Lodging Review: Hyatt Place Keystone

I stayed here for a couple of nights on a ski weekend. The hotel has a great location, right on Highway 6 and there are a couple of easy ways to get to the slopes.  The hotel is on the ski shuttle route and it’s only one stop to the River Run base area. If you have gear for several people, grab one of the red wagons to help cart your stuff around. Ingenious idea! When returning to the hotel you may find it more convenient to choose the stop across the highway from the hotel then use the crosswalk. That’s certainly faster but depending on your ski party that may or may not be the best option. If you stay on the shuttle it is probably another 10 minutes or so before it circles back around to Hyatt’s side of the street.

Hyatt Place Keystone

Note that you don’t have to take the shuttle to reach the slopes. There is access to the area with the Argentine and Peru Express lifts that’s just a little bit of a walk away. But I was set to meet folks who were driving up from Denver and parking at River Run so taking the shuttle made more sense in my situation.

Check-in Process

I took a group shuttle from Denver and arrived with a large clothes bag and a skis bag. While there is a ramp, it’s a switchback so I found it easier to drag my wheeled bags up the main stairs (6-8 steps) rather than try to negotiate that ramp. Immediately upon entering the front desk is on the left, there’s a double-sided seating area in the center and the elevators are on the right. The seating area does have a number of electrical outlets but not all of them were working when I was there.

Hyatt Place Keystone Front Desk elevators are directly across from the front desk

I was checked in by a friendly associate and given directions to my room on the 5th floor.

Hyatt Place Keystone Elevator Lobby

There was no bell staff so I took my bags upstairs and took a left in the hallway where my room was just a few doors down.

Hyatt Place Keystone Guest Floor Hallway

The Hyatt Place Keystone is a Category 4 hotel, which means award nights cost 15,000 points each. I used the free night certificate from my Chase Hyatt Visa card and 15,000 points for this two night booking. While I booked a regular King room, I was given an upgrade to a King Suite though the folks at the front desk did not tell me this. I’ll guess my low-level Discoverist status had something to do with this though I’m not sure.

King Suite

The suite is 600 square feet (double the size of a normal king room), the bedroom has a door and its own bath and there’s a separate bath in the living area. This makes sense because I can see, for example, two couples (or a couple and a single/kids) splitting the room with one sleeping on the pull-out sofa and the other in the king bed.

The entry hall is quite long and has the closet along the interior wall followed by a bathroom.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Entry Hall

The closet is between the door and the bathroom.  It’s fairly large but also inconvenient for folks sleeping in the bedroom.

The suite then opens up into the living room with the large, comfortable sofa and standard giant ottoman. I love that big ottoman because I use it as a luggage stand and it makes it easy to get into my luggage from various angles.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Sofa

There’s also a chest with 4 drawers which would be handy if you’re staying for a number of days.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Living Area

Off to the side is a small table (not large enough for 4 to sit at the same time) and a small counter with cabinets above and below. The coffee and tea-related items sit on this small counter. There’s a mini-fridge in the lower cabinet but there’s no microwave and there’s nothing in the upper cabinet.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Dining Area

The bedroom has a large, comfortable king bed with night stands and wall-mounted lights on either side.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite King Bed

In the base of each of the wall-mounted lights were a couple of electrical outlets.

One side of the bed (the one without the phone) also had a couple of USB ports. Well done, Hyatt, for giving us so many options to charge our electronics at night!

Across from the bed was another 4-drawer chest with a TV on top. There were separate thermostats for each room, which I thought was a great idea though that does mean a large wall unit in each room.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Master Bedroom

There’s a short hallway in the bedroom that leads to the bathroom and extends even beyond that, almost like they could put a separate door out to the hallway there – but there is no door. Across from the bathroom door was a set of double doors that were locked.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Bedroom Hallway

While I’ll just review the master bath in detail, the bath in the hall was identical. It’s rather large for a hotel bathroom and has a walk-in shower, a toilet and a wide counter with space for toiletries on either side of the sink. The lighted mirror is a nice touch and there’s a lot of light in general in this room, which is nice.

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Master Sink

Hyatt Place Keystone King Suite Toilet

Toiletries were the standard for Hyatt Place, Kenet MD.

Hyatt Place Keystone Toiletries

The shower earns points for having the little corner shelf in the back that makes it easier for women to prop their legs up when shaving. It also earns points for having plenty of hot water but loses a few points for a spray that’s probably very water efficient but is not very strong.

