Te Arai Lodge is a nature-nurturing eco-retreat that transports you to Tuscany, thanks to beamed ceilings in the Great Room, rolling hills that descend from the ridge-top vantage point and a cellar filled with local vintages. The warm welcomes and home-grown organic fare you’ll get from the owners – two generations of the Moores family – has a soupḉon of Sicily about it, too. But that’s about where the Italian comparison ends, because Te Arai’s breathtaking cliff walks, towering native forests and surfers’ paradise coastline are pure New Zealand.
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A locally hand-crafted ceramic gift and a healing balm made from native Kawakawa herbs
Check-out is at 11am and check-in is from 2pm. Both can be flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £936.40 (NZ$1,800), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates include daily cooked or continental breakfast, pre-dinner antipasto platter, pre-dinner cocktail and three-course dinner each evening with non-alcoholic drinks and craft beers. There's an extra charge for wine and spirits.
The gym, equipped with full-length mirrors and a ballet bar, is where owner Kathy and elder son Doug lead classes in yoga, Pilates and t’ai chi – feel free to use the free weights, rowing machine, stationary bike and TRX in your own time too.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, on-site parking, yoga studio, gym, infrared sauna, cedar hot tub, bocce court, mountain bikes, kayaks, SUP boards, surfboards and binoculars. In rooms: beach kits (parasol, Turkish towel, reusable water bottle, eco-friendly sunblock and sunhats), SkinCeuticals bath products, free WiFi, free minibar drinks and snacks, tea and coffee, Sonos speakers and TV with Netflix.
Our favourite rooms
With just three suites, each sporting spectacular views and heavenly beds, you really can’t go wrong. If pushed, we’d request either the Kōtare Cottage or the Kererū Suite for their honeymoon-worthy private terraces with outdoor bath tubs.
The heated 20-metre outdoor pool is surrounded by sunloungers. From here, you’ll have sweeping views over the forest treetops to the sea. There’s also an outdoor cedar hot tub for soaking sore muscles or savouring a sundowner.
In-room massages and facials are available with advance notice – or slink to the sauna for all the health benefits of the infrared heat.
Bring stay-put swimwear for the pounding surf and waterproofs in case the rain rolls in.
Unfortunately, due to steep steps, the lodge isn’t suitable for wheelchair users.
Te Arai is an adults-only lodge, for ages 16 and over.
We hardly have space to count the community, conservation and environmental efforts of this eco-loving lodge – the owners built the entire house with sustainable materials, sowed over 4,500 native plants and trees, donate a portion of profits to forest preservation, organise regular beach clean-ups, use chemical-free cleaning products, grow most produce in their organic gardens, press their own olive oil and make their own honey. Oh, and the slippers in your room are compostable. Suffice to say, the Moores family is passionate about preserving these pristine surroundings for generations to come.
In the evenings, cosy up by the fireplace in the Great Room with your antipasti platter and a glass of red wine.
Come as you are at this informal home from home.
‘Garden-to-table’ is the ethos at Te Arai – what doesn’t come from the organic gardens is sourced from local farms and suppliers: line-caught fish, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. In the evenings, you’ll gather round the table in the Great Room for family-style meals with the Moores and your fellow guests. If you’re seeking privacy, you can choose to eat in your suite or outside on the terrace.
The locavore and health-conscious menu changes with the seasons, so no two meals will be the same, but a typical supper might include coconut-crusted salmon, roasted root vegetables and miso broccoli, with gluten-free cheesecake and freeze-dried raspberries to finish.
Chef Nicola and owner Vince just happen to be cocktail wizards with a penchant for using fresh garden herbs in their concoctions. Ask for an All Black G&T made with Scapegrace Black Gin or a glass of something local from the well-stocked wine cellar for taking out to the terrace at sunset.
Don’t bother watching the clock – there are no set mealtimes at this leisurely lodge.
Breakfast or dinner can be served in your suite – there’s a selection of delicious snacks and drinks in your minibar, too, all free of charge.
On the far northern fringes of Auckland, Te Arai is a remote spot sporting white-sand beaches popular with surfers, rolling hills that hark to Tuscany and native forests bristling with birdlife.
It’s less than two hours’ drive from Auckland airport, New Zealand’s international hub. The lodge can arrange private car transfers on request, for an extra charge.
Auckland’s Strand station is a 90-minute drive – the Northern Explorer train serves Hamilton and Wellington.
A car will be crucial, as you’ll want to motor to Mangawhai and Matakana to explore their beaches and boutiques, respectively. Rent one at Auckland airport; the lodge has free parking on-site.
Worth getting out of bed for
Nature lovers and adrenalin junkies, rejoice – the lodge is kitted out with every kind of amenity for adventure. Beach babies can take the stand-up paddleboards and a picnic to the untouched white-sand beaches in Te Arai or Mangawhai. If you’d like to tackle a tuna or catch a kingfish, the Mokohinau Islands are a sport-fishing paradise, 25 miles offshore. Book in with Tony and Bea at Offshore Adventures for a day at sea trawling these famous fishing waters.
Cyclists should buddy up to owner Vince – he’s conquered countless countries on two wheels and can point you to the best routes for the free-to-borrow mountain bikes; switch to the sand-busting fat bikes for cruising Te Arai beach at low tide.
If you prefer two feet to two wheels, drive 20 minutes north for the Mangawhai Cliff Walk or Tanekaha Walking Tracks, where panoramic views and heart-hammering hills await. But you don’t need to leave the lodge if nature-watching is your bag: binoculars and a New Zealand bird book are provided in every suite – top marks if you can spot a kōtare (kingfisher), a kererū (wood pigeon) or a pīwakawaka (fantail), all resident in the surrounding podocarp forest.
And for a different kind of birdie, there are two world-famous golf clubs – Mangawhai and Tara Iti – less than 10 minutes’ drive away.
With breakfast, an evening antipasto platter and three-course dinner all included in your rate, you won’t want to venture far from the lodge in case you miss something home-cooked and heavenly coming out of the kitchen.
The main town, Matakana (40 minutes by car), is well worth a visit. Every Saturday sees the bustle of the villagefarmers’ market – a zero-waste, gourmet paradise that shines a light on local farmers and artisanal goodies. And just outside town is the Brick Bay Winery, a family-owned vineyard that sports a sculpture trail, award-winning restaurant and farm store.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this eco-lodge on New Zealand’s North Island and unpacked their surf-battered swimsuits and Lululemon leggings, a full account of their remote retreat will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Te Arai Lodge in Auckland…
Te Arai Lodge was just a bare plot of land when wanderlusting couple Vince and Kathy Moore bought it 15 years ago. After meticulously sourcing the most eco-friendly materials on the market (like local Te Kuiti limestone), summoning sustainable suppliers and nurturing the birdlife in the native podocarp forest, their luxury lodge was finally finished. The family ties to Te Arai must run deep, as the next generation are all involved as well: eldest daughter Nicola is the manager and chef, elder son Doug is the marketing and fitness guru, and younger son Harry will take you on adventurous trout-fishing excursions in nearby streams. In fact, after just a few hours at this haute homestay, you’ll feel like part of the multi-talented Moores family, too.