Kauri Cliffs – Top 100 Rating
It is hard to forget an amazing place like this.
Kauri Cliffs, spectacularly located overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is considered one of the world’s best courses with the picturesque Cavali Islands forming the backdrop for 15 of its holes (six are played along the cliff top).
From the clubhouse verandah overlooking Matauri Bay visitors can appreciate the vision the American owner had when he identified this remote sheep station as a site for a golf course.
Kauri Cliffs is described as New Zealand’s answer to Pebble Beach and is ranked number 39 on Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in the world. The par 72, 6,510m-long course designed by David Harman is meticulously maintained and according to the head golf professional Cameron Barnes, it’s a course for all golfers. He adds: “Golfers love the wide fairways but aren’t always so generous in their comments on the rough which some consider to be too punishing.”
Kauri Cliffs is located in the remote northeast of the North Island and most golfers make a holiday of their visit, staying overnight and playing at least two rounds of golf. Luxurious accommodation is available in 22 spacious rooms and the owner’s cottage is a possibility for those seeking the height of luxury. Allinclusive accommodation, meals and golf packages are available. There is a spa and dress codes apply for the restaurant.
Kauri Cliffs is under the same ownership as the equally famous Cape Kidnapper’s course on Hawke’s Bay and while a round at either isn’t cheap, few complain about the bragging rights in playing two of the world’s most prestigious courses.
TOURING THE NORTHLAND
The Bay of Islands has a subtropical climate which makes it warmer than the rest of New Zealand. Fly into the rural airport of Kerikeri and hire a car to explore towns in the region such as Kerikeri, Paihia and Russell.
Kerikeri surprises in many ways as there is excellent motel accommodation, fine restaurants, a market and Marsden Estate winery and restaurant.
The region is renowned for its fruit and Kerikeri is home to the Old Packhouse Market. This former fruit packing shed is put to good use every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. as farmers and artisans display their produce ranging from whitebait (small ikan bilis-sized fish) to jewellery, beeswax candles, clothes, plants and Maori remedies.
Being the region’s biggest market, there’s a lively buzz and a community spirit with musicians and food stalls (try the oyster po boys, pies, mussel fritters and Maori hangi dishes).
Rusty Tractor Café is located opposite the markets and its premium coffee and creative cuisine makes it the place to enjoy breakfast in semi-rural surroundings. A wickedly rich and delicious choice is the cinnamon sugar donuts served with crème fraîche, berries, maple drizzle, ginger crunch and raspberry
‘paint’. For something more conventional, the three eggs, ham, cheese and tomato omlette is made even more inviting with tomato relish and cheese on onion toast.
Diners at Food at Wharepuke can enjoy sitting in the lush gardens and savouring European cuisine prepared with a touch of Thai flair. Local lamb is delicious as are the regional wines and craft beers that complement the food.
Russell is a magical place to visit by ferry from Paihia and a seafood meal on the verandah of the Duke of Marlborough, New Zealand’s oldest pub is highly recommended. Sunset is the time to arrive or better still; check into one of the renovated rooms, stay the night while enjoying seafood accompanied by local Marsden Estate wines.
It’s important to book a table on the verandah and with the late afternoon sun filtering through trees lining the bay, there’s no finer place to dine. According to the menu, the ‘Duke’ has been ‘refreshing rascals and reprobates since 1827’. Modern NZ cuisine features with local produce, especially seafood, featured prominently. A specialty item is the oven-roasted hapuka (a deep-sea fish) with salsa verde, confit kumara, smoked bacon, rainbow chard and beurre blanc.
Wine flights are available including locally-produced Chenin Blanc from Marsden Estate. This is definitely a venue to save room for desserts such as pannacotta, rose jelly, macerated strawberries, pistachio sponge, pink pepper meringue, freeze-dried berries and flowers.
Another regional attraction is the short journey on a heritage train that operates from Kawakawa to Taumarere. Trains were once important in the Northland but services are now limited to tourist trains.
This vintage train has one of New Zealand’s longest steam train heritages and it operates on one of the only tracks in the world that runs on a state highway and along a town main street. Trains depart from Kawakawa Station for Taumarere Station, a journey of just 5km.
‘Gabriel’, a Class 4-4-0 steam locomotive built by Peckett and Sons in Bristol, is the railway’s big attraction. While Gabriel is regularly used and is everybody’s favourite, one of four vintage diesel locomotives is also used as a replacement. It hauls three carriages including an opensided observation car which is the most popular carriage on the 45-minute journey.
The train travels down the middle of the main street and passengers and well-wishers along both sides of the street wave enthusiastically. Once out of the town limits the landscape is rolling hills where contented beef cattle graze.