Things That Puzzle Me

This room can sleep 4 people with its existing bedding. The bedroom comes with 4 pillows and there was one extra one in the closet. If there’s another person on the sofa, what are they supposed to use?

The coffee maker had only two cups. Again, if there are 4 adults it looks like 2 of them will have to go down to the breakfast area for their coffee. There were no other glasses that I could find.

In the bedroom, there’s a door that looks like a closet but is locked. In the entry hall there’s a very large closet that I suppose is for all parties but, wow, that’s inconvenient for those sleeping in the bedroom if there are also folks sleeping on the sofa. Less of an impact for families I guess but still something that made me scratch my head.

Dining

Past the front desk/elevator area the ground floor opens up with a couple of other seating areas to the left and the bar straight ahead to the right. There’s more seating to the right of the bar and in the mornings this is where the complimentary (if you’re a World of Hyatt member) breakfast is served. I was up early the mornings and was a little surprised to find that breakfast did not begin until 7 AM. The buffet had a few hot dishes along with cereal, waffles, pastries, fruit, yogurt, etc. Plenty to fuel you up for a day on the slopes. The kitchen is open 24/7 though the bar closes at 10 and you’ll need to order room service after that.

Hyatt Place Keystone Bar

Hyatt Place Keystone Bar Seating

Hyatt Place Keystone Bar Seating

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Other Amenities

Just beside the front desk is a small area with snacks and beverages for purchase. In this same area is a locker where skis can be stored overnight. Much easier to put them there than lug them upstairs, especially if you have little ones with you. Since I was only skiing one day I did not use that option.

Hyatt Place Keystone Mini-Shop

There are a couple of other seating areas in the lobby.  This one is in front of the fireplace and has board games.

Hyatt Place Keystone Fireplace Area Seating

Just past that is a table with an Oxygen Bar

Hyatt Place Keystone Oxygen Bar

There’s also a table that serves as the business center – and can be additional seating for the bar or at breakfast.

Hyatt Place Keystone Business Center

Down the hallway past the front desk is the fitness center. It’s not large but is definitely larger than some I’ve seen at similar properties.

Hyatt Place Keystone Gym

Hyatt Place Keystone Gym

Hyatt Place Keystone Gym

There’s no pool at Hyatt Place Keystone but there are three hot tubs scattered around. I’ll assume they all look like this one on the 5th floor: outdoors, overlooking the slopes.

Hyatt Place Keystone Hot Tub

Hyatt Place Keystone Hot Tub View

Keystone loves families and their kids area is called Kidtopia.  There are things to do every day with your kids as illustrated by this display in the lobby.

This hotel is on the ski shuttle route and it’s only one stop to the River Run base area. If you have gear for several people, grab one of the red wagons to help cart your stuff around. Ingenious idea! When returning to the hotel you may find it more convenient to choose the stop across the highway from the hotel then use the crosswalk. That’s certainly faster but depending on your ski party that may or may not be the best option. If you stay on the shuttle it is probably another 10 minutes or so before it circles back around to Hyatt’s side of the street.

Note that you don’t have to take the shuttle to reach the slopes. There is access to the area with the Argentine and Peru Express lifts that’s just a little bit of a walk away. But I was set to meet folks who were driving up and parking at River Run so that made more sense for me.

In the end

As far as I’m aware this is the only points-based hotel available in the area and it’s actually in a really good location. Breakfast is free, you can eat dinner in the hotel or walk across the street to one of several restaurants. I would be happy to come back here and either earn or burn points!

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Activate 2020 2nd Quarter Bonus Categories

It’s the 15th of the 3rd month of the quarter so it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses for next quarter.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $2000 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

Even though TV, Internet & Streaming Services are shown as new below, though it’s been available for several quarters now.  If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment.  You must register your card before June 25th to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank or visit this link.  I’m choosing Home Utilities (as usual) and Gyms (as usual).

Discover Card

Discover has already given us the full calendar for 2020.  For Q2 the categories are:

If you’re a wholesale club member or can get Visa gift cards at gas stations, this quarter could earn you a lot of cash back.

 

Chase Freedom

If you don’t have a Chase Ink card that earns 5x points on internet/cable/phone already and don’t want to use one of your US Bank categories, this is the quarter to use your Chase Freedom card on those bills.  Otherwise use this card for your gas purchases (and gift cards, if sold there) and on any streaming services you may use.

To register you can go to this link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button as seen above.

