wood burning fire with a large supply of cut wood. So that was alright. There were efficient heaters in all the bedrooms and it was close to the station and shops and only ten minutes drive to the hospital. However, it did give a dingy impression and the garden was a mess, despite the note in the house manual which said a gardener came in to keep the place tidy and take away the garbage. The garbage bin was overflowing full and had obviously not been emptied for months! One to avoid if possible.

9. Sandy Hill Farm Cottage, Wanganui

We all loved this little purpose built cottage. It was spacious, three good bedrooms, terrific well equipped kitchen, great bathroom. It was clean and sparkling and comfortable. The owner had left us a dozen free range eggs from the farm and two litres of milk. Two of their cats came to visit and the alpacas were cute. It was a fair way out of town but we didn't mind as we did not intend to eat out as we were only there two nights. I know I wished we could have stayed longer.

10. Grand Chateau Tongariro, National Park

This was our big splurge indulgence of the trip. The hotel was lovely, old style but very stylish, we had adjoining double rooms with a view of the volcanoes. The grand lounge was very elegant, large open fire, comfy lounge chairs and a huge picture window with a view of Ngaurauhoe. The dining room was good and the meal was excellent, we all enjoyed it. The only downside for me was that the bedroom was overheated (it went down to zero overnight outside with snow and frost so I expect the heating was compensating) and the mattress, like all of them, was too hard. It was worth it though.

11. Pink Cottage, New Plymouth

This was a lovely cottage, a little difficult to find but worth it when we did. The rooms were spacious, airy and light with a view over the port from the front windows. There were three bedrooms so Geoff once again enjoyed a double bed. The kitchen was excellent as was the bathroom, although, once again, the toilet and bathroom were as remote as possible from the bedrooms. We took to leaving a night light in the kitchen. There were books and games, the Trivial Pursuit was a lifesaver on the wild and wet Sunday we spent indoors. It was out of the main CBD of New Plymouth but had its own little shopping area including a supermarket, hot bread bakery, takeaway, post office and bar/tavern. All we needed. We would all stay here again.

12. Otorohanga and Waitomo Motels, Otorohanga

For our last four days we had the most basic of 60's style motel rooms. Clean but dingy, the low energy saving light bulbs did not give much light. It was cramped and badly equipped. It was supposed to be a self-contained unit with kitchen facilities and I suppose it was, but there was no bench space for preparing food, nowhere to put the jug and toaster except actually on the stove top. Again, the toilet and shower were away from the bedrooms and were very basic. The bedrooms were small and cramped. On the plus side, it was serviced every day, changing the towels etc. It was appreciated but not really necessary. The weather was appalling and probably influenced our opinions, if it had been fine and sunny we would not have spent so much time there.

13. Bella Vista Airport Hotel, Auckland

Our last night in Auckland started out badly when we had to wait 2 hours in the freezing draughty lobby until our rooms were ready. With no apologies, and very offhand reception. However, we had a decent breakfast the next morning and a free shuttle to the airport.

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