The feeling you get almost immediately on arrival at Cape Kidnappers is of the dissolution of your desires into the warm bath of luxury, a dissolution facilitated in large part by the sheer number of people whose sole job is to take care of your wants before you're even aware they exist.
The place communicates this message to you from the moment you arrive outside the lodge at the top of the hill in your chauffeur-driven Mercedes to see a staff member waving to you from in front of a golf cart which will soon be laden with your luggage.
Seconds later, it's communicated again, when you round the corner to see the lodge manager also waiting, also waving. He opens your door, guides you through the lodge and its facilities and eventually down to your room. How did you even get there? It's hard to know, so seamless is it. The message is: "There will be no moment while you are here that you will not be taken care of."
OUR ROOM smelled woody, the furnishings and fittings were rustic as if this perfectly designed place had just been thrown together by a mid-century farmer with impeccable taste. It was beguiling luxury, luxury dressed in comfortable clothes, extreme wealth disguised in a pair of gumboots that were made of premium leather.
It was early evening so we changed and headed up the path to cocktails and canapes at the lodge. Even the path was perfect, looking out over a deep gully, native bush and grass all the way to the sea in the mid-distance.
We were welcomed again by the manager, who then passed us gently on to the sommelier as if we were unaccompanied minors on a long-haul flight. We sat in a deep sofa to which waiters flowed with elegantly constructed canapes, which they described with great care as if this was not just a tasty lead in to dinner but a spectacular event in itself, which it was.
We had our 15-month-old baby with us and we didn't want to disturb the other diners, so we were made to feel like there were no other diners. A private dining room was set for us. We were told that if we were more comfortable, we could also dine privately in our room.
We chose the private dining room. A box of toys appeared. A box of toys. In a place like this. The toys were classy, wooden, in muted colours. Our baby was quiet, in a way he almost never is at home, no doubt subdued and calmed by the luxury and comfort and probably the toys.
Chef James Honore has worked most of his career at Robertson lodges. He told me his philosophy was to keep his food local wherever possible. The lodge has its own vegetable garden. When he's looking for inspiration for the menu, which he changes completely every night, Honore says he will often go out into the garden, pick what's good and build a dish literally from the ground up. The food was stupendous, the wine superb.
IN OUR room, the TV is recessed into the wall behind a piece of art which swings open to allow the TV to swing out. If you don't want it, you need never know it's there. The sound comes from multiple speakers set discreetly in the high ceiling, including one in the enormous bathroom.
You can, if you're feeling the freedom of the farm night air, plug your phone in and play your most luxurious Spotify playlist while in the bath, with the adjacent sash window flung open and the night breeze blowing in off the sea and across the farm, directly on to to your face, while you drink one of the Tuatara Coastin' Session IPAs from the complimentary minibar.
A soft toy lamb called Clover had been placed in the cot for Casper.
His love for that sheep was unbounded. He kissed and cuddled it constantly throughout the weekend. He hardly kisses us and we're his parents.
The large, apparently brand-new cot was placed at the foot of our bed so we could share the room, as a family. It was a wonderful thought but the wardrobe, as it turned out was at least the size of a small bedroom, and also plenty big enough for a cot.
In the morning, the sun broke over the horizon across the water, and from our enormous bed we looked right out to that spectacular sunrise without even having to move our heads.
LATER THAT morning we went on a short walk with a bird expert, whose knowledge was so deep and broad and who was so personable that it was like a enjoyable walk with a good friend whose expertise you don't find even slightly annoying.
In the afternoon we took a pleasant driving tour of the property out to the gannet colony on the cliff's edge, with views from high up down to the coast and back around to Napier. Later, Zanna had a massage in the spa on the hill above the main lodge while Casper and I took a walk around the grounds.
A babysitter came to the lodge for our second night, so Zanna and I could have dinner alone.
The mark of a good hospitality operation is that it employs at least one person you don't just like but genuinely want to be friends with. In an ideal world, it's the sommelier, and so it was with Brie. From the moment she told us her nicknames included Briesling and Pinot Brie, I knew I would like her. I asked her for a wine that was thoughtful but stupid and she met that deliberate provocation with a laugh and reformulated it into a perfect wine match.
We engaged her on big questions about life and the nature and meaning of work and she did not politely excuse herself. She did not need to because Cape Kidnappers is set up to allow the staff the time to engage with guests as deeply as guests want.
The food was superb, the wine stupendous.
THE NEXT morning, we drove out in a golf cart across the 18 holes of the Cape Kidnappers course, ranked the number two course in New Zealand and number 28 in the world by Golf Digest magazine. It was 9.30am and there was not another soul on the course. It was almost impossible to stop taking photos.
When we came back an hour or so later, a man was standing next to a van waiting to drive us back to the lodge. We had never seen him before; he could not have had any idea how long we were going to be out there. His job was simply to wait so that we didn't have to.
Once back, we sat in the sun-spattered lounge at the front of the lodge, reading a selection of foreign and local newspapers and magazines. Assistant lodge manager James asked us if we wanted a couple of glasses of something special. We didn't, but that wasn't the point.
Our transfer to the airport was booked for 2pm. We packed up our room and walked up to the lodge at 1.45pm. A chauffeur-driven Mercedes was waiting, James was waiting.
As with all of the preceding 48 hours, we waited for nothing.
On the side
Over the past 20 years, director and winemaker at Martinborough's Escarpment wines Larry McKenna has built up a reputation as a legendary name in the wine world, particularly as a master of pinot. Now, there's an opportunity to spend a weekend at Kauri Cliffs listening to, learning from and drinking with the master. On Saturday afternoon, McKenna will lead a wine tasting, showcasing top examples of his work over his two decades at Escarpment, and that will be followed by a gourmet dinner with wine matches
July 13-15, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
In August, two experts in their fields come together at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers for a weekend focused on showing guests how to put together the ultimate stylish celebration. Floral designer Shane Connolly has been involved in two royal weddings and Bruce Keebaugh has arranged some of the world's most fantastic parties - his organisation The Big Group is the hospitality agency of choice for the royal Families of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. Together, Connolly and Keebaugh will do a series of masterclasses and workshops.
August 10-12, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
September at Kauri Cliffs sees one of New Zealand's greatest and most distinctive sports sailors and members of Team New Zealand Richard Meacham and Kevin Shoebridge for a weekend of insight into the America's Cup and all things yachting. They'll host drinks on Friday night and then on Saturday they'll be in conversation over a five-course tasting dinner with matched wines. Shoebridge was part of the crew of NZL 32 in 1995 when New Zealand won the Cup for the first time and he's the chief operating officer of Team New Zealand, a role he also occupied during last year's successful America's Cup campaign. Meacham has been part of multiple Cup campaigns and was a crew member and key part of the coaching and development team at last year's Cup.
September 7-9, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
For every night stayed at Kauri Cliffs or Cape Kidnappers between now and September 30, you'll get a $400 activity credit to be used for golf, spa treatments, horse riding, land-based fishing, guided walks, Can-Am or quad bike tours, among others. That's on top of what's already included: pre-dinner drinks, canapes, dinner and full breakfast.