For years I’d walk past the Copthorne Hotel on the waterfront in downtown Auckland and think, “they either need to knock that down or spend millions doing it up”. It was a stunning location and for too long a tired, drab hotel in what seemed an unimaginative piece of 1970s architecture. Then one day I heard that one of those alternate wishes was happening. Initially I worried it was the wrong one: they were going to refurbish.
Could new life really successfully be breathed into this narrow-looking, 12-storey, 190-room, 3-star hotel from 40+ years ago? Well, there’s nothing as a travel writer like a hotel that completely exceeds your expectations. Two years of being closed to all guests and several tens of millions of dollars later, that old Copthorne (previously also a Travelodge) whose decor had barely changed since Muldoon first came to power, protests enveloped Bastion Point and Dave Dobbyn was still a Dude, is no more. Instead, welcome to the Auckland hotel market the world’s second M Social (the first being in Singapore): a funky, modern 4-star brand that’s sure to shake up the hospitality scene in the central city of New Zealand’s largest metropolis.
The occasion for my wife and I was nothing less than a concert by the most successful songwriter in the history of popular music. Sir Paul McCartney was in town and we thought a night with Macca was most definitely staycation-worthy. Having heard that the transition from Copthorne to M Social was finally complete, we decided to book a night.
Arriving early afternoon, check-in inside the redone lobby with its pastel cushions, dangling bucket lights and nearby long, sunken bar was the right first impression: forget what you knew if you ever stayed at the old Copthorne, this may as well be a brand new building. For a start, check-in is on the opposite side from before and other than the bar and restaurant area known as Beast And Butterflies (deserving of its already strong reputation), there’s a new atrium with a hanging wooden swings as art. Combining elements of 20th Century retro, nautical and Kiwiana themes, the ultra-hip atrium sets the tone for the rest of the hotel.
With the internal designs by Aedas Interiors, the M Social Auckland has a sense of fun that couldn’t be further from how the hotel used to be. Opening the door to our corner suite in room 1101, one entire wall of our living room was splashed with the writing, ‘Home is where the anchor drops’. Coupled with views out of the huge sea-facing windows to the Waitemata Harbour and the bustle of Auckland’s waterfront, you feel like this is a hotel that’s anything but generic.
The upside down bucket lighting as seen in the bar and reception downstairs is repeated for the desk in the living room and the corner couches and chairs are fresh and “IKEA-tastic” as one happy online reviewer noted. Occupying a similar-sized space to the living room is the bedroom with headboard of a stylised bird’s eye view of the Auckland CBD and a clear-glass look through into the bathroom with its stand alone bath tub. And yes, there are blinds that descend at the push of a button if you’re after some privacy. However, if Harbour views while bathing are a must, that is very possible.
While we didn’t quite squeeze in time for views from the bathtub, the morning after McCartney we flicked the button to raise the blinds for the bedroom window. Lying in bed with the blues of the Auckland sea and sky outside, contrasting with the greens of Rangitoto and the North Shore and speckled with boats on the harbour, I was reminded why I’d always believed this location was ripe for something special. After all these years, that’s finally true.
A bit like the QT Hotel in the Gold Coast that took a nondescript tower from the 35-years ago and went to town on the interior fit out, the M Social has done a similar thing. A building that used to seem like an uninspired rectangle design-wise now has a whiff of minimalist cool on the outside. This is in part due to a sprightly paint job and a subtle re-cladding, but also because it’s complemented by an inside that is so vibrant.
They made the right call. The M Social is befitting of the real estate it sits on. Still need convincing? Check out my 1-minute video tour of suite 1101 with more photos below: