Sustaining your A-Game

How do you get to the top of your game and stay there?  It’s something we’ve been thinking about recently, as we were delighted to be awarded a 2017 Travelers’ Choice Award, putting Sunlover Retreat in the top 1% of all B&Bs and Inns on TripAdvisor. This month on the blog, I thought I’d share some thoughts about sustaining your A-game through the busy summer period.

Our region’s summer population turns Tairua into a bustling primetime location during the high season.  Locals and business owners make the adjustment from living and working in a sleepy town to living and working in an extremely busy one.  We have discovered that in order to sustain our energy in the height of summer, it’s important to find time to enjoy the delights of Tairua that our guests enjoy.  We love to walk the dog, swim in the Tairua Estuary, mooch about Sailors Grave and of course catch up for coffees with our friends at local cafes.  Also, we employ help.  Whether it is housekeeping or marketing, it certainly helps take the pressure off over the busy season.

Whether we are accommodation providers, restaurant owners, retail or trades and service providers, we are all ambassadors for our area. Thousands of people come to enjoy the place we are lucky enough to live in year-round.  Many are coming to Tairua for the first time.  What we say and do makes a massive impression on their overall perception of our town.  We think it is important to remember that.  How did you feel when you came to Tairua for the very first time?  Were the locals friendly and helpful?  I’ll bet you can remember your initial impression very clearly, we certainly can!  People have a huge influence on one another, either positively or negatively.  Kindness matters and is remembered.  At Sunlover, we really do believe every person who walks over our doorstep goes from a stranger we haven’t met, to a friend.  We treat every guest like our best friend and it enhances their experience and enriches our lives too.

Be it the height of summer or the quieter winter months, we adhere to the same customer service strategy.  It’s simple, but it works for us and we recommend keeping it in mind and sharing with summer staff when the holiday population descends on your business. Ensure the answer is yes.  If the answer isn’t yes, always offer a viable alternative. A flat-out “no” can be received like a door closing shut in the face.  “I can’t provide this, however I can offer you that,” shows you care and are prepared to go the extra mile, which we have learnt goes a long way with most people. 

Another thing we have come to understand – and it can sometimes be a challenge at the height of the busy time – is that the high season has a life span.  For us it is from November to end of April.  The high season is incredibly constant: 24/7.  We manage the seasonal nature of business in Tairua by going with the flow of the seasons – using the heat and light of summer to function with high energy and full capacity. We know winter is only a season away, therefore it is about learning to put aside earnings for the rest of the year, doing maintenance when and where we can over winter and getting marketing, especially for the international market, set up for the upcoming season.

One of the pleasures of winter for us is to ‘re-join’ the Tairua community.  The mellow pace of the winter months affords us time for catching up with children and grandchildren, hosting dinner parties and attending wine club. Every season has its pleasures – so go out and make the most of them and do what you can to sustain your health, wealth and wisdom whilst living and working in a seasonal location.  We reckon it’s worth it!

Top Honour Awarded to Sunlover

Sunlover Retreat has won a 2017 Travelers’ Choice Award, putting them in the top 1% of all B&Bs and Inns on TripAdvisor.  TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards are the highest honour TripAdvisor can give and are based on reviews and opinions from millions of travelers all over the world.

The Tairua luxury B&B was rated 11th in the South Pacific (including Australia), and 7th out of all New Zealand B&Bs and Inns. Rating in the top 25 B&Bs and Inns in the South Pacific indicates Sunlover Retreat is performing at the top of their game on an international scale.
Why do guests respond so favourably to Sunlover Retreat?  Owner/operators Donna and Chris Brooke says the things Sunlover epitomises are the things guests love most about their stay. She shares ‘The Five Loves of Sunlover’:
1. Sunlover loves summer days.
The retreat was designed to provide guests with the absolute best summer has to offer – warmth and light from the first sunrise to the final twilight.  The spirit of summer is easily evoked whilst sitting on the expansive deck enjoying spectacular sea views.
2. Sunlover loves to see people relax.
The essence of Sunlover Retreat is about providing a place for people to completely unwind and relax.  A heavenly night’s sleep in a luxurious bed, hosts taking care of every detail and the peaceful private location all combine to ensure guests are relaxed and rejuvenated by the end of their stay.
3. Sunlover loves good wine & food.
Sunlover’s home-cooked breakfasts are legendary, according to TripAdvisor reviewers.  The care and nourishment given through good food and drink, as well as top notch recommendations to local wineries and eateries all contribute to a satisfying and much-loved holiday.
4. Sunlover loves The Coromandel.
Isolated golden beaches.  Flame-hued sunrises.  Jagged bush clad mountain ranges.  Sunlover is situated in a glorious spot on Tairua Heights, where multiple natural wonders of the Coromandel Peninsula can be enjoyed all at once.  Guests benefit from their hosts local knowledge and discover hidden local treasures in the Coromandel’s stunning natural environment.
5. Sunlover loves people.
At the heart of Sunlover Retreat is a home of hospitality. The Sunlover welcome is warm, the farewell an authentic ‘see ya later’.  People return time and again.
Donna and Chris appreciate the time people take to write and share reviews about their stay at Sunlover Retreat and they personally responds to every post-visit review.   As they sees it, every guest stops being a stranger and becomes a friend. They are delighted with the TripAdvisor top honour and attributes it to guests sharing their Sunlover experience through TripAdvisor reviews.

