Tears on arrival aren't traditionally a good thing when it comes to accommodation. They also aren't - in my experience - known to be especially common. I'll never forget my wife's impromptu squeal of joy as the door opened to reveal our room at the iconic rock & roll haunt that is the Sunset Marquis in LA a few years back. And I've done every reaction from "yikes" to "wow" in my time as a travel writer, but actual instant tears - either of despair or awe - not just yet.
That could all change - after all, I've promised my wife I'm taking her to a place I scandalously experienced on my own at the tail-end of last year. Scandalous because Northland's Kokohuia Lodge is several notches too romantic to be done alone and yet through that pesky phenomenon known as "no annual leave owing", alone on assignment I was. Which brings us to the tears.
As Kokohuia Lodge owners and creators Steve and Suzanne told me, they've lost count of the number of guests who enter their property and start to well up at the sheer beauty of what's before them. You could dismiss this as some kind of marketing hyperbole - "We're so stunning you'll be moved to tears!" - but having spent a couple of days with the lovely Steve and Suzanne at their five-star eco-retreat high above the Hokianga Harbour, I can say with all certainty this is sincere.
Besides, the more I think back on Kokohuia, the more it makes sense that the remarkable lodge has this effect on people. For a start, as soon as you're through that door, you're assailed with floor-to-ceiling views out over the forest to the harbour and the towering Ōpononi sand dunes beyond. Even better, those floor-to-ceiling views aren't impeded by glass - just enormous transparent sliding doors that open up to a sweeping deck.
Once you get your breath back, you notice a couple of other things: namely that you'll be enjoying a stand-alone bathtub immediately next to the bed. That's right, a bath by the bed. It's the future!
Or even if it isn't, it perfectly fits both the tone and the setting of Kokohuia; a place so private that you can bathe - possibly with champagne glass in hand - next to your king-size bed with all the blinds open and not risk the ire of the neighbours. This is aided by the fact that you don't really have any neighbours, other than the horses and native birds that make Kokohuia's 1.6 hectares their home.
More than that, Kokohuia Lodge is in its entirety just the one hillside cottage, meaning that literally the only other people around are Steve and Suzanne, who live in another purpose-built home down the hill and obscured by trees.
It's from there that they'll prepare your delicious and organic homecooked breakfast, bringing it to your door at the time of your choosing in the morning. These two know how to make great food, but they also know how to garden, and much of what's eaten at Kokohuia is sourced from the property itself.
As for the main structure, it's designed to resemble a fallen leaf so as to blend into its forested environment. Completely off the grid, it's a how-to in sustainability with its solar-powered, rain-water ethos. There's a kitchenette, a sunken living area and a separate bathroom, and even if you don't get much time to soak in it, that oh-so photogenic bedside tub will surely occupy some storage space on your phone.
How long you spend in that bathtub will be dictated by how much you can resist the lure of some of the Hokianga region's other attractions. This is a place steeped in Maori history, Te Hokianga-nui-a-Kupe translating as "the place of Kupe's great return". As Te Tai Tokerau tradition tells it, Kupe, the legendary navigator and explorer, settled in Hokianga around 925 AD.
It was also one of the first parts of New Zealand where Europeans established communities, lured by the vast reserves of timber that once covered most of Northland. Luckily some pockets of those kauri forests survive and if you've had your fill of swimming, fishing, horse-riding and sliding down dunes over 200 metres in height, the nearby Waipoua Forest is an essential visit.
Sure, most Kiwis know about Tane Mahuta, the 2000-year-old, 45.2-metre tall "God of the Forest" and the tallest kauri tree in country. Tane Mahuta will never not be on my Northland itinerary.
But a short drive from Tane Mahuta is a lush rainforest walk that takes a little longer and doesn't get anywhere near as many tourists. At the track's end is a colossus of nature known as Te Matua Ngahere, or the "Father of the Forest". At 29.9-metres, he may not be as tall as Tane Mahuta, but his girth of 16.41-metres makes him wider by a metre. He's also estimated to be older than Tane, possibly as ancient as 3000 years. If true, that makes him a contender as the oldest living rainforest tree on Planet Earth.
Standing at the foot of something so old, so mighty and yet ultimately so fragile, I tell you, if the tears don't hit at you at the lodge, they'll get you here.