It's been a trip down memory lane for Sir Michael Hill who arrived in his Whangārei hometown last week on his superyacht The Beast.
Hill and his family arrived aboard his 40m luxury catamaran last week from Auckland and spent four blissful days at Smugglers Bay fishing, swimming, kayaking and walking.
"We came up from Auckland and pulled into Smugglers where we spent four nights and did quite a bit of fishing and a lot of walking. These walks are world-class."
Hill was born in Whangārei and lived on Beach Rd and at Waikaraka. After working in the Fishers family jewellery store, his career launched with his first Michael Hill Jeweller store in downtown Whangārei in 1979.
Today there are more than 300 stores nationally and internationally and he has now retired in Arrowtown with wife Christine.
"I lived in Whangārei for 40 years and it never ceases to amaze me how beautiful the place is," he said before departing Port Nikau yesterday.
"The good thing is it's the best secret in the world but the difficulty is where we can put our boat. However, if the wind is right, we can put it at Smugglers and It's the most beautiful place.
"It's probably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We're so lucky in New Zealand and Whangārei and the fishing is extraordinary along with the scallops – you've got everything really and it's just made me realise how lucky we are," he said.
"Queenstown/Arrowtown is the most heavenly place and very different but there's something about here. We just love the place. I quite miss it, to be honest."
This was the first time Hill had been on board The Beast since March and, en route, he and his crew visited and kayaked around the Mokohinau Islands and were amazed by the caves and water clarity.
After their stay at Smugglers Cove, the boat was moored at Port Nikau. While in town, Hill visited his store and was impressed with how it was being run. Likewise, his beloved Waikaraka home which he revisited.
"We met with the owners and they took us on a tour and they've been looking after the place beautifully."
He was also impressed with the developing Hundertwasser building at the Town Basin.
"What an amazing place that is going to be for Whangarei!"
One of the largest boats built in New Zealand with a range of more than 5000 nautical miles, The Beast was commissioned for Hill and his family in 2019 with the interior work carried out by Oceania Interiors in Whangārei.
It can accommodate 12 guests and a crew of nine and features three decks offering different outdoor dining options. The multi-purpose vessel, which is available for charter, also has its own fishing boat.
The Beast, whose home port is Auckland, set off yesterday morning for Ōpua and will be cruising northern New Zealand for the summer.