Anna King snaps up a bach and heads north with her family for an idyllic time.
Most Kiwi beach bach getaways have a common start: that turn off from the main highway, when your car begins to head in the direction of the ocean, pointing its nose towards the salt spray like a dog trailing a scent.
The road from Whangarei to the Tutukaka Coast is an especially pretty one. Old stone walls line the road and at this time of year scores of coral trees streak through the landscape, naked of leaves but boasting bright red claws of flowers (It may be an invasive species, but it's very pretty).
And so we wind our way to Matapouri, one of the many, many postcard-perfect beaches Aotearoa boasts. Typical of east coast beaches in Northland, Matapouri's golden curve of sand is fringed on either side by dunes and intensely blue water. Development along the beachfront is pleasantly low-key; many of the original one or two-room mid century baches remain. More opulent hideaways are found up on the hillside, like our destination, an excellent find on Bookabach, Matapouri Views Forever.
Over the next two nights we relax into this spectacular property. It certainly pushes the boundaries of what we traditionally think of as a 'bach', but that's the great thing about Bookabach: whereas owning a holiday home - whether a simple board and batten or like this place, a sprawling, multi-bathroomed palace with an ocean-facing deck to match - is a dream for most us, we can feel like we own it even for a handful of blissful days. And the beauty is that you can pick your perfect bach match according to your mood.
There are times I dream of romantic weekend away without the kids, ensconced in the bush in a simple cottage with a woodburner. Or times like this weekend, in the peak of the springtime school holidays, when the forecast looks stellar and a last-minute early beach escape with the family beckons. Big enough for two families, it means we can invite our friends and their kids up for a night, too. The more, the merrier.
After a late afternoon swim at Matapouri Beach (for those brave enough: it's only the beginning of October), we roll out the Weber and get some sausages on while in the big oven, homemade pizzas turn golden.
It's a balmy 19C or 20C - an early flush of summer - the perfect night to kick of the season of outdoor eating, with a Champagne toast to the jaw-dropping Pacific Ocean, rolling-farmland, bush-reserve views that this bach is perfectly positioned to take in.
Once the sun has set, we light the woodfire in the courtyard and toast marshmallows. We've reached the pinnacle of a fun, relaxed family bach getaway, and it's only the first night.
Things to do
•The so-called Mermaid Pools have become Insta-famous, and for good reason: these big, deep rock pools are very photogenic and it's hard to resist a quick dip. But visitors need to be warned that, even in ideal, low-tide, calm-ocean conditions, in and around the pools is a potential danger zone. Rogue waves can crash in over the rocks, and swimmers and spectators really need to remain alert. The path to the pools runs from the northern end of the beach at Matapouri. It's quite a scramble, not really suitable for very young kids but our 7 to 13-year-olds lapped it up: in some steep areas, locals have tied ropes to help.
•The wider area, Tutukaka Coast, has loads of inlets that are perfect for stand-up paddle boarding. Matapouri Views Forever comes equipped SUPs, or you can rent from Tutukaka's SUP Bro, who offer a variety of hosted SUP tours.
•Hop into a kayak and you'll be able to explore the many beautiful bays along the coast that don't have road access.
•The Poor Knights Islands, easily reached from Matapouri (you can see them from the deck at Matapouri Views Forever), is a unique marine reserve boasting subtropical warm water, good visibility and biodiversity. Dive! Tutukaka is based in Tutukaka, a ten minute drive away, and offers dive tours including pickups, equipment.
•When you've had your fill in and on the water, a day in the saddle is great fun for the whole family. Sandy Bay Horse Trekking offers a range of horse trekking tours, taking in local beaches, coast paths, stream crossings and farmland.
Bookabach Bach of the Year Awards
It comes as no surprise to see a trophy on the polished concrete shelf in the bach.
Matapouri Views Forever was awarded bronze in the 2017 Bookabach Bach of the Year Awards.
The awards are about to take place again for this year. Bookabach asks Kiwis to vote on their favourite rental baches across the country and, to help narrow down the options, Bookabach has created a shortlist of 40.
Judges pick gold, silver and bronze in each category while Kiwis will select the new-this-year, supreme prize, the People's Choice Award. Voting runs until November 1.
To see more information about this Bookabach property, visit bookabach.co.nz/32091.