Otumutu Lagoon Cottage – Lake Tarawera, Bay of Plenty

Where: Otumutu Lagoon  Cottage, Lake Tarawera, Rotorua, New Zealand

When: 28 February – 5 March 2011

Who: Malcolm and I, and the kids; Nana and Papa Thomas; Aunty Paula and Uncle Barry (all the way from Canada!)… 6 adults and 2 children in total.

Why: Showing off for the Canadians again 😉

Accommodation Details: $220/night.

Otumutu Lagoon Cottage is a three-bedroom lockwood house with a sleepout.

  • Master bedroom: King-sized double with awesome view of the lagoon and ranchslider access to the deck.
  • 2nd bedroom: Queen-sized double with awesome view of the lagoon and ranchslider access to the deck.
  • 3rd bedroom: 2 sets of single bunks, 1 single bed and a portacot. Access to the third bedroom is out the back door, and via a covered laundry area.  Pretty basic and not nearly as nice as the master and 2nd bedrooms, but comfortable enough. Great room for the kids. There is also a second bathroom (shower and toilet) in this covered laundry area, adjacent to the third bedroom.
  • Sleepout: bunk (single over double) – please note this bed is not very comfortable for adults, but my Dad managed to find a plank of plywood to put under the mattress to give a bit more support.
  • Bathroom with bathtub and shower.
  • Good-sized lounge room with great views of the lagoon and access to the deck.
  • Small kitchen which opens out into a small dining area. Please note, the espresso machine is mine – I can’t live without espresso coffee 😉

The cottage is a fantastic family property with direct access to the lake. It is set on a large, attractive section with mature trees and a gorgeous view of the lagoon.  $220/night really is a great deal considering the gorgeous location and all the facilities the property boasts. Here’s a sample of what’s on offer:

  • Jetty and private beach in front of the house (just a short and easy walk down the hill – awesome lookout points on the way)
  • Drive-in, fully secure boatshed – apparently you can catch trout from the boatshed
  • Sailing dinghy with outboard
  •  Trout fishing gear
  • 2 x puffin sea kayaks
  • Wakeboard and waterskis
  • Tennis racquets
  • Mountain bike
  • Trout smoker
  • Lifejackets
  • Outdoor pizza oven
  • Outdoor fish-cleaning bench
  • Gourmet BBQ
  • 2 bathrooms
  • Windsurfer
  • Treehut and rope swing
  • Large deck, which runs the length of the whole house,  and plenty of deck furniture
  • Bring own linen or by arrangement (I would suggest bringing your own – the dryer door kept falling off and it’s just easier to take your own linen home with you, rather than rush around washing and drying the property’s linen before you go).

Things To Do:

  • Kayak
  • Swim at the propery’s private beach
  • Walk to Lake Okareka
  • Enjoy a meal at The Landing Cafe
  • Eat your meals outside on the deck
  • Admire the view
  • Go fishing for Rainbow and Brown Trout
  • Visit the hot pools at Hot Water Beach and Wairua Stream (see my previous Lake Tarawera posts for directions to the hot pools)

Gallery: Click on a thumbnail to enlarge picture and view description.

The Verdict: On examination of the house’s guest book, it appears there are families and friends that have returned to the cottage time and again, and I can definitely see why. It has a lovely “homey” feel, it’s functional, has easy access to the lake and fishing, and lots of great facilities.

There are a few improvements I could suggest:  a new bed in the sleepout; the property could do with a good clean, as it was musty and dusty on arrival… but those are fairly cosmetic issues. Otumutu Lagoon Cottage really is a fantastic place to come for a holiday.

Helpful Links: The Landing Lake Tarawera; Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve; Rotorua; Destination Rotorua ; Otumutu Lagoon  Cottage


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Mount Family Haven – Omanu, Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

Where: Mount Family Haven, Omanu, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

When: 26 December 2010 – 2 January 2011

Who: The Growdens and the Windles – 4 adults, 2 toddlers, and 2 babies.

Why: Christmas/New Years vacation.

Accommodation Details: $220/night.

Mount Family Haven is a three bedroom, single-level family home. The owners rent it out over the Christmas/New Year period while they are away on holiday. The property was listed on Baches & Holiday Homes to Rent, but the listing has since been removed. I imagine the owners list the property closer to the end of the year, on the years that they intend to go away for the Christmas holidays.

The three bedrooms are configured as follows:

  • Bedroom 1: queen bed and en suite bathroom.
  • Bedroom 2: single bed and cot.
  • Bedroom 3: Set of single bunks in a very small room off the lounge area.

