After a stressful week, all you want to do at the weekend is get out of the city (without driving too far), stay in a comfortable place (without paying too much) and eat some good food. In search of just such a place, the Boyfriend and I stayed at the historic Governors Bay Hotel last weekend. Although it is only about a forty minute drive from Christchurch, once you emerge from the Lyttelton tunnel, which cuts through the Port Hills directly south of the city, you feel like you’re arriving in another, more relaxed world.
With the outward appearance of an old New Zealand country pub, the Governors Bay Hotel has a level of comfort and service that would shame most city hotels. The fact that the bedrooms aren’t en suite may be off-putting for some but, given that their Winter Escape Package – bed, breakfast plus two-course dinner – only costs NZ$150 for a couple this is a small quibble. What’s more important is that the rooms, though small, are cosy and come equipped with solidly comfortable beds, something all too rare in overnight accommodation.
We arrived in the afternoon of a miserable Saturday so the view at that time was nothing to write home about although the roaring open fire in the bar did lift our spirits. Still, the rain lifted enough to allow us a good ramble along the shoreline directly underneath the hotel before we wandered upstairs to our room, legs aching, to read several of the glossy magazines that were piled high in the corridor.
Although it wasn’t a particularly cold evening, another open fire made the simple dining room into a welcoming and intimate setting for a wonderful dinner. Full marks have to be given to the waitress who, in a rugby-mad New Zealand not only turned off the television at the start of what was (apparently) an important match, but who managed to be there whenever she was needed without hovering, allowing us to relax and enjoy our food. And enjoy it we did. Beautifully presented and very tasty, the food at Governors Bay Hotel is far above the level that you might expect in a country setting. I was also delighted to find my beloved Kapiti ice cream on the menu. A few drinks and the tail end of the match (for the Boyfriend – I still don’t know who was playing!) in a packed bar and that was us done for the evening.We woke to a clear, sunny and warm morning, which was a welcome contrast to the previous day’s downpour. With breakfast starting at a relaxed 9am, there was plenty of time for another walk out the elongated Governors Bay wharf before we had to face food again. Just as well, as breakfast almost topped the previous evening’s efforts. Combine free-range eggs and sourdough bread and I’m happy, especially when the kitchen also makes the best porridge I’ve ever found outside my own house. Relaxed and content, we ate outdoors on the veranda, wearing our sunglasses to avoid glare from the intensely blue sea of Lyttelton Harbour before us. Not even 24 hours there, and we didn’t want to leave Governors Bay.Governors Bay Hotel is situated on the Main Road, Governors Bay, Lyttelton. Phone: 03 329 9433