 

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Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

It was time for our flight back to the US. As I mentioned in the intro to this trip report, this was the leg I booked first, simply because we found 3 business class tickets on the same flight. And I got to give the birthday girl the present of a business class flight when she usually chooses to fly economy.

Our bird for this flight

Qantas 15 BNE-LAX
Boeing 787-9
Seat: 7A (Business Class, Window)
Scheduled Departure: 1010 (Actual: 1019)
Scheduled Arrival: 0545 (Actual: 0535)
Scheduled Duration: 12h 50m

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Categories: Award Travel, Flight Review, OneWorld, Qantas | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

After spending a few days on the Sunshine Coast we needed an overnight stay in Brisbane so that we didn’t have to leave Mooloolaba at a very early hour to be at the airport by 8 AM. I had an unused Marriott category 1-5 certificate from my credit card (either the Chase Marriott Visa or the Amex Marriott Bonvoy) so we booked the Marriott Brisbane. We knew that with three adults in a room with only two beds someone was going to be uncomfortable but since it was for only one night we weren’t concerned.

The hotel does not have a large footprint but is about 25 stories high. In front there’s only a place to drop off/pick up passengers so if you need to park, circle behind the building where the valet can help you.

Brisbane Marriott

We arrived in the early afternoon and our room was not quite ready though we had only a very short wait until we could check in. Continue reading

Categories: Australia, Hotel, Lodging Review, Marriott, Oceania | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Time on the Sunshine Coast

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

Though we weren’t nearly as tired as we expected to be after 1.5 weeks of travel, it was still nice to get to the beach town of Mooloolaba to relax. As it turned out, late October was a wonderful time to visit the Sunshine Coast. The weather was warm – upper 70s to low 80s for the high – but not hot.

The day we arrived we enjoyed just walking along the beach south of our condo. We kept on the beach as long as we could and on the way back we walked along the path above the beach. There were lots of folks running and walking for exercise and there were picnic spots in several places.

These rocks were just across the esplanade from our condo. Bad for swimming but cool for looks!

Lots of beautiful beaches in the area. Be sure to swim between the flags only!

The next day we spent time at the beach and in the water. The ocean was cool but warm enough to swim in, even if it was a bit bumpy, I assume as a result of a thunderstorm the night before. We spent the rest of the day cruising the shops along the Esplanade and sampling the cuisine.

Australia Zoo

The next day I took an Uber to see Australia Zoo, home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. I loved the original shows and had been at the Great Barrier Reef just a couple of months before Irwin’s untimely death. I’d kind of lost track of what all was going on with the family until seeing that his daughter Bindi got engaged over the summer of 2019. It was hard for me to believe how the kids had grown up so quickly. My travel companions didn’t care anything about coming so I left them to do their own adventure while I took an Uber to the zoo.

One of my first impressions was that if you didn’t know Steve Irwin was dead, you’d expect him to pop out at any moment. His likeness is everywhere and the big monitor at the Crocoseum (the arena where the crocodile demonstrations are held) constantly plays videos of his shows and interviews. In my reading since returning I’ve learned that he and his wife Terri had set up a 10-year plan before he died and they’ve been diligently working on that ever since. The zoo is truly impressive and I had a blast spending the day there. I considered taking one of the behind-the-scenes tours but was concerned I wouldn’t get to spend enough time at exhibits that I wanted to see. However, if I ever get back that’s something I will definitely do. All money from the tours and animal encounters goes to the non-profit Wildlife Warriors fund which directly impacts wildlife and does not go for overhead costs at all. There are several wildlife reserves supported by these funds as well as the Wildlife Animal Hospital located on the zoo grounds. To date the hospital has treated over 90,000 patients and with the recent wildfires in the country, more animals than ever are being sent to the hospital for rehabilitation. It’s a great work they do there and I’m thankful there are facilities like this.

Here are a few of the animals I saw on my visit.

Rhinoceros Iguanas enjoying brunch

American Alligators are less aggressive than their saltwater crocodile cousins

An Aldabran Tortise. Tortoises have more block-like feet while turtles have feet more like flippers. Aldabrans can live over 100 years and grow up to one meter tall.

A blue-tongued skink

One of the staff with a wedge-tailed hawk

River otters sunning for just a moment

A Perentie goanna, one of the largest monitor lizards

Binturongs have prehensile tails but are carnivores.

Brolgas love to dance as part of their mating ritual.

An Emu blending in quite well with the foliage

A koala takes a nap. They can sleep for up to 20 hours a day!

