A week­end es­cape to a lux­ury lodge in North­land is magic, writes Stephanie Holmes.

Herald on Sunday - - AT HOME -

The last time I saw Bream Head, it was af­ter slog­ging my way along the 7.5km en­durance test that is the Te Whara track, one of the tough­est day walks in the Whangarei Heads re­gion.

This week­end the out­look is very dif­fer­ent. I’m gaz­ing on the un­du­lat­ing rocky out­crop from the com­fort of an over­sized out­door bean­bag on a large wooden deck, glass of wine in hand and gen­tle back­ground mu­sic com­ple­ment­ing the evening bird­song. Bream Head is a few bays along the coast but from here, at lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion The Glasshouse, I have an un­beat­able view.

It’s early sum­mer so the po­hutakawa are start­ing to blos­som — splashes of red brighten up the trees cling­ing to the Kauri Moun­tain Point cliff; the 180-de­gree ocean views be­yond have me trans­fixed. We feel alone; so com­pletely alone, and it’s ab­so­lute bliss.

In re­al­ity, we’re just a steep, wind­ing drive­way away from a sec­ond lux­ury prop­erty, Te Whara, but this ar­chi­tec­turally-de­signed mas­ter­piece makes us feel like we’re the only peo­ple left on the planet. What a way to go.

The Glasshouse is the kind of place wor­thy of the su­perla­tives thrown at it in the guest book. “Wow” is the word we in­vol­un­tar­ily say as we get our first glimpse of the house af­ter swing­ing around the fi­nal bend of the drive­way. Two wings have three-walls of floor-to-ceil­ing glass ranch­slid­ers that open up fully to the el­e­ments. They’re con­nected by a “breeze­way” in the mid­dle, which opens to the ex­cep­tional deck and cen­tre­piece out­door fire­place. All around we’re sur­rounded by na­tive bush, with paths lead­ing down to the cliffs and ocean be­low.

The bath­room is af­fec­tion­ately known as “The Long­drop” but it, too, is lux­u­ri­ous. About 20 steps down the path from the deck, the small out­house looks unas­sum­ing from the out­side; in­side there’s a nor­mal flush­ing toi­let, hot run­ning water and the most stun­ning shower I’ve ever seen. Its wall is floor-to-ceil­ing glass, nes­tled in the na­tive bush with views out to sea. The glass opens ver­ti­cally at the touch of a but­ton, de­scend­ing to half­way down, giv­ing fresh air and bird­song as you per­form your ablu­tions.

The sense of peace is soul-cleans­ing; just 10 min­utes af­ter ar­riv­ing — a bit ratty from the Fri­day evening schlep from Auck­land — we’re re­laxed on the bean­bags, out­door fire lit, breath­ing in the scent of woodsmoke and sur­round­ing manuka trees.

There are walk­ing tracks eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble from the house, lead­ing down to the craggy rocks to the north, and The Cove — a pri­vate shel­tered bay ac­ces­si­ble only to guests of Te Whara and The Glasshouse — to the south. At the for­mer, we float in the nat­u­ral rock­pools, filled with an ir­re­sistible com­bi­na­tion of sea and rain­wa­ter warmed by the sun.

Kayaks and snorkelling gear are stashed at the Cove; I awake on our first morn­ing to find Nathan has al­ready headed out to ex­plore. From the kitchen I see him in the dis­tance, the smudge of his yel­low kayak bob­bing about on the water be­low. I stay seden­tary; drink­ing cof­fee in bed, co­cooned in the crisp white linen, the mos­quito nets fluttering in the warm early morn­ing breeze.

We cook our first din­ner on the bar­be­cue, sim­ple steak and veges, which al­ways taste bet­ter when cooked out­side. We need not worry about our sec­ond din­ner how­ever; the Glasshouse’s pri­vate chef Caitlin drops off a pre-pre­pared three­course din­ner for two; all we need do is heat it up in the fully-equipped kitchen and serve.

A beau­ti­ful quinoa salad packed with fresh in­gre­di­ents like pome­gran­ate seeds, toma­toes and as­para­gus, fol­lowed by a rich, hearty Mediter­ranean-style chicken bake, and pan­na­cotta topped with fresh straw­ber­ries keeps us well sat­is­fied and as the sun sets, we take our place by the out­door fire­place with full bel­lies and full glasses of red wine, grow­ing sleepy as we stare at the flames.

On our fi­nal morn­ing, I take a last look across the bays, glimpses of Ocean Beach and the wind­ing track up to the sum­mit of Bream Head. With the Glasshouse’s pow­er­ful binoc­u­lars, I can watch walk­ers as­cend­ing the steep Te Whara track, the same way I did many months be­fore. They’re just a speck on the land­scape, like a trail of ants climb­ing their hill in for­ma­tion. This week­end, I know where I’d rather be.

"The Long­drop".

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.