It seems everyone wants to go to New Zealand these days—and understandably so. It’s the ultimate in natural beauty, wonderfully friendly, progressive and super easy to travel around.
Inside of a couple of weeks, one can see glaciers, subtropical forests, volcanic plateaus, dozens of lakes and miles of coastline.
For agents designing itineraries, there’s a real tendency to stick to the tried-and-true routes that take in the geo-thermal wonderlands of Taupo and Rotorua on the North Island, the Marlborough wine region and the spectacularly scenic landscapes of the South Island. And for good reason—these are all truly worth visiting.
The very north of New Zealand, however, is worth taking a closer look. I recently did just this, exploring Northland and The Bay of Islands. It’s up in this part of the country where the Maori and the European settlers first met, exchanging cultures and creating a new nation. Today, the Maori culture is ever-present in this region. The Bay of Islands is a marine playground of 144 islands with big-game fishing, sailing, scuba diving, waterskiing and kayaking. There are also some of the country’s best golf courses in the north including the world-class Kauri Cliffs course, plus horseback riding, and whale and dolphin watching (in season).
Among the most worthwhile tourist attractions in the area are the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (where the first accord between the British Crown and the Maori people was signed) and Waipoua Forest, preserving some of the best examples of kauri forest remaining in New Zealand.
Northland is home to several unimaginably beautiful properties. At all of these, your clients can settle in and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the region or take their pick of adventures right outside their doors. All four have exceptional food and wine experiences. You can easily reach them from the Kerikeri Airport (KKE), which is a 35-minute scheduled flight from Auckland International Airport (AKL).
Less than an hour’s drive from KKE, the 75-acre Eagles Nest retreat (eaglesnest.co.nz) has just five villas, all with fabulous views over the Bay of Islands. Each one (ranging in size from one bedroom to three and four bedrooms) is designed with natural materials and walls of glass to blend into the surrounding gardens and foliage. They are filled with ultra-luxe furnishings and conversation-piece artwork. Four of the five have their own heated infinity pools and private jacuzzis, home cinema systems and gourmet kitchens where personal chefs prepare Pacific-inspired cuisine to your client’s liking. The property is within walking distance of historic Russell, a great little village with shops and cafes.
Sprawling over a thousand acres of farmland, beaches, native beach and bird sanctuaries are The Landing Residences (thelandingresidences.com), four self-contained houses. This voluminous property—with headlands dropping into the sea—is on the southern tip of the Purerua Peninsula in the Bay of Islands, a half-hour by car from Kerikeri Airport. The residences vary in size, including The Boathouse right on the water’s edge, which sleeps four; the Vineyard Villa (six); Gabriel Residence (eight); and Cooper Residence accommodates 12. All four have their own private grounds, plus expansive views of the sea and surrounding farmland. Onsite personal chefs prepare masterpiece meals, utilizing local crops and agriculture; wine tastings can be arranged.
Built in the grand Colonial style on a world-class golf course, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs (kauricliffs.com) near Matauri Bay feels like a private country club. The golf course has 18 holes—15 of which have views of the Pacific Ocean, six of which are played right alongside plunging cliffs. There are 22 suites and a 2-bedroom owner’s cottage. Each suite has its own porch, bedroom and sitting area with a fireplace. Kauri Cliffs also has three secluded swimming beaches, a spa amidst a totara forest and its own giant kauri tree. It’s less than half an hour’s drive from Kerikeri airport. If you prefer helicopter, the lodge has its own EC 130 that can be arranged to meet international or domestic flights in/out of AKL.
Just opened in October 2016, Helena Bay Lodge (helenabay.com) is a stunning property overlooking Helena Bay and the South Pacific Ocean. It has five villa suites, accommodating a total of five couples at a time. The main house and suites are filled with art that the owners have collected on their world travels, and highlight of any stay here are the meals. The Lodge has brought the Michelin-starred Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890 of Southern Italy here with chef Michele Martino at the helm. Closest airport to Helena Bay is Whangarei Airport (WRE) about a 40-minute drive away; Kerikeri Airport is a 90-minute drive. But the dreamiest approach is via helicopter. Helena Bay has its own Augusta Westland AW109S Grand, which can get your clients from AKL in under 45 minutes—a glorious way to arrive and surround themselves in the sensational scenery.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Westport, CT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.