:Elisabeth Easther goes bush in the Far North but finds all the creature comforts she could wish for at the five-star Waipoua Lodge.
Check-in experience: Any time of day or night, owners and hosts Ian and Fran will make you feel right at home.
Rooms: Waipoua Lodge deserves every one of its five stars, with four elegantly kitted-out suites suitable for couples and families, words such as "paradise" spring to mind.
Price: The rate for bed and breakfast for two varies from $485 (Apr-Oct) to $585 (Nov-Mar).
Who owns it: Fran and Ian, who headed north from Waimauku and never looked back.
The nature of the place: Snuggled into the Waipoua Forest, everything is about peace and tranquillity.
History: Nearly 100 years old, the original homestead has been lovingly restored and now contains many artefacts from the region's pioneering days.
And the bad: The night sky is so lit up with stars it's hard to get an early night as you'll find yourself gazing up at the heavens until late.
Toiletries: Quality unguents from Koha Spa and, if you've forgotten razors, nappies or Panadol - you'll find those sorts of things are also available.
Nippers: Well-supervised kids are more than welcome, there's a sweet little bush walk, kunekune pigs, a chatty cat, a waggy dog, a trampoline, even an activity book and colouring pencils for smaller fry, plus an extensive DVD library if it all gets too much. We were even allowed to have a go (supervised) at riding on the tractor.
Food/drink: Suites all have full kitchens, with tea, coffee, milk, chocolate, fruit, and even a carafe of good port. The meals are amazing and Fran's kitchen wizardry can even be taught - although you're dreaming if you think you can be as amazing as her, but at least you can try, and Ian is the most charming host.
The bed: I had to be dragged from it. Wide, warm and wonderful with views to the bush.
Bathroom: Wow. There's a claw-foot bath, separate shower, the softest towels, heated towel rails - everything is extremely high-spec.
Value for money: Worth every penny.
Exercise facilities: There are miles of bush tracks to be walked in the vicinity or take your yoga mat and enjoy sublime morning sessions on the deck, saluting the trees and the birds.
What to do: Hug trees in Waipoua Forest, visit Tane Mahuta, spend a day at Kai Iwi Lakes, wander through Trounson Kauri Park (where you can do a kiwi night walk), and enjoy the charms of nearby Dargaville.
Perfect for: Recharging the batteries. International travellers looking for the real New Zealand love it here, as do local guests who are reminded how lucky they are to call this country home.
Would I return: I dream of it.