Mount Family Haven features the following family friendly attributes:

  • The property is fully fenced.
  • There are plenty of toys and DVDs for young children.
  • There are two separate lounge areas (adults can claim one and banish the kids to the other :)).
  • There is an awesome kids’ tower/slide/climbing wall/sandpit in backyard.
  • The property has awesome indoor/outdoor flow from the dining/kitchen area to the patio and backyard.
  • The kids have their own table and chairs on a non-carpeted area.

It is a reasonably short walk to the beach and New World Supermarket, and a short drive to the Mount CBD and Bayfair.

In a nutshell, the house has everything you need to entertain young children, and that means more relaxation time for us Mums and Dads.

Things To Do:

  • Go to the beach.
  • Go to Baywave.
  • If the weather packs up, go to Lollipops Playland.
  • Enjoy a gourmet meal at Mount Bistro.
  • Have brunch and coffee at Tay Street Beach Cafe.
  • Sit out on the patio with a good book and read while the children play in the backyard.
  • Go to one of several playgrounds nearby – Omanu Primary School and Gwen Rogers Free Kindergarten are just across the road from the property.

Gallery: Click on a thumbnail to enlarge picture and view description.

The Verdict: We had a fantastic holiday here. The owners even left us a bottle of Pinot Noir and a box full of festive goodies to greet us!

Whilst this is a modernly presented home, it easily caters for families with young children. The owners seem to have found the perfect balance when it comes to adults and children cohabitating in harmony. That is, the place doesn’t look like the kids have taken over  :).  I loved that the cabinets and drawers in the living areas were not only gorgeous pieces of furniture, but also served as storage for children’s toys – convenient and aesthetically pleasing at the same time. In fact, I was so inspired that I bought a set of seagrass drawers as soon as we got home and stuffed them full of the toys that normally take up residence all over our living room floor!

There are only a couple of improvements I would humbly suggest. All three bedrooms get really hot in the afternoon/evening. If you have children that still need to nap in the afternoon, then I suggest you bring a fan from home. In fact, the rooms stay hot until midway through the night, so adults and children alike will benefit from having a fan in their room.

The second suggestion is completely illogical and has more to do with my personal quest for the perfect family holiday home… we should lift this house up and plonk it on a beachfront section, then it would score a full 10 out of 10. Basically, a place right on the beach where packing a bag of kids’ necessities and paraphernalia is unnecessary wins hands down. If you forget to bring sunblock or one of the kid’s towels, ya just get on up and grab it from the house, which in a perfect world would be merely seconds away  :). The search continues!

Helpful Links: Mount Mainstreet; NZ Tourism Guide – Mount Maunganui; Wikipedia – Mount Maunganui

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Tarawera Retreat – Lake Tarawera, Bay of Plenty

Tarawera Retreat

Where: Tarawera Retreat, Lake Tarawera, Rotorua, New Zealand

When: 23 – 25 October 2010

Who: The Growden Clan… 3 Growden families + Growden grandparents… 7 adults and 6 children in total.

Why: Family vacation to celebrate my mother-in-law Joy’s upcoming 60th birthday.

Accommodation Details: $600/night for our large group.

Tarawera Retreat is a five-bedroom, 4-level house at Lake Tarawera.

  • Ground level: garage
  • 2nd level: 1 bedroom (single over double bunk), laundry, shower, toilet, kitchen, dining/lounge room
  • 3rd level: 3 bedrooms (one with own deck), shower, toilet
  • 4th level: master suite with  en suite bathroom (shower & toilet)
  • Internal lift: from ground level to 3rd level (master suite accessed from stairs between 3rd and 4th level – external stairs to all levels).

The house is very modernly furnished, with all the bells and whistles (including a large and comprehensive guest book with instruction manuals for all the house’s appliances and lots more information besides). The kitchen/dining/lounge area is open-plan; and the entire 2nd level is spacious and functional, with fantastic views of Lake and Mount Tarawera.

There are 3 decks: one leading out from the lounge room on the 2nd level, one off the guest bedroom on the 3rd level, and one off the master suite on the 4th level. All the decks enjoy gorgeous views of Mount Tarawera and the lake, although the ponga trees could be pruned back a bit as they’re starting to obscure the views from the deck on the 2nd level. Those of you who have read my earlier blog posts will know I’m all about “the view” 🙂

Access to the lake is just a short walk away via lake access across the road. While the beach opposite the house is not large, it is sandy and that’s great for kids.

Things To Do:

Gallery: Click on a thumbnail to enlarge picture and view description.

The Verdict: The following summary is perhaps not so much a review of Tarawera Retreat (which is undoubtedly a beautiful property), as it is my reluctant acknowledgment that boutique holiday homes must, from this point forward, cease to be a holiday option when my husband and I vacation with our young children in tow. Functionality now wins out over luxury, hands down *sigh*.


