The upper level at Sandy Shores is a huge apartment - not a hotel or motel (this is really miscategorised here), it's more a whole floor of a quite large house. It's also good value for money in what is typically a very expensive town for accommodation; it would comfortably take four people (two couples) which would make it a bargain at NZ$170, or a bit over $40 each per night. In fact one of the main reasons I stayed here was that it was only about $30 dearer than the town's basic motel rooms that offered few extras.
This place is right on the beach with a really nice outlook; in fact the photos on the website don't do it justice. It's about a five minute easy, flat walk to the town's main shopping strip, or about a one minute drive. The place itself is clean and safe, and while it's located on a main road it's not that busy, with very little traffic at all after dark. The proprietor was polite and pleasant.
Some of the strong points included extensive Sky Pay TV reception on a big Panasonic TV, an excellent self-catering option with a full kitchen including heaps of gadgets and accessories, very nice towels, good quality toilet paper, and seemingly unlimited wifi with a good strong signal. Sitting out on the balcony overlooking Mercury Bay in the evening with the lapping waves, or taking in the morning sun over a cup of coffee was decidedly pleasant.
The negatives were mainly minor whinges only. There was some detritus of summer left around (namely dead bugs in some of the light fittings). There were a couple of blown light bulbs, most annoyingly one out on the balcony right above the table. The floor in the shower was creaky and the taps in the sink were a bit stiff. The sound goes through the floors reasonably easily, so the people above were quite audible pottering around, and the people below undoubtedly had the same experience. There was no fan in the bathroom so it fogs up when you shower, and while soap was provided, there were no other toiletries supplied (e.g., shampoo) so make sure you remember to pack that stuff. There was no air-conditioner, and while this was certainly not needed while I was there, I'm not sure what it would be like in summer with lots of glass for the sun to beam through; having said which, lots of places in town on the beach didn't seem to have air-con either, so maybe it's not really necessary in the Whitianga climate. Furnishings and decorations were a bit twee and perhaps not to everyone's taste, but each to their own. No bedside clocks were provided in the bedrooms.
As I said, these are mainly pretty minor complaints, and many are more just questions or matters of taste. Overall I would certainly recommend the Sandy Shores Apartments - in fact it's one the few, and maybe the only, accommodation place I've ever yet rated five on TripAdvisor.