Justine Tyerman wings her way to a luxury retreat on the winterless Gold Coast, and finds out how to use a second home to gain a third
I had a Titanic moment as stood on the prow of Wings at sunset. Although the property carries an avian-inspired name because of the winged design, the ship-shaped point on the seaward side of the house, heading towards the shimmering Gold Coast, brought images of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio flooding into my mind.
I visualised the beautiful Winslet standing on the bow, her hair blown back by the wind, in the arms of the gorgeous DiCaprio . . . before all hell broke loose.
There's no risk of icebergs there though. Wings was sailing on a sea of lush tropical green in the perpetual warmth of the Gold Coast. The mild, mid-winter temperatures here are akin to our Kiwi summers. And yet it's barely three hours' flight from Auckland, and just over one hour from Sydney.
Looking back towards the house, I absorbed the full extent of this vast two-storey abode, one of the Gold Coast's most magnificent residences now available as a holiday rental marketed by THIRDHOME. Entitled Wings Hinterland Retreat, it's an impressive, broad-shouldered . . . or should I say broad-winged . . . home with 1500 square meters of living space on a 10-acre property.
Set on a ridge, the panorama of the Gold Coast and surrounding landscape is breath-taking. It's a place of peace and tranquillity, far enough from the hustle-bustle of the region's famous tourism hotspots to allow guests to enjoy a wilderness experience yet close enough to the coast to be on the beach at iconic Surfers' Paradise within 30 minutes. That's if you can drag yourself away from the tennis court, cantilevered swimming pool, outside Jacuzzi, 14-person cedar sauna, full-sized billiard table and yoga on the lawn which provide an enviable range of on-site relaxation and recreational activities. Not to mention your in-house chef.
There are eight bedrooms, four with ensuites, which comfortably accommodate up to 26. Bunks in three of the bedrooms make the place ideal for families with young children or teens. All face towards the Gold Coast allowing early-waking guests to watch spectacular sunrises over the ocean.
The spacious kitchen with its huge semi-circular marble bench is ideal for both large-scale entertaining and intimate dining.
The keys to Wings are held by THIRDHOME, a US-based company established in 2008 by Wade Shealy from Tennessee.
Shealy had spent 28 years in the luxury real estate business, helping clients realise their second-home dreams, when he came up with the concept of using those valuable but sometimes seldom-used assets to gain access to properties of an equal standard all around the world . . . as holiday homes or 'third homes'.
"I learned that the main reason people hesitate to buy a second home in a single location is that they love to travel to other places too," says Shealy.
"I knew if I could create a way for second home-owners to leverage the investment they've already made, to stay in a variety of desirable destinations, I would really have something," says Shealy.
So he created an ultra high-end home exchange club entitled THIRDHOME and came up with the catch-phrase 'staying worldly'.
"Your second home is the key to a third home . . . and a world of travel."
Shealy knew the service fulfilled a real need but had no idea how successful the business would become, how many lives would be changed . . . or how fast.
"THIRDHOME is unlike any other home exchange or travel club. The scale, trust and access it provides are unrivalled," says Shealy.
Today THIRDHOME's portfolio of member homes numbers 10,400 luxury residences across the globe with an average value of $US3 million. In addition to private homes, many are located in 75 world-class resorts and residence clubs that have selected THIRDHOME as a trusted exchange programme for their owners – like The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club.
THIRDHOME has recently added vacation rentals to the mix meaning people without a luxury second home can access the keys to exclusive properties not previously available to the public. There are now over 300 stunning THIRDHOME properties available for rent in spectacular locations in 36 countries around the world, including New Zealand. This number is set to rise exponentially as the popularity of private residences as holiday accommodation gains international momentum.
Also recently launched is THIRDHOME Adventures for those who want to immerse themselves in their destination.
Guests can experience a week of Italian culture, cuisine and wines at Maestro Bocelli's childhood estate and vineyards in Italy.
Or travel to the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, the northern-most lodge on earth, 500 miles from the Arctic Circle to see giant white Beluga whales, polar bears, arctic fox, seals and snow geese.
You could also spend time with the Maasai and Kipsigis communities in Kenya, experiencing what daily life is like in the Maasai Mara. Guests interact with school children, live alongside community members and contribute to sustainable development projects that empower local people and villages to create a brighter future. The choices are mind-boggling.
As balmy dusk descended on Wings, the distinctive sound of champagne corks popping lured me inside to where the highly-talented guest chef Gareth Keenan and his team were preparing elegant canapés and a delectable gourmet dinner in the open kitchen.
Silky PJs on my pillow, a THIRDHOME gold key beside my bed, sunrise yoga on the lawn, lunch and cocktails by the pool, limos at the door . . . it's a taste of what "staying worldly" is all about for THIRDHOME guests at Wings.