Kauri Cliffs is one of the top luxury lodges in the world. Its golf course is globally ranked among the top 50. Sarah Daniell travelled north and found seven wonderful things to do while there.

We start at the end. The last chapter where you have stuffed your clothes - which seem to have expanded and become heavier - back into the bags you unpacked just days ago.

Just days ago, you'd hung up the dresses and jackets in the wardrobe the size of a city apartment.

You'd lined up your shoes on the tawny carpet, with a kind of devotion to order and tidiness you would never bother with at home.

Back then, at the beginning, the weekend and its possibilities stretched out before you into infinity, like the lodge's heated pool.

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At the end, when it comes, you reluctantly hand over the key. At the end, you say goodbye to all the good people who have made you feel like a rock star, so convincingly that you started to believe it.

Somewhere between the end and the joyous beginning, these are the magical things to do at Kauri Cliffs. In no particular order ...

The picnic

We were meant to take a golf cart from the lodge to the 7th hole and walk the half-hour track to Pink Beach, where we would be met with a picnic basket, wine, and towels.

But we were slow to emerge from the cocoon of the spa, so Thomas, an unfailingly polite Frenchman, drove us to the beach, where the immaculately presented provisions were waiting on a table overlooking the ocean.

The ocean is raging so there'll be no swim today. Pink Beach is so named for its pearly pale pink shells.

There are huge pohutukawa trees, which we shelter under - first, from the sun and then, 15 minutes later, from pelting rain.

The view down to Pink Bay. Photo / Supplied
The view down to Pink Bay. Photo / Supplied

The OC

"You are our celebrities today," says Boyd, as he places our picnic basket, wine and icebucket, on the outside table at the OC (Owner's Cottage) under the vast verandah.

The spa and infinity pool overlook the 10th hole. Beyond that is farmland and the Pacific.

Many famous people have stayed here, including Tara Banks, of America's Next Top Model, and Lynda Carter, aka Wonder Woman.

We are in the OC because Boyd rescued us from a picnic at Pink Beach (see above) when the heavens opened.

Just when we were thinking we'd be pretty soaked, but feeling carefree and happy nonetheless, Boyd suddenly materialised like a CIA agent, in a swish Land Rover.

He manfully gathered up everything, including us, and said, with the ease and confidence of someone who watches the weather, knows the terrain, or possibly has a sixth sense: "I'll take you to the OC where you can relax for however long you like."

The cottage is a small version of the lodge - a modest, single-storey Southern mansion, with masses of books and art by the likes of Stanley Palmer, Peter Beadle and Bryan Poole.

Boyd leaves us to it, saying to ring whenever we are ready and he will have someone pick us up.

We sit outside and watch entranced, as just metres away, two predatory hawks are shown off the premises by a plover protecting her nest.

Sunset at Kauri Cliffs. Photo / Supplied
Sunset at Kauri Cliffs. Photo / Supplied

The spa

We walk the short trail through native bush to the spa and are greeted by Michele and Claudia, our massage therapists.

Our "couples room" looks out on to a private heated courtyard, where you can sit afterwards and contemplate the life you have right now. I can honestly say it is the best massage. Ever.

Michele and Claudia use a specially formulated manuka honey balm for our treatment and there is a range of indigenous, plant-based products.

The spa cleverly incorporates the surrounding native bush and understated design to create an alluring and intimate haven.

Adjoining the spa is a gym and a sexy rectangular swimming pool. If you would like to come to the gym or take a swim at 2am, says Michele, you just need to ring reception and they'll open it up for you.

Any time of the day or night. Many of the minted guests are on a punishing jet-lagged schedule so there are no such words in the Kauri Cliffs lexicon as "Closed"or "I'm sorry, that's not possible".

Golf

When Julian Robertson, an American philanthropist, first arrived at the farmland that he and his late wife Josie would transform into a glorious retreat, it was a terrible day.

The view was obscured by a blanket of cloud and rain. It wasn't till he returned, some time later, that he saw That View.

Julian has dedicated the course to its designer, David Harman of Golf Course Consultants, in Florida.

It's a par 72 championship course, and of the 18 holes, 15 have views of the Pacific - the beaches and the Cavalli Islands and Cape Brett.

It's hard to overstate how spectacular a walk this is. The Robertson's have created a paradise within paradise.

From the large plantation-style lodge, along the bush-fringed pathway to the 11 elegant suites, to the immaculate golf course, this place is undeniably a class act, made with love.

It's for golfers but also for anyone. We tee off just after 1pm. I caddy, have the odd shot, but mostly stare open-mouthed at the view. There is not a single golfer in sight.

We stop just before the 10th to finish the bottle of wine we left behind at lunch. Michael greets me and before I have a chance to say anything he says, Sarah, Room 11?

I will bring your wine out for you. A sixth sense is obviously a prerequisite to working here.

Wining and dining are perfectly matched. Photo / Supplied
Wining and dining are perfectly matched. Photo / Supplied

Wining and dining

Each day the menu changes. Our table does not. We opt, day and night, breakfast, lunch or dinner, to sit at a covered, outside table where we can see the surf roll in and the stars in the glittering sky.

Swiss-Argentinian sommelier Valeria tells us she sees a lot of similarities between wine and people.

Sometimes, she says, "people think someone in my job must be so pretentious. But it is not like that for me.

There is a magic in wine, and you see that with people too." Drinking good wine is transformative.
The lodge cellar proudly stocks a vast selection of New Zealand wines. Valeria suggests we try the 2013 Te Koko Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, which is a leap for us, who wouldn't cross the road to drink sav blanc.

But we feel compelled to try this one. It's aged in French oak, and minerally rather than graspy, she says.

And it goes perfectly with our entrees. We try the tasting of local kingfish three ways: tartare, tataki and marinated in horseradish dressing.

Next there is braised Northland squid, served with a tomato and basil fondue.

The hapuku is pan-fried and served with an Indian laksa. Valeria matches my venison loin with a Dry River pinot noir.

From here to infinity, one of two pools. Photo / Supplied
From here to infinity, one of two pools. Photo / Supplied

The infinity pool

There is another pool in the main part of the lodge. But there is no one there except us.

The way the lodge is designed - and the activities available over the 2400ha of private land (horse riding, mountain biking, helicopter fishing) - mean you rarely have to share your space with anyone.

Which is great because I also forgot my togs and have to wear what hopefully passes for a black bikini, but isn't.

We interrupt the tranquillity by diving into the main pool, heated nicely to about body temperature, then plunge into the hot tub. Sip cocktails. Sigh.

The Kauri tree

Age doesn't matter, unless you are a kauri tree 600-700 years old. Then age is just awe-inspiring. It's a miracle this one wasn't felled years ago, along with all the others.

This land was once covered in kauri along with other grand natives like totara, rimu and puriri.

The kauri is fenced off, like a giant celebrity on a carpet of moss and lichen, and to see it is like having an audience with royalty.

This tree - its girth measures about 9m - was saved to mark the grandeur of what once was. Its 10ha stand of native bush has been donated to the Queen Elizabeth Trust so it can be preserved.

We walk back through the forest and farmland, back to the champagne-hued suite and contemplate how, if we hid in the wardrobe, they would not even notice.

The lowdown

Kauri Cliffs Lodge, Matauri Bay
Voted by readers of Conde Naste Traveler to be among the best in the world
One of three lodges, with Cape Kidnappers and Matakauri
For more information, visit here

Lodge Life Special at Kauri Cliffs and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, May 1-September 30.

To reserve, contact:
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs: (09) 407 0010 or reservations@kauricliffs.com

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers: (06) 875 1900 or reservations@capekidnappers.com