The idea of being on holiday is to relax and unwind, and there’s no way to achieve this blissful state if children’s behaviour is constantly having to be monitored and moderated. Tarawera Retreat has virtually no yard, which means that the actual house becomes the site in which small children must blow off steam. Try telling a pre-schooler that the artistic stainless steel partition between the lounge and dining area is not actually a jungle gym. Or that the glass lift (which even my two-year-old figured out how to operate) is not an amusement-park ride. The immaculate, WHITE lounge suite – once an item I highly coveted – now invokes a near panic-attack whenever a small child walks past with food in his or her hands.

Let’s go back to the topic of the glass elevator, which I initially thought was a great idea. Having had experienced this particular one, I would much rather go back to good, old-fashioned stairs. The lift actually isolates each of the house’s levels from one another, physically and acoustically. For instance, it meant that my husband couldn’t hear me bellowing up at him from the lower level to bring various forgotten items back down with him. And I wasn’t able to nip upstairs quickly to retrieve said items, because to do so consisted of a lengthy wait for the lift to come back down to level 2 (at it’s very sedate pace)… followed by an extremely lethargic trip up to level 3… followed by an equally sluggish ride back down to level 2. Something that would’ve taken 30 seconds took a couple minutes. Ok, admittedly I have one speed – and that’s full-bore ahead.

Furthermore, I wasn’t able to hear my baby son screaming when he awoke from his nap. If you are going to bring young children to this property, please consider bringing a baby monitor. There was no such thing as sneaking upstairs to check on the kids, because the elevator door has to be shut firmly and LOUDLY to operate. Imagine, if you will, the noise a glass shower door makes when you slam it. Actually, imagine that shower door covered in hundreds of sticky handprints, while you’re at it.

And while I’m whining…. there’s no bathtub, which isn’t the end of the world, but it certainly makes life easier where bathing babies and young children is concerned. Also, there are no curtains on one side of the bunk room on level 2 – and no curtains in the master suite. Having no curtains in the master suite means waking up to the most AMAZING view of Lake and Mount Tarawera, but it also means waking up with the birds.

That being said, I had a great holiday at Tarawera Retreat. It is an absolutely beautiful house, in an equally beautiful location. I have an awesome family, and I’m sure any venue would make for a great holiday as long as they were there! In my opinion, Tarawera Retreat is suited to a group of adults or alternatively families with older children who know better 😉 And as I have said before, Lake Tarawera is an awesome holiday destination. I will be back!!!


Helpful Links: The Landing Lake Tarawera; Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve; Rotorua; Destination Rotorua ; Tarawera Retreat


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Another Amazing Lake Tarawera Property Coming Up…

Check out Tarawera Retreat – a large luxurious executive lakeside holiday home. We will be staying here with close family this year to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday. Never mind a big party – we will be celebrating in style! And let me tell you, this place just oozes style.

Watch this space (in October) for the review!!

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Filed under Bay of Plenty, Boutique Accommodation, Family vacation, Holiday Homes, North Island, Rotorua

Cutterscove Resort Apartments – Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

Where: Cutterscove Resort Apartments, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

When: 23 – 25 April 2010

Who: My husband, our two-year-old daughter and me

Why: Babymoon – our last holiday as a family of three

Accommodation Details: We stayed in Apartment 209 on the second floor – a two-bedroom luxury apartment overlooking the pool complex.

The kitchen is modern and attractive, but perhaps not as functional as one might hope an apartment kitchen would be. This particular kitchen is equipped for two adults, in my opinion. For example, the casserole dish and the two small pots provided aren’t big enough to cook portions that will feed a family of four or two couples. I also found the bench configuration rather awkward. I only mention this because apartments are generally rented out for longer holidays and perhaps the lack of functionality in the kitchen would prove frustrating over time.

The lounge and dining areas are large, comfortable and modern. Both areas have large sliding doors that lead out to a private balcony that overlooks the tropical garden and pool complex. The lounge has a decent-sized LCD television and stereo system. The dining area has a gorgeous dining suite, which quite frankly made me nervous to eat at with our messy two-year-old: fabric-covered chairs and carpet under the table is a disaster waiting to happen 🙂

There are two bathrooms in the apartment: the ensuite bathroom has a shower over a spa bath, vanity and toilet; and the main bathroom has a shower, vanity and toilet. The underfloor heating was a real luxury on these chillier autumn mornings.

The bedrooms are located down hallways well away from the main living areas, so they are quiet and private. I absolutely loved the walk-through wardrobe between the master bedroom and the ensuite bathroom: it meant no clutter in the bedroom. There are TVs in both bedrooms – a LCD on the wall in the master bedroom, and a regular tube television mounted in the wardrobe in the spare bedroom.