Roo Heaven is an open area where kangaroos and wallabies run freely and guests can pet and feed them.

Mick giving Mossman some food. Mossman is 12.8 feet long and 1100 pounds!

Toby’s turn to feed Mossman

Mossman comes out of the water for food

One of the laughing kookaburras

Bubbles and Cuddles the macaws

One of the ring-tailed lemurs in a rare quiet moment

A meerkat plays sentry in their exhibit

Little lizards run wild in the zoo!

One of the Sumatran Tigers in the Tiger Temple exhibit

Rhino mom Caballe with her baby Carrie

One of the wombats, possibly Poa, takes a nap

Spartacus and Lucas, the Zebras

The giraffe family

There’s no cheetah exhibit but the zoo has several boys who walk around for meet ‘n greets.

Camel rides are available for an extra cost. This camel waits in the shade for his turn to give a ride.

In the end

Mooloolaba was a great ending to the main portion of our trip. It’s definitely a resort town but late October was a great time to visit as it wasn’t crowded at all yet was perfect weather. If you stay here and plan to return to the US from Brisbane you’ll either need to head there VERY early in the morning or, as we did, go the night before. If you’re returning from Sydney to LAX, all the flights seem to be in the 11 AM – 12 PM hour so you’d need one of the early morning flights out of the Sunshine Coast (MCY) airport there too. If you’re flying from Sydney to San Francisco, Vancouver or Dallas/Ft. Worth you’ll have a little more time. Even though we were spending the night in Brisbane, we were able to take a shuttle bus from our condo to the Brisbane airport and from there we took an Uber to our hotel. I loved visiting the Sunshine Coast and hope to return again one day.

Categories: Australia, Award Travel, Oceania | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

We flew to the Sunshine Coast airport (MCY) from Auckland via Sydney. There is a non-stop on Air New Zealand but we arrived much earlier in the day on a Virgin Australia connecting flight. From there we took a shuttle to Oceans Mooloolaba, which is about a 15-20 minute drive. Although the address is the Mooloolaba Esplanade, you’re much better off entering from the First Avenue side as there will be no stairs to deal with and the street is much less busy than the Esplanade.

The first order of business is learning how to pronounce Mooloolaba. When discussing our trip ahead of time we guessed that the pronunciation was moo-loo-LA-bah but we were wrong. It’s actually muh-LOO-luh-buh. I had to keep drilling that into my head each time I saw the word printed.

The Area

At any rate, this is a resort town with lots of condos, many overlooking the water. They’re mostly individually owned but are managed by resort groups. These complexes are stacked one after the other on the Esplanade, which runs along the beach. The benefit of this is that the ground floors of each of these buildings is filled with retail shops and restaurants so you never have to venture too far away for anything you might need. Though the grocery store isn’t on the Esplanade itself, if you go out the First Avenue entrance of Oceans you can see the grocery’s parking garage from there so it’s an easy walk.

Oceans Mooloolaba Exterior
photo credit: sunshinecoast.com

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Categories: Australia, Condos, Lodging Review, Oceania | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Time in Auckland

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

I feel like we didn’t get to fully enjoy Auckland due to poor planning on our part. When we began planning this trip, we hadn’t fully decided how to spend our time in New Zealand when the Qantas award space opened up. As detailed earlier we ultimately decided to start with Christchurch and Queenstown before ending up in Auckland and heading to Australia. We (I) also got confused as to which airport we’d be flying into for the Australia portion of our trip and all of that led to us having less time to explore Auckland than it deserves.

If I had to do it over again we’d have flown Qantas through Sydney and directly to Christchurch before moving on to Queenstown and Auckland. That would have given us another day in the most populous city.  We had only a day and a half in Auckland. The day we arrived it was extremely windy and rained off and on so we stuck close to the hotel. Before leaving home we’d booked a day tour that took us outside the city for biking, hiking and beach viewing. While we’d received confirmation from Viator we never got confirmation from the tour operator. Only the persistence of the concierge at the Hilton Queenstown enabled us to learn that the tour operator had gone out of business. To their credit, Viator did refund our booking promptly but we were dismayed to learn the tour was still being offered on their site!

So, we had a day on our own in overcast Auckland. We decided just to walk around the CBD to see what we could see. We stepped out for breakfast near the Sky Tower. Built in the mid-1990s, this is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere at 1076 feet tall. Though it has a bungee-type jump (with cables to prevent you from smashing into the tower itself) we decided not to take advantage of that.