Donna’s Top Five Foodie Favourites

Dining out in and around Tairua

Dining out can make or break a holiday visit.  We’ve all had that dining experience that  lodges itself firmly in our memory and entirely influences our perception of the area we visited.  What we eat and drink, where we eat and drink, and how we are treated at said venue make a massive impact on our minds and hearts and has a huge role to play in shaping our holiday.

As a host, I take it upon myself to ensure my guests have positive dining experiences which contribute to a wonderful holiday in the Coromandel.  My guests always tell me about their dining experiences; both the ups and downs.  I value what they have to say and their feedback influences my recommendations to future guests.

So what makes a great dining experience?  Listening to my guests over the years, I have learnt there are three key things which always come up when people have a positive dining experience.

  1. Being made to feel special.
  2. Establishing a connection with the locale; through the food and wine, and/or the people.
  3. Satisfying food and beverages.

(And of course, when people don’t have a happy experience, it is guaranteed that one or more of the above will surely be missing).

I guess you could say I have a good handle on the places that really make visitors happy when they dine out in Tairua and surrounding areas.  My guests trust me to make reliable recommendations, so it is imperative that the places I suggest are consistent.  Just as I want to knock people’s socks off with their stay at Sunlover Retreat, I want local restaurants to knock people’s socks off too!

Fortunately, there are a range of wonderful places to dine around the Coromandel.  These are my Top Five, chosen because they are within close proximity to Sunlover Retreat, and based on my guest’s feedback and my own experiences, these are the places which please people the most.  I have total confidence in sending guests there and I happily recommend them to you, too!

1. Manaia Kitchen and Bar

manaiaYou can count on Manaia’s proprietor, Andrea Johnson to give her patrons the star treatment.  Manaia’s menu is of a consistently high standard, with a strong focus on fresh, local and seasonal food and flavours and a zesty new wine list offering a diverse array of local and international wines. The current Spring menu charms guests with its ‘Coromandel Miner’s Breakfast’ and locally loved pizzas named after surrounding landmarks (Paku, Puketui, Slipper Island, Hikuai).  Andrea is proud and passionate about her hometown Tairua – evidenced by the effort she makes to ensure people feel welcome in her restaurant.  I know I can count on Manaia to give my visitors a positive dining experience in Tairua. Open from 9am for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, as well as coffee and cake and drinks at the bar. 5 days a week in winter, 7 days in summer.

https://www.facebook.com/ManaiaKitchenAndBar/

http://www.manaiakitchenbar.co.nz/

2. The Old Mill Cafe Tairua

old-millSomewhat of a hidden treasure, The Old Mill is the only restaurant where you can eat out whilst overlooking the sparkling Tairua inner harbour. Located at the base of Mt Paku on the waterfront, guests feel like they are in another town entirely when they are seated in the restaurant’s outdoor garden or in the airy indoor courtyard.  Proprietors Linda and Jim Crozier are a couple with a winning cafe combination.  Linda is arguably one of New Zealand’s best pastry chefs, offering up the most delectable homemade pies, quiches and tarts, of both the sweet and savoury variety.  Jimmy makes a calm and gracious host, ensuring your meal arrives with minimum fuss and maximum flavour, contributing to a very pleasant waterfront dining experience.  The Old Mill is an atmospheric spot for lunch or cake and coffee (don’t go past Linda’s amazing Apple Strudel or Chocolate Tart) – you can even order an ice cream cone from their Kapiti ice cream selection.  Currently open 8am-4pm Thursday through Sunday.

