A deliciously relaxing hosted stay in the Bay of Islands broadens Sharleen Heijstra's holiday hot list.
I have very fixed ideas on holiday accommodation.
It should be sumptuous, silent and secluded from the real world. So taking a trip to the Bay of Islands was a first for me. Not because, shamefully, it was my first visit to Paihia, but because I would be staying at a fully hosted lodge.
Hosted accommodation is alive and well and usually in spectacular locations with the potential to make your eyes water - and not just from staring into the sunset from your private balcony. At a glance, hosted accommodation can seem pricey, but the price is often all-inclusive.
After our lengthy road trip, we were warmly greeted at the Bay of Islands Lodge by Glennis Meier, who with her husband Peter is owner and host of this property and of Cliff Edge by the Sea, a little further down the road.
We were immediately taken on a whirlwind tour of the luxurious, contemporary lodge, built into the cliff with views to die for. A small but perfectly formed infinity pool lured, but sadly, it was not for us. The house features a gourmet kitchen, spacious bedrooms and all the hi-tech you need, should you be dedicated (or foolish) enough to take your work with you.
Glennis spirited us off down the road to Cliff Edge by the Sea, where enticing aromas announced that Peter was in charge of the kitchen. The menu for the evening was delivered along with a fine glass of wine, and all we had to do was pick a room and freshen up.
Cliff Edge by the Sea has a more homely feel to it, with aged leather couches, antique pieces and a library. Or you can silently marvel at the view of Veronica Channel, the Bay of Islands and Russell.
The tariff includes an open bar - very brave, I thought, yet Peter says no guest has ever abused this, not even the Metallica band member who came to stay.
Dinner was served in the large almost communal living area, and it was a meal to remember. Peter served up course after course of glorious food - hot, fresh bread, tender chicken wrapped in bacon, fresh, buttered asparagus, and delicious fish, all on the menu. Conversation was warm, witty and interesting - with the exception of my husband exclaiming, "This is fantastic, Peter" after every mouthful (although, when a Dutchman compliments a German, you know the food is really something).
After dinner, Peter and Glennis slipped away, leaving the pair of us to marvel at the night views of the water and enjoy soaking in the spa bath.
We thought about tackling the open bar, but, truth be told, dinner had defeated us, and we could do little else than retire to the giant four poster bed and dream of luxury.
A freshly cooked breakfast fortified us for a day spent discovering the delights of Paihia. A trip on the aptly named speed boat Excitor was the highlight, whisking us out to the Hole in the Rock and speeding alongside a pod of dolphins.
The journey home gave me time to update my ideal holiday accommodation hot list.
"Sumptuous, silent and secluded" are still right at the top, but so too is "hosted in the Bay of Islands".
Getting there: Approximately three hours' drive from Auckland, on the Opua Hill.
Things to do: Take the Excitor to the Hole in the Rock.
Visit the Mahoe Cheese shop in Kerikeri.