Auckland’s Sky Tower

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Categories: New Zealand, Oceania | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

When searching for somewhere to stay in Auckland, we once again struggled to find a place that allowed us to use points and also had 3 beds. We eventually decided to pay cash for a stay at the Avani Metropolis Hotel in the CBD but I redeemed Barclays ArrivalPlus points to erase the charge.

The hotel is about a 30-minute drive from the airport – during times when there’s no traffic. It was probably around 2:30 PM when we arrived and our room wasn’t quite ready yet but we only had to wait about a half-hour (or less) before it was ready for us.

The hotel seems to be more apartment-style lodging than a “regular” hotel. We were given our card keys but were warned that if we lost one it was an $80 charge to replace it. I’ve never run into that before! The lobby is all marble (whether real or fake, I don’t know) with a carpet runner down the center. Staff members were friendly and recommended the Italian restaurant that’s on one of the lower floors of the building but is not affiliated with the hotel.

We took the very fast elevators up to our 2 bedroom unit. Seriously, we were on the 29th floor and the elevators were extremely quick! From the elevator lobby we were just a couple of doors down the hall.  We stepped through the door into a fairly long entry hall.

Entry Hall. The second bathroom is on the right. I believe on the left is a utility closet but it was locked.

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Categories: Hotel, Lodging Review, New Zealand, Oceania, Other Hotels | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

In July 2006 I traveled to New Zealand with a ski group and we spent several days in Queenstown. We took a couple of day trips out to ski resorts but spent time in the cute town as well so I was excited to return. Unfortunately we did not have great weather during our visit and I’m bummed my friends did not get to enjoy the town as I did.

Despite it being spring (late October) it was still pretty chilly and rainy. The day we arrived it was quite cool and while we carried umbrellas with us, at least we didn’t need them. We spent an hour or two wandering the streets, popping into stores that struck our fancy and we booked our tour of Doubtful Sound for two days later.

Mum always told you to cross the street at the zebra crossing!

This is a Moa, which became extinct about 200 million years ago and was the largest flying animal in NZ and the tallest bird in the world.

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Categories: Historical Site, New Zealand, Oceania, Tours, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa

Trip Report: Two Weeks Down Under
Flight Review: Qantas B747-400 San Francisco – Sydney
Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge, Sydney
Flight Review: Qantas A330-300 Sydney – Auckland
Lodging Review: Holiday Inn Auckland Airport
Lodging Review: The Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Our Time in Christchurch
Lodging Review: Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Our Time in Queenstown including Doubtful Sound Tour
Lodging Review: Avani Metropolis, Auckland
Our Time in Auckland
Lodging Review: Oceans Mooloolaba
Our Time on the Sunshine Coast
Lodging Review: Brisbane Marriott
Flight Review: Qantas B787-9 Brisbane – Los Angeles

When looking for accommodations in Queenstown, there aren’t a whole lot of choices with hotel points. There are hotels in the Novotel/Sofitel chain and a couple of Hiltons. And of the Hiltons, only the Queenstown Resort & Spa had rooms with three beds, so that was our obvious choice.

The hotel is just a short ride from the airport but is across the lake from Queenstown proper. There’s a water taxi that runs about once an hour for $5 NZD each way. Or you can always take a regular taxi or car service around the lake.

Our airport shuttle dropped us off at the covered entrance. Since it was still before noon, we weren’t surprised our room wasn’t ready. The bell captain took our bags and after a quick bite at the coffee shop we took the water taxi into Queenstown for the rest of the day. The front desk staff did a great job keeping me apprised when our room was available and our luggage was taken our room for us.

The hotel is comprised of two buildings. The main one, where the front desk is located, contains regular hotel rooms and suites as well as conference rooms and the primary restaurant. The coffee shop is in that building but is accessed via an external entrance.

Our room, which was basically a 2 BR condo, was in the building next door, known as the Lakeside Residences. It’s worth pointing out that all the rooms in both buildings have views of Lake Wakatipu and mountains on the other side. I didn’t learn until halfway through our stay that there’s a tunnel connecting the two buildings. That was very convenient when going to breakfast each day.

Due to the hilly nature of the terrain where the hotel is located, the main entrance to the Lakeside Residences is actually on the 3rd floor. That was great for us as it was also the location of our room, which was the next-to-last residence on the left end of the hall. The terrain was actually quite steep in places and might be hard for mobility-challenged folks to get around. Continue reading

Categories: Hilton, Hotel, Lodging Review, New Zealand, Oceania | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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