https://www.facebook.com/TheOldMillCafeTairua/

http://www.theoldmillcafetairua.com/

3. The Pepe

pepeDon’t judge a book by its cover! The Pepe is a bit of an unsung hero in Tairua’s restaurant scene.  When recommending The Pepe to my guests, I tell them ‘it’s not going to be flash but you will always enjoy your meal.’  The quality of the food on the menu at The Pepe is excellent, as is Steve Morris, the restaurant owner who makes a massive effort for every single one of his customers.  The Pepe appeals and caters to all kinds of patrons, including families with small children and people with dogs (two groups that aren’t always welcomed at restaurants!).  The Pepe is a relaxed and unpretentious coastal cafe with a big outdoor seating area adjacent to Tairua’s Pepe Playground.  The staff are consistently friendly and hospitable, and whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you will not be disappointed by your discoveries on the menu.  Open 8am til late, 7 days.

http://thepepetairua.co.nz/

4. Go Vino

govinoLess than half an hour’s drive up the road at Cooks Beach, GoVino is my go-to place for special occasion dining. We love it and we’re clearly not the only ones, as this restaurant has a loyal and well-established following from both Coromandel Peninsula locals and national and international visitors.  Originally offering a Tapas style menu, they have evolved beyond that and brought KaiZen dining to the Coromandel.  In Japanese, the word means ‘change for the better’, yet the GoVino team also interpret KaiZen as a combination of the Maori word for food and the ‘enjoy the moment’ philosophy of Zen. This KaiZen philosophy underpins their inventive style of dining, with a clever and complex menu that is sure to wow even the most fanatical foodie.  GoVino also boasts a fantastic wine cellar. Owner and somellier Ryan Laird is a true professional who clearly knows his stuff.  This is a classy, special occasion restaurant where I can confidently assure any guest an outstanding dining experience. https://www.facebook.com/cooksbeachNZ/?fref=ts

http://www.govino.co.nz/

5. Mercury Bay Estate

mercurybayI have total confidence in sending my guests to Mercury Bay Estate; a boutique vineyard, restaurant and cellar door perched on a glorious hill overlooking Cooks Beach.   Mercury Bay Estate owners are Simon and Veronica Ward. Their aim is to produce and share sustainably made wines with local food in a relaxed and family-friendly environment.  They cater to locals and visitors and their sharing platters and flight of wine tastings are a delight.  There are a range of platters on the menu, featuring locally made artisan produce, cheeses, and gourmet breads, and given their Italian heritage, they have recently added handmade pizza to the menu to compliment the platters.  It is the perfect place to enjoy a long, late lunch and take in the spectacular view and surrounds. My guests always come back raving about it.  They are currently open Wednesday through to Sunday 10am-4pm (later on Fridays and Sundays).

https://www.facebook.com/Mercury-Bay-Estate-145943522098106/

http://www.mercurybayestate.co.nz/

Footnote:

A remarkable thing about dining out in Tairua, is wherever you choose to wine and dine, you have the option to be driven home thanks to the establishment you visit.  This means you can leave your vehicle behind, enjoy a few wines and don’t need to worry about a long walk home up a hill.  You’re in good hands in Tairua.

 

The ‘Breakfast’ part of Bed and Breakfast

Today I want to tell you about the ‘Breakfast’ part of the B & B equation that equals Sunlover Retreat.  It is a key part of our Sunlover story and something which means a lot to me to share with my guests.  I see the pleasure they get from the food and the time spent over breakfast and I know I am offering something satisfying and special.

 First of all, my focus is a homemade kiwi breakfast.  We are not a cafe or restaurant, nor do we pretend to be.  What we offer is a hearty and delicious homestyle breakfast. Our focus is on offering the best quality locally sourced and home-prepared food and ingredients to our guests.  Every guest I have recognises the quality of New Zealand food sourced locally.

I use produce from our vegie garden and fruit trees whenever we can.  The eggs are provided by our free-range chooks.  I make my own marmalade when grapefruit are in season. I make my own organic yoghurt and homemade toasted muesli sweetened with a splash of orange juice and a drizzle of honey.  I also always include iconic kiwi foods such as New Zealand black doris plums and vegemite and marmite.  Oh, and always, always, butter!

 Our Sunlover Stack is my cooked breakfast specialty. This breakfast is entirely gluten free so will suit most tastes, diets and appetites.

Here it is:

Homemade Kumara rosti with cumin and herbs

Free-range smoked bacon from Tairua Butchery

Fresh-picked spinach and chard out of the garden

Free-range baked eggs (courtesy of the chooks)

A slow-roasted tomato

The Sunlover Stack is served on a heated plate so the eggs sit nice and warm on the greens and everything is fragrant and delicious.

