NZ getaways: Take it easy

By Megan Singleton

Think long weekend, think great escape. Megan Singleton recommends four getaway destinations.

Waoku Lodge proves there's more to Raglan than surfing. Photo / Trevor Penfold
Waoku Lodge proves there's more to Raglan than surfing. Photo / Trevor Penfold

It seems ages since we had a long weekend, robbed as we were of Waitangi Day, and with Anzac Day being absorbed into Easter we are little hard done by, to say the least.

But four days is still plenty of time for a drive of no more than four hours from Auckland to enjoy some quality rest and relaxation with your family, friends or just your partner.

Bay of Islands Lodge

Head north to the Bay of Islands and enjoy the seclusion of a clifftop property at Paihia with stunning views over native bush to the Veronica Channel. Owner and chef Peter Meier came here from the Australia's Hunter Valley and built Bay of Islands Lodge in 2005.

He had been the award-winning chef at Casuarina, where he was known as the Flambe King and would cook your meal right at the table.

These days it's a little more relaxed and more about mixing with other guests who are staying in the four guest rooms and enjoying the infinity pool that drops off into the ocean views.

Peter and his Kiwi wife, Glennis, serve dinner help-yourself-style at a big table in the open-plan kitchen/dining room.

Asking the guy across from you to pass the the seared beef is a natty way to break the ice - or any ice that hadn't already been broken over a pre-dinner drop of the local sauvignon. During the day you can take a ferry across the bay to Russell, then head five minutes up the road to Waitangi - the official birthplace of New Zealand - or just potter around the shops and cafes of Paihia.

Takatu Lodge, Matakana

Even without the famous weekend farmers' market, Matakana is packed with things to do. Or you can just do nothing except enjoy a long weekend at this architecturally designed lodge set in the middle of a vineyard.

Owners John and Heather Forsman offer all their guests a glass of their own boutique wines (their rosé is so good that Peter Gordon bought the lot for his London restaurant, sorry).

The main dining and reception area has a cosy open fire and the living-room has ceilings as high as the moon. French doors lead to a patio with the vineyard at the end of the front lawn.

The luxurious suites also have French doors opening on the vines and even the decadent bathtubs have a view.

A few minutes' drive from Takatu Lodge is the rugged and beautiful Tawharanui Beach, or go to tiny Buckleton's Beach for fish'n'chips and a glass of wine. Not far away is Snell's Beach, where the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail is well worth a visit.

Or you can venture to Goat Island for a snorkel, dive or a glass-bottom boat tour. Or call at Charlies Gelato Garden for home-made gelato before making your dinner plans.

Waoku Lodge, Raglan

If you thought the seaside town of Raglan was only for wetsuit-clad tattooed surfers, think again. Just two hours' drive south of Auckland (about 40 minutes from Hamilton) is this rugged west-coast beach - with a little piece of luxury overlooking Whale Bay.

Rob and Sharon Southern have done wonders with his once rundown property and turned Waoku Lodge - about 8km out of Raglan at Indicator's Point - into a luxury bed and breakfast that Travel + Leisure magazine put in its top 40 best affordable beach resorts.

With only three suites, two with private spa pools on the veranda overlooking the ocean, this is a breathtaking spot.

There is a fully functioning kitchen in each suite so you can choose a self-catering stay or have Sharon whip up one of her fabulous meals.

At 7pm, after the sun had gone down and the spa pool was bubbling away for later, Rob arrived with an amazing warm crab and crayfish dip with caviar served in a paua shell. Then he lit the candles and set up our romantic table for two, and returned later with a delicious dinner.

This is a place to come if you really want to get away.

Soak in the spa pool, do the crossword, watch telly, hunker down if it's stormy and watch the whitecaps race to shore, or pop into Raglan and suss out the arts and crafts before returning for happy hour - and another spa.

Pohutukawa Lodge, Coromandel

Just out of Coromandel town is tiny and secluded Kuaotunu Beach. The dairy sells great icecreams and I challenge any grown man to take on the five-scoop Kuaotunu Killer and get through it.

If it's a long weekend break you're after with the kids, or perhaps two other couples, book at Pohutukawa Lodge, a huge family holiday home built in 2008 by John and Wendy Buchan. It can sleep 10, although that includes bunk beds in some rooms. This fabulous spot has wraparound decks on two levels and a giant pohutukawa tree, which is merged into the outdoor living and lit at night. It's self-catering and the kitchen is well stocked with cookware, spices, tea and coffee.

Kuaotunu used to be a thriving gold mining town and bush walks off Waitaia Rd lead to an abandoned mine, glow-worm caves and a kiwi sanctuary. And it's only 15km over the hill to Whitianga - home of the Scallop Festival in September.

* See bookabach.co.nz (ref 7202).

- NZ Herald

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