Leaving Auckland I head North towards Warkworth heading to Te Arai Lodge, a stunning eco-friendly oasis only 1hour 15 min from Auckland central. Surrounded by over 20 acres of ancient podocarp forest and native bush and birdlife, the lodge had an easy and welcoming atmosphere.
I was greeted by the lovely owners and operators Vince and Kathy who oozed passion for everything in Te Arai. Having spent 10 years traveling the world on adventures and explorations in over 100 countries, the couple along with their adult children settled here on this piece of paradise overlooking the Mangawhai heads and coast. This sustainable lodge has embarked on a long-term pest eradication initiative - trapping possums, stoats and rats, which has resulted in a regeneration of native bird life that now thrives in the region (keep up the good work!).
I enjoyed a tour of the Lodge - the garden was simply delightful with many private dining options for breakfast and dinner overlooking a gorgeous sunset. A 20-metre-long heated pool sits directly below the terrace, and a cedar hot tub set into the edge of the bush. The rooms offer intimate gas fireplaces, air conditioning, complimentary minibar and hot drinks, panama hats and soft bathrobes.
It was a true please to meet Vince and Kathy and imagine the beautifully quaint experience that would follow a weekend getaway to Te Arai Lodge.
Next, I drove further north to the Tututaka Coast where I visited Makoha Retreat, a private villa and oasis of peace and tranquility.
With the beach only a short 5 min stroll directly from the villa, you can paddle in the kayaks, SUP and marvel at the Waka Ama fleet (dragon boats) slicing through the idyllic waters of Tutukaka Harbour.
The master bedroom is situated on the upper level amongst the native Pohutukawa trees and views over the bay with another two bedrooms downstairs with a large lounge area. The main living, kitchen and dining area is also upstairs with beautiful views of the bays and garden.
From there I took the short drive and a quick stop at Whale Bay. The villa is perfect for a summer vacation with family/friends and has amazing views of Whale Bay itself.
Helena Bay Lodge was the next stop, where uber luxury and pristine coastline meet.
The styling ideas were taken from the early European buildings with the use of modern materials. The Main House is decorated with its eclectic artwork and treasures, which have been collected by the owners during their travels around the globe. The spa is simply divine and a true place or relaxation and tranquility. Service is impeccable and onsite activities endless – you will never be bored.
The final stop and overnight for day one was at a little slice of paradise in Opua – Marina Cove
Wendy and Mike have created two beautifully appointed apartments with breath-taking ocean and harbour views. Do allow yourself plenty of deck time to sip a glass of complimentary wine and enjoy the spectacular sunset.
After waking up to a glorious sunrise I was delivered locally sourced breakfast provisions - delicious toasted muesli, seasonal fruit, yogurt (lemon curd is my favourite) , delicious honey, jams, condiments and freshly baked croissants – what a way to start the day!
I set off on a walk to Paihia (40 min) where I stopped by Charlotte’s kitchen which is still a great local favourite for lunch and dinner. I enjoyed a lovely eggplant ravioli with season greens – delicious!
For day two’s visits I started by stopping somewhere on Inlet Road - a newly added home to our exclusive Residence Collection portfolio.
The owners, Georgie and Mark have had the property in their family for many years and now wish to have everyone else experience this slice of heaven that’s only 10 mins from Kerikeri town centre. The interiors are done impeccability and the house can sleep up to 14 which makes this a favourite for multi gens celebrations, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and family holidays. With direct beach access, a jetty, spa pool and pool it allows you to stay onsite, relax and simply enjoy.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs was my next destination and overnight accommodation at the end of day two.
It’s here that I discovered the beauty of panoramic views across the untouched coastline and deep blue ocean. With so many onsite property choices like farm tours, heritage tours, nature walks, land based fishing, picnics at pink beach, surfing – you will be spoiled for choice. The spa is nestled at the edge of a Totara forest, overlooking a verdant fern glen and winding stream and here I enjoyed a very relaxing massage by the lovely Spa Manager, Monika.
Dinner was hosted by our dear friend and assistance lodge manager, Tatsio. With an emphasis on local produce and providers, Frith and his brigade of chefs maintain relatively low food miles with fish often caught and cooked on the same day.
On day 3 I visited the lovely villa, Otaha Beachfront Lodge
A combination of exceptionally well curated and presented contemporary New Zealand design complemented by calming views of the ocean perched in the centre of New Zealand's most historically rich environment. The villa has 5 beautifully appointed bedrooms all with ocean views and may I add that the views are simply stunning. Enjoy a day on a secluded beach with a family picnic or you may like to do a short on property hike through the valleys.
My next stop was at Donkey Bay Inn in Russell which is everything which you never expected.
The rooms are exotically styled with wide views of the bay from your balcony or terrace. Enjoy a glass of the owner’s acclaimed wine, or a Donkey Bay gin while soaking on the two hot water outdoor baths overlooking the bay. This is the ultimate honeymoon getaway, romantic and private.
My last stop and overnight was at Eagles Nest, which has been a favourite for years now in New Zealand.
Eagles Nest is also a multi-award winning New Zealand luxury hotel & retreat is set within a 75 acre estate atop its own private ridge line offering spectacular views of the Bay of Islands.
Four of the five world class villas offers its own private heated horizon edged lap pool, all offering private Jacuzzis, air conditioning, original artworks, home theater system, Eco-store amenities and fully equipped gourmet kitchen. I had the pleasure of a private in villa chef which prepared a delicious tuna tar tar followed by beautifully pan fried Hapuku.
For only a three day getaway, I saw and experienced some of the finest accommodation and luxury lodges in the North Island. With all the amazing onsite experiences, eco-qualities and welcoming hosts, a stay in any of these stunning stops will make for memories to last a lifetime.