 All guests receive their own loaf of flowerpot bread baked fresh every morning and still warm from the oven. I get up two hours before my guests to prove the bread, then take our dog Rover for a walk while the bread is proving.  I love making the bread because it is a process that requires time and effort. As I knead the dough, I put all my love and care into it in the hope that translates into the taste of the bread.  My intention is for you to receive the home-baked bread as a message of love and care from me to you. 

 Good things take time, and the Sunlover breakfast is definitely one of those good things.

When else might guests get the opportunity to linger over breakfast, chatting with locals? At the breakfast table, our guests are part of the family. I’m in the kitchen cooking and chatting with them while they’re eating their cereal and enjoying the view.  It is very relaxed, and there is always a plunger of Coffee Lala’s amazing locally-roasted coffee to top up a cup.  There is time to talk, time to swap stories and share what we know about the Coromandel.  It’s a leisurely affair, laughter’s always in the air and it is an experience our guests will remember.

The perfect recipe for a weekend getaway with friends

A weekend away with friends is an opportunity to create wonderful memories with those who mean a great deal to us.  Quality time with our good friends is a priceless investment – and one we must endeavour to make time for, as these really are the moments that will be treasured during our lifetime. The perfect recipe for a friends weekend can be easily achieved if you get the basic ingredients right.  So what are the basic ingredients?  Special Accommodation.  Good food & drink.  Great company.  Simple!

 Sunlover Retreat in Tairua, Coromandel Peninsula, is an ideal choice for a friends getaway.  It is a luxurious home away from home, with the added benefit of local hosts Chris and Donna taking care of all the finer details.  Sunlover Retreat comfortably accommodates up to three couples, and is so much more than just a place to sleep at night after sightseeing all day.  It offers stunning views from a spacious deck – a perfect spot for socialising while watching the sunset.  At the heart of the home is a sumptuous living area which is large enough for your group to gather and enjoy the estuary views from super-comfortable couches.  Sunlover offers three tastefully furnished private suites, ensuring time and space for couple-time too.

Gwenda and Rod Pearce from Australia recognise the value of friends getaways, making time for trips with two other couples on an annual basis.  Earlier this year, Gwenda and Rod and their friends visited the Coromandel and stayed at Sunlover Retreat. 

 “The moment we walked in the door we felt like we never wanted to leave. The hosts made us feel like we were family home for Christmas. And the view was sensational,” shared Gwenda.

 The three couples spent the weekend exploring some of the Coromandel’s unique natural attractions; Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, capped off with a pleasant lunch at nearby winery, Mercury Bay Estate.  Fish and chips on the beach at sunset and a morning walk around the foreshore were some of the ways the Pearce’s enjoyed quality time in Tairua with their friends.  Highlights from this friends’ getaway prove that simplest is best when it comes to a great holiday. 

  “We found it hard to go out for dinner and waste the beautiful view, so we finished our days with a group graze on the balcony,” said Gwenda.

 Time is certainly the most valuable gift Sunlover Retreat offers its guests, and it is the one gift people really appreciate. 

 Rod explains;

“The Sunlover experience took precedent over other everyday tourist activities and with no regrets.  The morning breakfast was a magical time to find out the what, where, and why things happened in the area.”

 The couple suggest not planning lengthy travel or sightseeing the day you leave, because the time you spend enjoying Sunlover’s special breakfast and hospitality make it difficult to drag yourself away!

 

Sunlover Awarded for Service Excellence

chris-donna-rover-sunlover-webSunlover Retreat was honoured in front of over 100 tourism industry members at the Coromandel Tourism Awards, held recently at Grand Mercure Puka Park Resort, Pauanui. The annual awards showcase hosted by Destination Coromandel acknowledged Sunlover Retreat with a Service Excellence Award.

 “We were absolutely thrilled to be recognised after a relatively short time in business,” said Donna Brooke, owner of Sunlover Retreat.

Three years ago when her and partner Chris created their luxury B&B in Tairua, their vision was to create a home they could share with others, offering guests the experience of “staying with locals”. Their commitment to offering a memorable visitor experience to every Sunlover guest has launched them into the coveted top ten in TripAdvisor’s New Zealand Accommodation, B&B and Inn Category. Currently ranked #9, Sunlover Retreat remains a top player in this category with a 2016 Traveller’s Choice award. The Coromandel Annual Tourism awards are based on national service awards, including Service IQ and TripAdvisor Top 10 Rankings in New Zealand.

