It was one of those moments.
The Milky Way glittered so perfectly, so extravagantly, it could have been a CGI creation for the movies.
Across the dark, calm sea, the floodlit flagpole at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds jutted proudly skywards.
It was a view to take your time over. And we were in no hurry to leave the Provenir restaurant at the Paihia Beach Resort, our bellies stuffed with oysters, duck and steak, our senses happily dulled by a glass or three of Spy Valley sav.
You probably had to be there. Let's just say that had Donald Trump got his tiny hands on another of his Moabs and sent it our way by mistake, it would've been a fine last supper.
Thankfully it wasn't the end of the world.
And I appreciate that when it comes to Trump, not much is funny.
He's about as amusing as the line of traffic snaking out of Auckland on a long weekend. A bearable three-hour journey became four-and-a-half and the requests from the four-year-old in the back to have Bad Jelly the Witch on high rotate didn't help.
If you're going to brave that, it has to be worth it. Thankfully the Bay of Islands is.
As a southerner, it feels traitorous committing it to print, but it's my favourite part of New Zealand. Possibly because I spent the first 17 years on the planet in the land-locked, mountainous central South Island, but probably because the Bay of Islands is a place I associate with celebrations.
I spent my 30th birthday with friends at an amazing luxury lodge there (the weekend spiced up no end by a love triangle gone wrong), got engaged there, and hit the water for a Champagne cruise for my 40th. Most recently we were there for the glorious wedding of some dear friends. (No love triangles that I know of, but some interesting romantic situations nonetheless).
This time we were staying at the very flash Paihia Beach Resort, around the corner and over the small hill from the busy shops and tourist end of town.
It's always a little nerve-wracking taking a small person somewhere so nice. Here, everything was perfect.
We had comfy beds in a large room on the second-floor. Our beachside deck had a glorious view of Te Ti Bay, where every morning we watched kayakers, fishers, and jetskiiers kick-start their day.
The food at fine-dining Provenir was stunning. Even the 4-year-old did us proud, scoffing olives and smoked fish pate and using plenty of pleases and thank yous. He was so good I pretended I didn't see the fingers-hot chips-tomato sauce combo.
And there was time for pampering. At the resort's La Spa Naturale, I got the most blissful fall-asleep-and-dribble facial, and a much-needed neck and shoulder massage.
But the big hit with the small person was the resort's pools — one bigger salt-water pool, edged by five smaller hot pools. We were in them for the first time half an hour after arriving and for the last time half an hour before leaving. I lost track of the number of times we dunked ourselves in between, but over the long weekend it felt like our togs never quite dried and wet towels piled everywhere.
Paihia is the perfect base for an action-packed break.
Kerikeri, Russell, Waitangi. Fishing, cruising or an adrenalin-pumping jetboat ride to the Hole in the Rock. Swimming with dolphins, Tane Mahuta, the Haruru Falls. Urupukapuka Island for lunch and a swim.
And no matter how many times we go, we always discover something new.
This time, on a walk around the bend to the Swordfish Club for beers and fish and chips,
we spotted a sign hammered into the grass that declared itself the spot where the first known game of cricket had been played in New Zealand.
After a summer of cricket — the four-year-old already mastering the art of raising his bat to the invisible crowd when he scored a ton, and asking to go upstairs if he disagreed with a dismissal — we were thrilled to discover it.
The sign said the game, at Horotutu beach in December 1832, was an end-of-school treat, but wasn't a conventional 11-a-side game. Instead, about 50 kids of all ages played in the multicultural match.
When it was time to go home, the little person threw his first tantrum of the weekend, declaring he didn't want to leave.
I knew how he felt.
Five things to do:
• Catch the ferry to Russell. Walk up Flagstaff Hill for stunning views and a history reminder. Then reward yourself with a beer on the deck at the Duke of Marlborough.
• Haruru Falls. Do the dinner cruise and feel the thrill when the boat backs up close and the spray hits your face.
• Hole in the Rock. Or really push the boat out and take a chopper.
• Fish and chips at the Swordfish Club in Paihia (there's a sister outlet in Russell). If you're lucky, your little person will make friends with someone else's little person. And they may even have a game of pool — well if you call rolling the white into the pockets a game of pool. They liked it.
• Tour the historic Waitangi Treaty grounds, and stretch out on the grass with your lunch. New Zealand's best picnic spot.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: Paihia Beach Resort is running a Luxury Winter Escapes Promotion exclusive to Herald on Sunday readers and valid to August 31. Stay any three or more nights booked via the hotel website or direct and receive:
• Upgrade guaranteed to next available room type.
• Spa voucher to the value of $120 at La Spa Naturale.
• Complimentary desserts with each main course at Provenir Restaurant.
• Late checkout till 1pm.
Some Ts&Cs apply (see resort direct)