North Island: Valentine's Day escape ideas

By Megan Singleton

Russell's Duke of Marlborough Hotel. Photo / Supplied
Russell's Duke of Marlborough Hotel. Photo / Supplied

There's nothing like being back at work to make you think of your next holiday. And since most of us used up our annual leave sloshing around muddy camp sites or hunkering down with DVDs, why not take a long weekend and celebrate Valentine's Day?

The day of love falls on a Tuesday this year and while it may be perfectly justified to ridicule the commercialism of this Americanised day, I say make it your own.

Of course, no one said you have to take a lover. Making it a girls' weekend is probably more fun!

Here are five picks for quick weekend breaks within cooee of Auckland:

Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell

This grand old lady of the Bay of Islands could tell a tale or two of the days when Russell was considered the Hell Hole of the Pacific, when the whalers and sailors cavorted around town. These days the tiny town is peaceful, tranquil, ever so photogenic and the Duke has had a makeover.

Book one of the gorgeous harbour-front rooms with a spa bath and sweeping views and ask the chef to prepare their mouth-watering slow roasted lamb for dining on the deck.

Paihia Beach Resort and Spa, Paihia

The perfect base to explore the far north or the 144 islands that make up the Bay of Islands is Paihia and this place is about as stylish as you'll get. Each room has waterfront views with balconies and an open plan kitchen/dining room/lounge so you can keep your happy hour nibbles in the fridge or even make dinner. But let's face it, who wants to cook when on holiday? As luck would have it, PureTastes restaurant is beside the pool with beautiful sea views and a menu to match. Book a couples massage at La Spa Naturale or wallow in their signature treatment wrapped in Manuka honey, Shea butter and milk.

Ipipiri overnight cruise

Still in the Bay of Islands, this is something very different and sure to earn mega brownie points. This cruising catamaran has four levels, 30 spacious cabins and takes overnight cruises from Opua around these pristine islands. You'll be onboard in time for fresh muffins for afternoon tea while heading out between Paihia and Russell and around the point, depending on where the captain chooses. At night, you'll dine family style in the main lounge then retire to your cabin and sleep with the moonlight flooding your bed. Kayaks and snorkel gear are available and the tender can take you for walks on remote islands.

Chuan Spa Haven at Langham, Auckland

For pure decadence, book one of the Chuan Spa suites at the Langham - right across the hall from Chuan Spa. These rooms are divine with an infinity bath and monster size bed. The separate lounge is where your hor d'oeuvres will be served and you can choose to dine at the Italian restaurant, Barolo, or save yourselves for Eight, which has eight chefs working eight different food stations so you can help yourself all night. Book the three-hour Five Elements Treatment at Chuan Spa and you'll be reaping the rewards for days.

Regent of Rotorua

For a bit of LA in Rotorua, you should stay at the Regent. This former 1960s motel has been refurbished, nay remodelled and blinged up, with rhinestone rhinoceros heads in the chic bar/restaurant under chandeliers and white leather seats. Each funny little room has metamorphosed into something that would not be out of place in the City of Angels and the location is just one block from Eat Streat (aka Tutanekai St) for outdoor dining.

* Megan Singleton is a freelance writer and editor of Travel Blogger at Large.

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