Set amid 6,000 acres of sprawling hills near Matauri Bay (four hours' drive from Auckland), with jaw-dropping vistas of Cape Brett and the offshore Cavalli Islands, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs is as spacious as it’s seductive. Soak up panoramic Pacific Ocean views from this elegant boutique hotel in New Zealand’s North Island, which boasts blissful beaches, a soothing spa and its own championship golf course perched atop the cliffs.
Twenty-two suites (six standard, 16 deluxe), and the two-bedroom Owner’s Cottage.
11am, but flexible subject to availability. Check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1388.74 (NZ$2,852), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates include include pre-dinner drinks with hors d’oeuvres, gourmet dinner, breakfast, lunch, free minibar including domestic beers (excludes spirits and wine) and use of lodge facilities, except spa treatments and use of the golf course.
Don’t miss the uplifting spa, surrounded by verdant totara forest; treatments make use of local mud, minerals, crystals, stones and shells.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, spa, sauna, Jacuzzi, gym, 18-hole golf course, practice range, putting and chipping greens, golf shop, Callaway clubs for hire. Tennis courts, clay-pigeon shooting and mountain bikes. In rooms: TV, DVD/CD player, minibar, Evolu toiletries and private porch.
Our favourite rooms
We’re partial to the six spacious standard suites paired in pretty cottages flanked by forest. All are neutral-toned with comfy armchairs by the fire, walk-in wardrobes, luxe bathrooms and private porches overlooking the sea. But if you fancy more space and your own infinity pool, book into the Two-Bedroom Owner’s Cottage.
Set away from the main lodge for maximum privacy, the infinity pool overlooks the golf course and ocean. But with three secluded swimming beaches nearby and a Jacuzzi, it’s got stiff competition.
Glam golfing threads are a good look here – if you don’t have your own, there's a golf shop at the hotel where you can pick up the latest NZ and global labels, from Fairway & Greene to Polo, Adidas and Footjoy, and clubs can also be hired on site.
The lodge offers two smaller bedrooms (each with twin beds) that are ideal for an entourage of security, drivers or staff. A minimum stay of two nights applies during peak season (15 December to 31 March).
Extra beds can be added to Lodge and Ridge Suites. Under-2s stay free, children aged from 2–5 can stay for NZ$200 (plus 15 per cent tax) a night, for over-6s contact the hotel directly for charges.
A balcony table for island-studded ocean views – they’re all-weather-friendly thanks to heaters and wind shields. In winter, romantics should set up camp by the indoor fireplace.
Glam golfing threads. If you don’t have your own golf gear, there’s a shop at the hotel where you can pick up the latest NZ and global labels, from Fairway & Greene to Polo. Jackets are required for gents for cocktails and dinner.
The Lodge’s dining room has a warm, relaxed farmhouse feel and a great open veranda. Executive chef Barry Frith oversees the daily-changing à la carte menu, which specialises in modern, seasonal, local dishes including New Zealand lamb, beef and seafood. Take advice from the sommelier, as her knowledge and top tips can make your meal one to remember.
Kauri Cliffs’ inviting cocktail hour from 6.30pm is an ideal time to hobnob with fellow guests. There’s no bar as such, but free wine, beers and canapés are served on the veranda to tinkling piano and jazz music.
Around 10pm, but room service and flexible private dining can be arranged.
Kauri Cliffs is in the stunning far north of New Zealand, near the Bay of Islands.
Bay of Islands/ Kerikeri Airport (www.bayofislandsairport.co.nz) is serviced by Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.com.au; 13 24 76) and Air Nelson (www.airnelson.co.nz; +64 3 547 8700) with daily flights from Auckland International Airport. The Lodge is about 30km from the airport.
You can hire a car from Bay of Islands Airport, the drive to the Lodge should take 25 minutes. If you want to drive from Auckland it’ll take three to four hours.
Several helicopter companies operate flights from Auckland to Kauri Cliffs. Transfers can be arranged by the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Whether you’re into keeping fit or just chilling out, there are plenty of activities here to suit your mood. The twin jewels in Kauri Cliffs' crown are golf and the spa, both of which are state of the art. The vast, rolling par 72 championship golf course offers five sets of tees to suit all levels, with 18 holes boasting views of the Pacific Ocean, six of which are played alongside plunging cliffs by the sea (so watch where you hit that ball). The inland holes wind through marsh, forest and farmland, making the most of the magnificent setting. There’s also a world-class practice range, putting and chipping greens, locker rooms and a golf shop, with Callaway clubs for rent. Two tennis courts await if you prefer larger targets or clay pigeon shooting for moving ones.
If you’d rather be pampered, the tranquil, modern spa is nestled at the edge of a Totara forest, overlooking a verdant fern glen and winding stream. Each sleekly designed treatment room has its own shower and changing area, with floor-to-ceiling views outdoors and a private al fresco space where guests can enjoy garden-inspired therapies (by the fire if it's chilly). Treatments include massage, reflexology, facials, pedicures and manicures, with a tea, massage essence, elixir and diffusion oil prepared specially for you. New Zealand’s mud, minerals, crystals, stones and shells all feature in the wellbeing rituals which can be enjoyed alone or a deux if you book in for a couple’s massage. There’s also a sauna, Jacuzzi spa pool, heated indoor lap pool (surrounded by pretty foliage) and fitness centre on hand. If you want more privacy, you can order spa treatments in your suite for 20 per cent extra.
Further afield, you can partake in aquatic activities including sailing around the Bay of Islands, world-famous game fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, and swimming with dolphins.
