Hey we’re travelling again! It’s local, but after the year we’ve had so far, who cares?! The world is quite rightfully jealous of New Zealand right now. We are on top of that bug that I won’t even mention by name and we live in one of the most beautiful and picturesque countries in the world. We’re a travelling people and now we’re roaming our own back yard answering the call to look after our tourism industry. My first post-lockdown destination was New Plymouth and I found the perfect base camp for any Taranaki adventure.
Taranaki and New Plymouth are bonafide destinations with plenty to see and do so you’ll need more than a day to look around. After a quick browse through the usual hotel comparison sites, we chose the Devon Hotel based on it’s phenomenal reviews and recurring comments for being child-friendly. Okay, okay – $99 per night special offer when booked direct with the hotel may have swayed the decision as well although we ended up upgrading to Deluxe King Studio simply because of their special offers.
First things first… our room had a gigantic glass wall between the bathroom and bedroom. An actual honest-to-Jesus floor to ceiling window so you can maintain that ever-important eye-contact with everyone in the room while you concentrate on your business. Who thought that was a great idea? Nevermind that, who signed it off!? No, honestly, let’s just take a minute to let this concept really sink.
Okay, okay… it turned out to be the coolest feature ever. This glass wall was actual magic that turned into privacy glass with the flick of a button. Ever played peek-a-boo with a 9-month-old using a floor to ceiling magic glass? No – you have not and let me tell you that thing alone is worth the day long drive to New Plymouth! We flicked that switch more times than a QA robot at a switch factory and it never got old… well, maybe for the kid, but not for me!
The rest of the room was what you’d expect from a modern 4-star hotel. Bed was big with all the switches and power outlets (including USB) right by your head and there was a massive flat screen on the wall. Good sized desk, a funky designer chair and a window overlooking the courtyard with jacuzzi and a pool. We also had a portacot set up in our room for the little one on arrival and the carpet was soft enough for both my wife and I to take notice. Hey, don’t judge us – it was really plush!
We had the means to make tea and a small fridge that was turned off from the wall, for whatever reason, in the room as well.
All of that, however, means less than nothing unless the shower is good and I’m happy to report that the shower was powerful and hotter than I needed it to be!
If I was a business traveller, however, I would object to the WiFi cover in the room. It was so faint that it barely connected and certainly wasn’t transferring any meaningful amount of data whether I was on my mobile or laptop. On this trip it wasn’t an issue because we weren’t there to hang out on our devices, but some might find it frustrating.
The big screen was another blast from the past experience. I would expect HD picture in 2020 but that TV only came with an analogue signal in glorious 90’s standard definition.
You’ll want your hotel to feed you well in the morning to get your day of exploring to a winning start and the Devon Hotel breakfast does just that. You get a choice of continental or cooked breakfast from the Marbles restaurant buffet. Your continental covers a few varieties of bread you can toast, cereals, juices, yoghurts and the like. It’s not as extensive as you’d find in a similarly rated hotel in most of Europe, but it will fill you up. Your choice of hot drink is quickly dispensed from a machine and is perfectly adequate.
The cooked breakfast option adds the hot buffet into the mix with two styles of eggs (scrambled and poached), bacon, baked beans, potatoes in fried or hashed form, tomato and mushrooms. I’m not an early riser so by the time I made my way down to the buffet, it tended to be a bit slim pickings, but that’s only sensible not to have mountains of food to waste 10 minutes before it all gets packed up. It’s okay though; I’m not polite enough not to take the last eggs and when I did, minutes later a couple more appeared.
The cooked breakfast is an add-on at $25 per head and well worth the money in convenience and ability to fuel up like a champion for the day ahead.
The Marbles Buffet
Dinner at the Devon Hotel is quite the affair! Booking ahead is an absolute must. I didn’t quite appreciate the importance of that until I turned up at my allotted time and saw the queues of people; all well dressed for the occasion. I thought I had accidentally crashed a big celebrity’s 50th birthday party or something but turned out it was just an ordinary Friday night at the Devon.
