Land of Plenty
Begin a lifetime of happiness in New Zealand where beautiful landscapes, stylish lodges and a rich terroir beckon
Begin a lifetime of happiness in the land where people greet you with “Kia ora!”, the Maori blessing of being well, at every turn. And it is impossible not to feel so in New Zealand, as its beautiful landscapes, stylish lodges and rich terroir yielding fresh local produce and excellent vintages fill your soul with goodness
ust hours before, I had watched, heart in mouth, a group attempting the Auckland Sky Tower’s SkyWalk, and SkyJump daredevils whooping past my eyes to the ground below—all from a dizzying height of 192 metres in the capital of New Zealand.
And then, the tables were turned and it was my turn for some high-altitude action (albeit of a less death-defying nature!). This time, I found myself soaring over a volcano—the Rangitoto volcano crater— and Motuihe Island en route towards Waiheke Island. It was an exhilarating sight as my seaplane cruised through the air: clear blue skies freckled with cotton clouds above, and swathes of green framed by sandy beaches below. Meanwhile, an Auckland Seaplanes pilot pointed out the coastal settings of many a romantic proposal, picnic lunch and private ceremonies of eloping couples. My adventure through New Zealand’s North Island had begun... WAIHEKE ISLAND AND LAKE TAUPO Seafood- and wine-lovers will enjoy Waiheke Island’s casual, laid-back vibe, and exploring its many vineyards and stylish eateries and shops. The Oyster Inn offers freshly-shucked oysters including the famous Bluff oysters found in the country’s south. After a quick, delicious lunch that included salt and pepper squid with Thai nam gim sauce, beer-battered fish with thickcut fries, and oysters (of course), washed down with a local pinot gris, I catch the afternoon ferry back to Auckland in time for the evening flight to Taupo.
The plane descends at Great Lake Taupo’s regional airport bathed in the glow of a glorious sunset, the glowing ball of fire lighting up the rich green hues of the fields with a magical sheen. The result of a massive volcanic eruption, the 616 sqkm Lake Taupo, Australasia’s largest freshwater lake, is big enough to fit Singapore. With a picturesque lake, Tongariro National Park’s snow-capped mountains within a 75-minute
The region’s natural beauty is matched by top-notch service and the stylish comfort of luxury accommodations
drive away, rivers teeming with trout, and the availability of adrenaline-pumping activities from skydiving to white water rafting, there are endless activities for couples of different interests to enjoy together.
Outdoor experience operator Chris Jolly Outdoors offers guided walks, fly fishing excursions, and scenic cruises including private charters where you and your other half can spend a lazy day sailing in Lake Taupo while fishing for trout and visiting the famous 14-metre high Maori Rock Carvings at Whakamoenga Point, all from the comfort of boats equipped with full bar facilities, flush toilets and lounge-style cabins.
Spring in September typically brings showers so raincoats and brollies are strongly recommended. I went fly fishing on a gloomy day where Mr Weather couldn’t decide whether to rain, shine or sulk in between. I traipsed clumsily in my waders along the Hinemaiaia River, while my ever-optimistic guide Paul patiently explained the steps to fly fishing. He seemed fairly confident that I
would snag at least one trout despite a swollen river filled with mud and silt. After two hours, it was the fish having the last laugh. Our only consolation: spotting a rare blue duck just metres from us, a first on this river according to Paul who has been fishing for over 20 years in the area, and my qualification as a semiexpert in identifying native birds by listening to their call and observing the markings on their body. WHERE TO STAY:
The region’s natural beauty is matched by top-notch service and the stylish comfort of luxury accommodation like the Huka Lodge and the recently opened The Lodge at Kinloch. The interiors of both lodges were fitted out by local designer Virginia Fisher, and, despite being over 30 years apart
in construction, reflect a design genius that is creatively sensitive to the history and setting of each lodge.
At The Lodge at Kinloch, it was a daily dilemma between lounging in my cosy, chic villa blending leather seating, plaid blankets, and sculptural accessories in modern farmhouse style and stepping out onto the peaceful estate grounds overlooking an award-winning Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, the only one of its kind built in the country. Service was on point: my favourite hot chocolate and a warm towel requested on the first morning automatically appeared at my breakfast table in the communal dining room the next day. Staff can also set up tables in quiet corners for couples to have private “estate to plate” meals. Rejuvenating treatments await at the spa and the 60-minute Romiromi massage bookended with prayers of love, peace and bliss by native Maori tohunga (expert) Tatiana, which can also be done for couples, is highly recommended for those looking to be invigorated in physical and spiritual well-being.
Over at Huka Lodge, the decor harkens back to days of hunting and fishing yore, complete with the roaring of the Waikato River outside my Junior Lodge Suite and ducks and birds ambling on the grassy banks. Fret not over its communal tradition of pre-dinner drinks and canapes. There are 25 private dining spaces around the lodge for moments with your beloved where conversations about executive chef Paul Froggatt’s innovative take on local ingredients are sure to flow. Inflite Charters Taupo has helicopter flights that whisk you from the lodge’s front lawn on a breathtaking journey over the Huka Falls and Lake Taupo town or you can take a relaxing stroll along the Waikato River from the Spa Thermal Park to Huka Falls. HAWKE’S BAY
At Hawke’s Bay, a two-hour drive from Taupo, family-owned wineries such as Elephant Hill and Clearview Estate Winery offer casual lunch menus with outstanding vintages. These can also be easily ticked off the to-do list by following bike rental company Coastal Wine Cycles’ leisurely no-hill Coastal Dash route on classic beach cruiser bikes—sore derrières and wedgies guaranteed to be excluded. Join local food writer and cheese expert Juliet Harbutt
on her Hunter-Gatherer tour that brings you to artisanal producers of olive oil, cheese, ice-cream and figs before winding up at her home for a lunch of homemade dishes accompanied by vegetables and herbs from her garden. During the weekend, visit Napier’s open-air Urban Farmers’ Market and take the Art Deco Vintage Car tour to imbibe the local atmosphere and learn more about the city’s historical transformation to Art Deco architecture. WHERE TO STAY:
For memorable stays, look no further than the new Owner’s Lodge at Craggy Range and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. The first is a classic country lodge stunner, and its four spacious king bedrooms, open-plan living room, and chef’s kitchen are just right for an intimate engagement or wedding party, while couples can take one of the four other one-bedroom and two-bedroom cottages nearby. A marquee can also be set up among the vines for fairy tale celebrations with the majestic Te Mata hill range as the backdrop, or simply grab a bottle of wine to enjoy the sunset at Te Mata Peak.
Over at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, it is time for walks and whispers in the wind with a picnic basket in hand in the midst of roaming sheep and nesting gannet colonies. It is also home to one of the most spectacular golf courses in the world with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. While it might be difficult to tear away from the modern farmhouse interiors of your suite and its private balcony offering splendid views of the estate’s lush pastures, the elegant fine dining and excellent wine pairings are not to be missed.
It is in this paradise where I spent my last evening in a private stargazing session, beating the odds of bad weather to get a clear inky canvas dotted by twinkling stars. So well delineated were the constellations and the Milky Way that even the astronomer guide was in awe. In New Zealand, Mother Nature unveils her prettiest side, a fitting accompaniment to your first trip as Mr and Mrs.