Fasten your seat belt – you're in for a wild flight, er, stay, at this new and playful "un-airport hotel". It's the first overseas spin-off of the Singapore Naumi boutique-cum-design hotel brand, the flagship property of which sits near the city state's legendary Raffles Hotel. In addition to its Auckland Airport establishment, the Naumi group is set to open more city-based hotels in Australasia, including two in the Kiwi capital of Wellington.
The 193-room hotel (motto: "Anything but ordinary") is about a 10-minute drive from Auckland International Airport – a mini-hub in its own right to destinations such as the Americas and the Pacific Islands, as well as domestic New Zealand destinations – and offers a shuttle service at most times of the day and night.
Material Creative, the imaginative Kiwi team behind Naumi Auckland Airport Hotel, was clearly granted an enormous amount of latitude to transform the sprawling, decades-old former Grand Chancellor site. The Naumi's design concept draws inspiration from flight, not from an aircraft – as perhaps befitting an airport hotel – but in the feathered form of the tui, a native New Zealand bird. Beyond the reception, where there's a large cage of finches (yes, really), there's a sizeable central swimming pool and even a small putting green.
My relatively restrained 30-square-metre Oasis room is one of five room concepts, including one that's a spotty tribute to the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and her dotty creations. In keeping with the tui design concept, a model of one is attached to the outside of the front door of the rooms.
Inside my dark-toned room are chic designer-style furnishings and fittings, a super king bed wrapped in Egyptian cotton sheets and a bathroom featuring an in-vogue freestanding bathtub and designer-style rain shower. There's also a Vittoria Espresso coffee machine and a mini bar with gratis soft drinks. You could hardly ask for more.
The hotel's restaurant and bar, Paksa, which means "wing of a bird" in Sanskrit and is a nod to the Singapore-based Indian owners of Naumi, occupies a substantial amount of space in the light-bathed middle of the main building. Specialising in an impressive range of Asian-inspired dishes, Paksa is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 6am to 10pm, which means you can partake in an airline-meal-avoiding feed before you fly. There's even a bento box lunch option for those on the wing to the airport.
It's possible to head into the city centre from here in suburban Mangere, but chances are the only stepping out you'll be doing is that which involves transfers to and from the airport. Sit (or lie) back and enjoy the hotel for the limited time you're here.
This hotel, which could conceivably market itself as an "airport resort" due to its size and facilities, is as over the top as a Dreamliner at 30,000 feet. It's also a lot of fun and brave to boot. It succeeds in upending the concept of the once dreary, if not downright depressing, airport hotel model while at the same time providing a comfortable place to stay. We'll be watching with interest, if not a teeny bit of trepidation, as the other Naumi hotels take flight.
Doubles from $NZ242, but check the hotel website for special offers. Naumi Hotel Auckland Airport, 153 Kirkbride Road, Mangere, Auckland. See naumihotels.com
The hotel's eccentric design and personality is a refreshing and whimsical change from the conventional airport hotel model.
The hotel's eccentric and irreverent design may be too much for the more conservative traveller who merely desires a bed between flights.
The writer was a guest of the Naumi Hotel Auckland Airport.