Just past Russell, the
spills across 75 acres of a peninsula looking down on the Bay of Islands along the way to Tapeka Pt. Its website describes the place as being "somewhere between seven stars and heaven". Hyperbole? Not really — the place is off-the-dial gorgeous.
Room: There are of five themed villas at Eagles Nest. The flashest of them, Rahimoana, is said to be the most expensive place to stay in New Zealand. It can take up to eight people in four bedrooms and often hosts large events along with big-name celebrities. A night at Rahimoana, comes with complimentary use of the Porsche.
We were in the three-bedroomed Eagles Spirit villa. Smaller and perfectly formed, it runs lengthwise across a ridgeline surrounded by glorious native bush. The outdoor area is stunning — you'll struggle to find a finer spot for a spa pool.
Eating: Michael the chef dropped in shortly after we arrived and whistled up a fabulous barbecue lunch. The rest of the time we cooked for ourselves and struck gold with a visit to Kororareka Oysters. Four of us tumbled in and bought a dozen each; as we were driving away, I suddenly remembered my brother-in-law was due to arrive, so I raced back to buy another dozen. "Here you go," said the woman at the counter, waving away my money. "On the house." Good people around here.
Exercise: There's an 18m, heated infinity pool (naturally, I mean why wouldn't you have an 18m, heated infinity pool?) and management can book you a personal trainer if you fancy it. But the best exercise around here is of the walking variety. Take a short bush walk to the private beach or explore the paths through the estate's woods. An extensive predator-control programme means the birdlife is going gangbusters. You might encounter brown kiwi, weka and, nearer the water, korora (blue penguin). Lovely!
Activities: They'll arrange fishing, golfing, horse trekking — whatever takes your fancy.
The views: To die for. From our villa we could see across the bay to the birthplace of the nation, Waitangi. Lose a few hours staring at the water.
What's in the neighbourhood? It's a 10-minute walk to Russell, where there's loads of fascinating history, great dining and a terrific pub, the Duke of Marlborough.
Price: You could make a deposit on a decent-sized house in small-town New Zealand for what it costs to stay a night at Rahimoana — you'll need to dust off $19,995 a night in peak season. For the rest of us, the other villas start at a very reasonable $2995.
Awards: In 2013, Eagles Nest was named Australasia's best villa resort in the World Travel Awards, regarded as "the Oscars of travel".
Would I return? Please.
What's so good about this place? This is, rightly, one of the iconic properties of the New Zealand tourism industry — the kind of place that gives the rest of the industry both a good name and something to aspire to. Eagles Nest places high-end designer luxury in a stunning natural environment.
Eagles Nest is at 60 Tapeka Road, Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Phone: (09) 403 8333.