For landlubbers, staff can arrange riding, sand dune surfing, romantic picnics and scenic walks around the hotel’s grounds and working farm, varying from 10 minute strolls to longer, 2-hour treks, taking in a nearby waterfall, a 700-year-old Kauri tree and secluded surf and pink shell beaches. You can even hunt for possums or wild boar if you feel an Asterix moment coming on. Guided tours of the regions natural and cultural highlights include trips to the North Island's famous Ninety Mile Beach, Tane Mahuta (a famous aged Kauri tree), Doubtless Bay, the Puketi Kauri Forest, Rainbow Falls, Haruru Falls, historic Russell and the Waitangi Treaty House, for fans of Maori history. Helicopter flights will also help you make the most of the lodge’s stunning seaside setting.
Right on the waterfront at pretty nearby Pahia, Kava (+64 9 402 6199), at 78–94 Marsden Road, is worth a visit for its tasty Pacific Rim dishes with European and Asian influences. Overlooking Motumaire Island, it also has a handy adjoining deli for picking up freshly baked treats, great coffee or a picnic. TSample top local wines at award-winning Marsden Estate (+64 9 407 9398; www.marsdenestate.co.nz), at Wiroa Road in Kerikeri. Relax afterwards over lunch in the vineyard restaurant, where estate-grown wines are matched with everything from Thai curry to chargrilled lamb.
They’re not my usual Smith escape accessories, but my golf shoes and gloves are packed at the top of my luggage. I’m also carrying with me an air of expectation: Kauri Cliffs is a luxury golf resort comparable to few others in New Zealand. Large wooden gates open slowly to reveal a lengthy gravel drive, and we pass sheep and cattle grazing in paddocks dotted with pines. Finally, we come to a clearing where the lodge sits atop the cliffs of the North Island’s Matauri Bay. Across a perfectly manicured lawn, Mr Smith and I spy the first indication that this is no ordinary golf resort: two flagpoles bear the US and New Zealand flags, waving in the breeze. With huge smiles and warm handshakes, a member of staff opens the lobby doors, inviting us into what will be our home for the next few days.
The aura is of understated elegance: the dining rooms have roaring fireplaces, the sitting room has enormous, squishy couches, and collections of art and antiques on display give the whole space that personal touch. It has the ambience of an American billionaire’s plantation lodge somewhere in the Deep South, except that when you walk outside on to the veranda there’s the most remarkable vista of the Bay of Islands.
When we’re taken to our room, I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. This is a room you want to steal back home in your hand luggage so nothing gets broken. Every detail is considered: caramel-colour soft furnishings sit against natural timber walls, rattan armchairs with wool throws are arranged before an open fireplace in the sitting room, and the sunken bath looks over a lush, private garden. I’m crazy about the his-and-hers wardrobes, the minibar complete with home-made biscuits for that early morning cuppa, and there’s a terrace with attention-demanding views to the ocean.
The next morning, the sun rises on a picture-perfect day and we gear up for the 18 holes that lie ahead. Paul, the resort pro, talks us through the course. Six holes follow the cliff’s edge, dropping off into the Pacific Ocean. Away from the sea, fairways wind their way through farmland and remnants of rainforest. It’s not hard to see why aficionados from all over the world travel to play here. (Should you tire of the game, there’s a beautiful diversion a 15-minute stroll from the seventh hole: a private beach that’s an exquisite shade of soft pink, the result of pounding waves crushing shells into the tiniest flakes.)
After the ninth, Mr Smith and I are feeling a little peckish, so we drop into the clubhouse. Browsing the menu, we decide on coffees and toasted brie, pesto and roasted vegetable paninis. How special do we feel when it’s suggested we keep playing and someone will deliver our order to us when it’s ready? Sure enough, while I’m putting the tricky 10th, I spot a golf cart loaded up with lunch heading our way. Does holidaying get any better?
Following a tough day on the greens, I decide it’s imperative to treat ourselves. It’s not just the golfing that’s world-class here; the spa is as good as it gets. Walking through a tranquil subtropical garden at the edge of a totara forest, we notice quails skipping over the pathways that lead to the spa. The verdant views even extend to the inside. The treatment rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows looking into a grove of ferns and over a trickling stream. Spa manager Glenda explains the treatment menu, putting me in a spin. Do I have a body massage or indulge in a facial and foot reflexology alfresco by the outdoor fireplace? In the end, our busy golfing schedule makes the decision for us. Mr Smith and I only have time for a sauna and soak in the Jacuzzi. Regardless, it still feels quite decadent.
Earlier, wandering through the main lodge, I’d noticed a room decked out like an African-themed den. ‘Wouldn’t that be a nice spot to have a private dinner,’ I’d thought as I took in the fireplace and sumptuous couches. That evening, after cocktails and canapés with the other guests, Mr Smith and I are escorted into this very enclave – the Tiger Room. The perfect table for two has been laid in front of that flickering fire. Taking a peek at the five-course menu, I become quietly excited: Peking duck consommé; Japanese tempura quail with wasabi, avocado and ponzu; Hawke’s Bay rack of lamb with potato gratin, spinach and rosemary.
On our final morning, as the first rays of sunlight touch my shoulder through the bamboo blinds, I listen to the morning calls of the native birds and make a promise to myself: I’ll be back to conquer the 18th hole. As I cast my eyes around the pure luxury of our gorgeous suite, I give Mr Smith a warm cuddle and secretly plan our next date at Kauri Cliffs.
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