Location: This boutique hotel, part of the Heritage Hotel collection, has sat on its perch high in the Waitakere Ranges since the 1950s, first built as a homestead for the Nevill-Jackson family then later added to and developed into accommodation. These days, the hotel - which sits on 29ha of manicured grounds in among the rainforest and is still owned by the Nevill-Jacksons - has 21 rooms. You'll find it at 573 Scenic Drive, but be aware if you're arriving in the dark like we did, spotting it on the right-hand side of the road is a bit of a challenge. Or, you could arrive by helicopter, landing on the onsite heli-pad.

Check-in experience: Very efficient and friendly.

Room: Our digs, No 1, a corner room on the second storey, were right next to the in-house restaurant and spacious and comfortable, with a huge telly, stereo and, best of all, large Juliet balcony overlooking the pool. From the balcony, and the wide panoramic window, we had the most glorious view of the city and Rangitoto - pretty at night but spectacular at first light.

What's in the neighbourhood? Bethells and Piha beaches are nearby.

Exercise: Plenty of opportunities for bush walks in the Waitakeres, and the hotel also has a 20m outdoor swimming pool (not heated), croquet lawn, Swedish dry sauna and even a throwback squash court.

The bed: Cozy.

Bathroom: Slick and modern with a large rain showerhead.

Toiletries: Heritage's own line.

Noise: Thanks to the hotel's long sweeping driveway you're miles from the road so it's really quiet.

Price: Rooms start from $165 and there are a whole bunch of packages worth checking out on its website, from high tea to heli-dining.

Food: Excellent and worth the journey alone. There is a degustation menu but we opted for the award-winning culinary team's a la carte option and had a superb dinner of sesame seared yellowfin tuna, Silver Fern Reserve beef eye fillet, horopito-rubbed Hawkes Bay lamb rump, and warm chocolate brownie.

What's so good about this place? We love how Waitakere Estate references its heritage, our favourite part of which is the Kauri Lounge and bar which could be transplanted from a Wes Anderson film. This has a big fireplace, lush velvet furnishings and rough stone walls, and feels almost unchanged since the 1960s. Up a spiral staircase is an organ (!) and a collection of retro magazines and books.

Perfect for: A weekend retreat from the city if you're a fan of old-fashioned charm and a retro vibe, with plenty of modern touches.

Would I return? I'd love to get a group together and host a fondue party in that incredible lounge in front of a roaring fire, while drinking whisky and wearing a kaftan or a skivvy with a nice pair of slacks.

CHECKLIST

Waitakere Estate is at 573 Scenic Drive, Waitarua, Auckland. Phone: (09) 814 9622.

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