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:
- Walk to Lake Okareka
- Enjoy a meal at The Landing Cafe
- Admire the view
- Go fishing for Rainbow and Brown Trout
- Visit the hot pools at Hot Water Beach and Wairua Stream.
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!!!