I remember the first time I ever got a blank face for booking a staycation. “You’re paying money to stay in a hotel, but you’re still in Auckland! Why don’t you just stay at home?” I think they thought I was suffering a head knock. Granted that unenlightened yarn was 15-years ago, but oh how times have changed.
The pandemic sped things up and so too the escalating costs of international travel, but I’d suggest a third factor has been at play and for far longer. It’s the major reason the concept of the staycation has become so entrenched: people increasingly want experiences. Never mind how expensive it is to go overseas, it’s also a bit of money for a hotel not that far from your house. So why do it? Experiences. Work-life balance. Life is short. There’s many a cliché, but the recurring theme is that money spent on making memories is hardly ever money wasted.
Maybe it’s also the Marie Kondo downsizing/minimalist phenomenon, or perhaps the increased environmental awareness of the unloved presents we ultimately throw away. Whatever it is, I’m always encouraging friends stuck for major-occasion gift ideas for their better halves to consider the staycation rather than buying more stuff. And if you are going to consider a staycation as a gift, here’s why Auckland’s Cordis Hotel is a winning, crowd-pleasing bet.
The largest hotel in New Zealand – and one of the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere at 640 rooms – inherently lends itself to the staycation. Not that the recently refurbished and expanded Cordis isn’t also a point of call for visiting rock stars, foreign conference delegates and international holidaymakers who want some urban luxury while in Aotearoa. But there’s something proudly “big city!” about the Cordis that you don’t always get in this country that appeals to locals too.
As in, whether you’re from overseas or down the road, everything from the grand subtropical-looking entrance to the oversized chandeliers of the lobby means the Cordis never feels like anything less than a very fancy, very large hotel. And that in and of itself makes you feel like you’ve gone somewhere.
The special occasion that inspired our latest Cordis staycation was our wedding anniversary. My wife, Aimee, has always loved the Chuan Spa up by the rooftop pool at the Cordis. A pampering session by the expert staff at Chuan has you drifting into hazy memories of resorts in places like Thailand, Malaysia or Vietnam. It’s so authentic you half expect the steam and noise of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Ho Chi Minh City to hit you as you walk out the door. And if that’s what you associate with a good holiday, then those associations are at a fraction of the cost of actually boarding a flight to Southeast Asia.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been up to the Cordis rooftop, the recent refurb has also seen the creation of a new bar for cocktails by the pool. But the most obvious change the refurb has brought is a whole new 17-storey wing at the Cordis called the Pinnacle Tower. Effectively doubling the size of the hotel, it’s had the flow-on effect of making the Cordis arguably the most affordable 5-star hotel in Auckland. There are a lot of rooms and suites to fill and that can also mean a lot of great deals*.
We slept in one of the nine Executive Suites in the Pinnacle Tower where you’ve got two separate wings that wrap around the corner of the tower like a boomerang. At 80-square-metres, that works out to roughly 40-square-metres for the kitchen and living area, and the other 40 for the bedroom and bathroom. Add to that a balcony with terrific views down Symonds Street and this is one of the coolest suites we’ve stayed at.
When you have a suite like that, you maximise your time in it, especially when you’ve been treated to a welcome platter and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the hotel. So drinks and snacks were had in the room, before heading up a couple of floors to the new Club Lounge on the 14th floor. This is the spot for another pre-dinner beverage and where you have to make the call as to how enthusiastically you make your way through the excellent canapes before running the risk of no longer needing dinner. Well, let’s just say my enthusiasm for pre-dinner eating followed by actual dinner eating knows few bounds, so with a mostly full stomach, I still approached the new ground floor eatery Our Land Is Alive with excitement.
Another major talking point with the recent Cordis refurb, Our Land Is Alive is a brand new, completely New Zealand-themed restaurant and bar tucked next to the ground floor lobby. Given this is the Cordis, there’s nothing tacky or tourist-shop like with Our Land Is Alive, instead it’s a floor-to-ceiling-to-kitchen embodiment of the best in Kiwi food, drink, service and ambience. There’s a courtyard with native New Zealand greenery to transport you to the lush rainforests of the Central North Island or Fiordland, there’s a bar bench made from reclaimed kauri, and there are even ceiling paintings of clouds to remind us that Aotearoa translates to “the land of the long white cloud”.
Regarding what’s on offer to eat, whether you go for the Waiheke Oysters, the Riwai Reka with its kumara hummus, or Wairarapa Go East with the marinated lamb ribs, you’ll never be in any doubt where in the world you are. And if it’s the lure of beverages more than food that gets you in the front door, Our Land Is Alive has no less than eight pages of locally made wines, beers, ciders and spirits.
So yes, we were well fed. And yes, we were in a very good mood. A night at the Cordis can take you anywhere from the best of New Zealand to the best of Southeast Asia. And whether it’s taken us 10-hours or 10-minutes to get to a place that good, it always feels worth it.
Aimee and I stayed as guests of the Cordis, Auckland. Click here to read my February 2022 article reviewing the Chairman’s Suite in the new Pinnacle Tower at the Cordis.
*At the time of writing, the Cordis has rooms starting from as low as $229 per night.