The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs is a quiet, tucked-away retreat overlooking Matauri Bay on New Zealand’s North Island. This Relais & Chateaux property, set along a rugged and eye-popping coastline with views of the Pacific Ocean, got one of the highest ratings in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Gold List 2014.” It wowed me too! The lodge sits on a 6,500-acre working farm with thousands of cows and sheep dotting the property. The plantation-style main lodge, with expansive decks overlooking the golf course and ocean, has high ceilings, fireplaces and an array of spaces to choose from for dining and gathering.
The property’s 22 suites, ranging from 840 to 900 sf, are decorated with antiques and include working gas fireplaces, walk-in closets and decks with golf course and Pacific Ocean views. A two-bedroom owner’s cottage can be included in the buyout.
Groups can hike to a cascading waterfall on property for a picnic, ride horses, take a farm tour and revel in canapés and fine wines from around the region after a day of activities. Waialua Beach is the widest of three private beaches at Kauri Cliffs and an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking or fishing.
Meals are comprised of locally sourced food, including grass-fed lamb and beef, local seafood, vegetables and, of course, wonderful wine options. Groups can dine in an elegant, 44-pax dining room or 22-pax veranda with amazing golf and ocean views. Arrangements can also be made for a torchlit barbecue on Pink Beach. Our 5-course gourmet dinner included tempura tiger prawns and Maori Lakes lamb loin in a delicate sherry vinegar jus. Each course has a wine pairing with recommendations from the on-site sommelier, including a pairing with dessert, which was a sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce topped with rum and raisin ice cream.
The property has a spa and par 72 championship golf course that groups will find enthralling—there are 15 holes that face the Pacific Ocean, six of which are played alongside cliffs that plunge to the sea, while inland holes wind through marsh, forest and farmland.
Off-site, groups must visit Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. This is sacred land, as it’s where the original peace treaty was signed between the native Maori people and the English in 1840. Here, groups can share with the Maori a music/dance performance that celebrates their culture. Planners can arrange a helicopter tour of the Bay of Islands or have Iceworks charter a luxury yacht for a day on the bay.
No Kiwi experience should start without travel on Air New Zealand, which gave us a big kia ora (welcome) with an amazing staff on the airline’s modern Boeing 777 aircraft, offering 46 flat beds and two gateway choices. Traveling in business class nonstop, groups arrive pampered and rested from either Los Angeles or San Francisco into Auckland, the gateway city to New Zealand.
A classy move, very characteristic of Air New Zealand, is the extent of pampering that extends to the economy cabin. Groups traveling between Auckland, L.A. and London can enjoy a Skycouch, which transforms three seats into a comfy couch with the touch of a button. Air New Zealand also provides inter-country service with a staff that specializes in hassle-free travel experiences.
“Business today is very competitive and hectic, so why not give the stars in your organization a life-changing experience,” says Kathleen Hill, MICE/cruise sales manager, Air New Zealand.
Quite simply, New Zealand’s natural beauty, great wine and cuisine and friendly people make for a perfect group retreat. Hill sums it up eloquently. “The moment you arrive you feel at home, and New Zealand becomes a part of you that stays with you forever.”