Things To Do:

Gallery: Click on a thumbnail to enlarge picture and view description.

The Verdict: Apartment 209 is a decent-sized apartment that gets the sun all day. It is modern and comfortable, but perhaps more suited to a family with older children or two couples, as opposed to a young family. The resort seems to have a nicer outlook than most of the other apartment buildings along Marine Parade which appear to look onto other apartment buildings (unless you have a seaview apartment). Cutterscove apartments overlook an attractive tropical garden and pool complex or the Mount beach. It’s just the right distance away from the hustle and bustle of the CBD (2.5 km away) and you need only cross the road to get to the gorgeous white-sand beach.

Just a word of warning: if you value your privacy, then a pool-facing ground-floor apartment won’t suit you. Other guests in the pool complex can see right into the ground-floor courtyards, and – unless you draw your curtains all day – the master-bedroom and living areas as well. However, if you are a family that will be going in and out of the pool-complex all day, then perhaps it would be worthwhile to sacrifice a bit of privacy for convenience.

Helpful Links: Mount Mainstreet; NZ Tourism Guide – Mount Maunganui; Wikipedia – Mount Maunganui

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Just Paradise – Kuaotunu, Coromandel

Where: Just Paradise, Kuaotunu West, Coromandel, New Zealand

When: February 2006 and March 2007

Who: Extended family

Why: Check out the gallery and you’ll see why… this place really is “Just Paradise”. My husband proposed to me here!

Accommodation Details: Just Paradise is a beautiful two-story, 5 bedroom holiday home that sleeps 10. There are 4 bedrooms on the lower level and a large loft upstairs. The kitchen is large and functional, with all the conveniences of home. The adjoining open-plan dining and lounge area are comfortable and will easily accommodate larger groups. The view is magnificent: guests look out over the saltwater, solar-heated infinity pool to Rings Beach and beyond.

The owners live in separate quarters upstairs; however, the holiday accommodation is still completely private and you won’t even know your hosts are on the premises.

Things To Do:

Gallery: Click on a thumbnail to enlarge picture and view description.

The Verdict:

Kuaotunu is a little off the beaten track, while still being handy enough to Whitianga and Coromandel Town. It is also an ideal starting point for exploring other parts of the Coromandel Peninsula such as Hot Water Beach, Hahei and Cathedral Cove. It’s safe, white sandy beaches are perfect for swimming, snorkelling and fishing. It truly is paradise here, which is why we’ve stayed twice and intend to stay again!

Helpful Links: Mercury Bay Online; Coromandel Regional Information; Tourism Coromandel;

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Pohutukawa Lodge – Lake Tarawera, Bay of Plenty

Where: Pohutukawa Lodge, Lake Tarawera, Rotorua, New Zealand

When: 8 – 11 February 2008

Who: 4 families… and one lone Canadian tag-along. .. 9 adults in total.

Why: Family vacation at a beautiful location with good fishing… with the goal of  impressing my Canadian uncle.

Accommodation Details: Pohutukawa Lodge is a three-bedroom house and two-bedroom sleep out at Lake Tarawera.  The house is tastefully furnished, with a modern open-plan kitchen/dining/lounge area and fantastic views of the mountain and lake. The upstairs’ master bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and a balcony that enjoys the same view. The sleepout is fairly dated and you do need to negotiate moderately-steep steps up the side of the hill to get to it, but that’s just fine if you consider how reasonably-priced this accommodation is. In my opinion $210/night (for 9 people) is extremely reasonable, especially when the house is so modern and comfortable; and if your group numbers are 7 or under  ($170/night), then you will have no need to use the sleepout at all.

Access to the lake is just a short walk away, there is a  reserve in front of the house, and the Otumutu boat ramp is only minutes away. The double garage is available for guests to use and has kayaks, mountain bikes, and table tennis table also for guests’ use.

This property is beautifully presented, has great views, and is an absolute bargain!

Things To Do:

Gallery: Click on a thumbnail to enlarge picture and view description.

The Verdict: Lake Tarawera is a holiday destination that I intend to revisit over and over again. It ticks all my holiday-requirement-boxes in terms of tranquility and natural beauty. It’s far enough away from Whakatane to feel like a real holiday, yet close enough to warrant going for just a couple of nights. And no doubt I will holiday again at Pohutukawa Lodge, perhaps with another young family the next time around.

I highly recommend Lake Tarawera and give equally ‘high props’ to Pohutukawa Lodge!

Helpful Links: The Landing Lake Tarawera; Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve; Rotorua; Destination Rotorua ; Pohutukawa Lodge

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