 Donna says; “What really makes us excited is how many of our wonderful tourism operators actually feature in the Top 10 excellent TripAdvisor reviews in New Zealand. It confirms to us that the Coromandel is a real tourism stand­out and the best place to be if we want to succeed in business.”

 The secret to Sunlover’s success, according to Donna, is in the little details that create big memories for their guests. She says people come from all over the world to experience the best the Coromandel has to offer. This compels her to go the extra mile to make guests feel part of their home, offering many opportunities to savour absolute relaxation and utmost enjoyment during their stay.

 The Awards showcase was an occasion to celebrate an excellent year in local tourism and acknowledge the contributions made by Coromandel tourism operators.

 

It’s a Tairua thing!

After talking to our many international guests, one of the great things about NZ is that we are not over-regulated.  There are still many activities that you can take part in that don’t cost and you don’t have to sign a waiver.

Tairua bridge jumping is just that!  Today I saw little tots as young as 3, leaping into the water with nary a backward glance.  Its something I used to do as a girl, it’s something my kids have done and one day something my grandkids will do to.  I just love to see it!  Plenty of parents on hand to coax the nervous ones and slow down the extra confident ones.

On a sunny day at full tide … I just can’t think of a better thing for the kids to do!

Rocking Review!

“Our first B&B stay was spectacular!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 weeks ago

This was our first B&B stay and I am hooked! We decided to stay in Tairua in between Auckland and Rotorua and we’re so happy we picked Sunlover Retreat.

Donna and Jak welcomed us and made us feel at home while Chris was away on business. The food, company, personal concierge service, and amenities were more than we could have hoped for.

Donna was so accommodating. She never made us feel uncomfortable for asking her so many questions, she was ever so thoughtful when it came to leaving me biscuits in the tin at night, leaving us flashlights to make sure we didn’t fall down the stairs in the dark, making sure we knew where the umbrellas were in case we wanted to go for a stroll and there was only a slight chance of rain, etc.

As for the food, Donna always made sure to let us know that whenever we wanted brekkie, she would get up in time to make a full hot meal with continental breakfast as well. The spread was amazing! She would make sure to be quiet if others were still sleeping and I thoroughly enjoyed her company.

The rooms and living areas were impeccably clean and everything was so charming and beautiful. I absolutely loved how comfortable everything was. I even stuck up early one day to study while watching the sun rise as I had boards to take after vacation. The bed was incredibly comfortable and the shower never ran out of hot water.

The day we left, Chris came home and we were able to meet him. What a lovely couple they are! They wouldn’t let me lift a finger! Chris and my fiance put all the bags in the car. Highly recommend this B&B if you are looking for somewhere to unwind and get away from the busier cities. One of my favorite souvenirs from the trip is my robe from Sunlover Retreat. It is so cold here in Texas now and it keeps me so warm! It is the softest robe I’ve ever felt.

Thank you Donna, Chris, and Jak for a memorable first B&B visit! We hope to come back one day! Let us know if you ever visit the Music Capital of the World!

Jeff & Alisa Soon-to-be Kirklin from Austin, TX

The New View

Slowly but surely we are revealing our new Sunlover view.  The view to the mountains was obstructed by some very dead and very ugly wattle trees.  As they come down the new view is exposed … and so are we!  Feels a bit weird but I can’t wait to plant some native NZ trees to keep those native birds dropping in on Sunlover!

Thames Arts Festival 21 Nov – 7 Dec

Steampunk’n Thames Arts Festival

21 November to 7 December 2014

Get caught up in the steam punk invasion of the old gold rush town of Thames. Fuse Victoriana with SciFi; industrial reality with fantasy and take a journey with us back to the future. We are still there.

With three weekends and two weeks to show off our very arty best, we have lots of treats in store for steam punkers (and fine art aficionados alike). This is our community art at its very off beat best. A steam punk ball, steampunk body adornment and wearable art, steampunk art exhibitions and much more…

Plan a trip to your haberdashers or the mad hatters and visit the Thames’ Burke Street Seagull Centre for your bits and bobs.

And to get up a head of steam for all you closet steam punkers (we know you are out there), we have a mask making workshop, a prop making workshop and a body art workshop lined up for your arty-party pleasure. There will be lots of stuff to do and see in between – Underfoot Gallery (pavement art on the sea walkway), Main Artery (art in the main street), photography and painting exhibitions, busking, music, theatre, poetry and dance recitals, food, fashion and art workshops. The TSA has an invited artists exhibition and an Art market.

What a great way to celebrate the end the year with some old fashioned Thames town hospitality. So do come out and join in the fun.

This event is free. Please visit the Thames Art Festival website.