It was an omnivore’s paradise. My first round of starters was salads and meats. Too much to choose from and all presented and prepared to perfection. I surprised myself by finding my new all time favourite dish, a coconut and pineapple salad. For my second round of starters I hit the seafood buffet and its plentiful frutti di mare. Unsurprisingly, as we are within spitting distance of the sea, the seafood was, again, sublime.
By the time we got to the mains, I had filled myself up so I had to make an executive decision to skip the curries and chose to concentrate on the beef and pork offering from the carvery section. That pork and apple sauce was as succulent as you could ever wish it to be.
If I ever wondered why do people queue and flock to a hotel buffet like this, any such thoughts were well and truly gone by the time I was force-feeding myself from the dessert section like a goose in a foie gras farm in Aquitaine. On any normal day, I would be all over the ice cream but I. Just. Couldn’t. Any. More. I had the mousse. And some cake. And fruit salad. Oh, and those profiteroles were to die for.
This is not to say that the buffet is amazing for everyone. If you are on the famous “see-food diet” like me, it’s great! I challenge you to find a dish that isn’t prepared to absolute perfection. That said, if you have particular dietary requirements, it may not be quite the Shangri-La that it is for me. I probably saw a little tag explaining what the food was 50% of the time but I don’t have to care what’s in it. If it looks good, I can eat it… and I will. The lack of consistent signage made the experience rather time consuming for my other half, who needs to steer clear of anything containing cow’s milk protein or our baby will suffer the consequences and she does not do that quietly.
Whilst there was staff at hand to ask whether dishes contained milk, they were really busy (and working phenomenally hard) running the buffet. Front of house didn’t know about allergens and had to ask the kitchen who also couldn’t say with any certainty without going through their books to find out. This was time-consuming and could have been avoided with clear and consistent labelling of every dish. Nevertheless, the selection of food available was so vast that regardless of your dietary limitations, nobody has to leave the table hungry and should we have alerted the kitchen about our dietary requirements ahead of time, they would have prepared a suitable feast for us, no problem at all.
Dining out at the Marbles Buffet isn’t just about the food though. It’s an experience and what a great time we had. There were kids, young and old, celebrating birthdays with balloons-a-plenty and a superbly happy atmosphere. As tough as this year has been, we all need a dose of an evening of Marbles magic to put things right once again. I am not a man for crowded places, but the crowded buffet was just what I needed for the world to feel happy and normal again.
Pool & Gym
Okay, I’ve not lifted anything heavier than my shoe in a number of years and, against common sense and any doctor’s advice, I intend to keep it that way. That said, just because I intend to die early, doesn’t mean you should and everyone should be going to the gym. There’s no gym on site at the Devon Hotel, but they will give you a pass to use the New Plymouth Aquatic Centre and Gym free of charge (although waterslides are extra). What they do have, however, is an outdoor spa pool and a heated pool! These were in constant use and very popular with younger guests… having said that, the older generation keeping a watchful eye from the spa pool didn’t seem to mind their bubbly vantage point too much either.
As a hotel, the Devon Hotel in New Plymouth punches way above it’s price tag on many fronts but the one overarching theme we commented on a number of times during our stay was their excellent staff. I have stayed in a lot of hotels around the world and the hospitality profession is such that it is instantly clear if it is being done for a paycheck or a passion. Most good hotels have at least one or two passionate staff and the rest are very well trained to offer exemplary service to guests. They will not put a foot wrong, but it’s still just a job. Somehow every member of staff at the Devon Hotel came across genuine and caring beyond the strict call of duty and this took me by surprise; and I seriously doubt this is a happy accident.
Devon Hotel Reviews
I am not the only impressed traveller who has stayed at the Devon Hotel in New Plymouth. Google reviews average 4.3 stars out of 5 over 528 reviews (as of 16 July 2020) and Hotels.com and Booking.com both rate the Devon as “Fabulous” with 8.8/10 rating.
Like thousands of others who have praised their experiences online, we had an exceptional family friendly holiday at the Devon Hotel in New Plymouth. It is the perfect base camp for your next Taranaki adventure!
Book your own Taranaki Adventure
Use your favourite hotel booking website or maybe skip giving your money to overseas companies and book directly with the Devon Hotel on their website at devonhotel.co.nz.