New Zealand's most exclusive new tourist lodge opens today and will take guests from November 1.
Helena Bay in the Bay of Islands is a $50 million-plus development 40 minutes north of Whangarei, south of the Bay of Islands, north of Whananaki, down a private winding driveway off the back road to Russell.
"The property features 3km of pristine coastline, four private beaches and many intimate coves," the lodge's marketing material says. "National Geographic Traveler Magazine ranked this location second-equal in The World's Top Rated Islands, Coastlines and Beaches."
The resort is set to take only about 10 guests at a time and a villa suite from November 1 to April 30 next year is being advertised at $3500/night for a single occupancy and $3850/night for a double occupancy.
Many furnishings inside the new lodge were imported from Russia (custom-made floral neutral-tone linen drapes) Italy (coffee tables, cabinets, drawers and other furniture) and the Middle East (rugs).
But New Zealand materials are also prominent throughout. For example, lounge side tables and a 6m 14-seat outdoor dining table are made from 3000-year-old swamp kauri.
One handmade kauri hall table in the main lodge is 5m long, standing on curved stainless steel legs.
The lodge general manager is Neil McFarlane, who is originally from Dunoon on Scotland's west coast and knows about hospitality, having been a former luxury cruise yacht captain and working in various locations around the world.
The lodge's development was headed by Chris Seel, of project manager Northland Coastal Developments. Four houses were built for Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov in the project which employed hundreds of people in the area.
Today's opening will involve a number of tangatawhenua from Ngati Wai, whose marae is on a nearby property and who have expressed support for the development.