For an alternative to Waiheke island, try Auckland’s Kawau Lodge instead
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Kawau Lodge is situated in North Cove on Kawau Island - not far from Auckland's Sandspit. Experience an island retreat while staying conveniently close to the city. Photo / Supplied
This island escape is paradise found, without leaving Auckland, writes Stephanie Holmes
Location: North Cove on Kawau Island, a gorgeous tropical island getaway, just a short ferry ride from Auckland’s Sandspit
Style: Modern waterfront beach, with all the joys of Kawau right on the doorstep
Price: From $450 per night, with a two-night minimum stay
Perfect for: A group holiday or family get-together, where you can feel like you’re in the Bay of Islands or Marlborough Sounds, without leaving Auckland’s northern boundary
Getting there: Park your car at Sandspit wharf, about an hour’s drive from central Auckland (with no worries of traffic jams thanks to the newly opened Puhoi highway), then get one of the Kawau Island cruises across the gulf. The boat ride costs $71pp return and takes less than half an hour. You’ll be dropped at Kawau Lodge’s jetty, where lodge managers Sharon or Rob will be waiting to meet you
First impressions: The further we got from Sandspit, the more I felt like we’d been transported to paradise. Kawau is an idyllic island getaway. There’s not much here other than private baches, yachts, and Mansion House, the residence of former Governor General George Grey, so it’s certainly more off the beaten track for Aucklanders than Waiheke. But it is just as stunning.
Rob met us at the jetty and loaded our bags into a trolley, and we walked along the boardwalk to the lodge’s native gardens. The lodge is up some stairs, but there’s a wooden pulley-style lift to take your bags. Its outlook is priceless - North Cove’s tranquil harbour with waterfront baches across the bay, native bush-clad hills, yachts moored in the deeper water. You’ll find beautiful peace and quiet, the only noise coming from native birds, residents’ dogs barking and the occasional splash of fish jumping. Standing on the wrap-around deck, we watched eagle rays wallowing in the shallows and kingfishers darting between trees. Within five minutes of arriving, I could feel the stresses of city life melting away.
Rooms: The lodge can host up to 16 guests. The main building is split over two levels, with two double bedrooms on the lower level, and three on the upper (one has an en-suite bathroom, the others share). Upstairs has a large kitchen with all the appliances and equipment you need to self-cater. There’s a log-burner fireplace, oversized comfortable couches, and the front wall is floor-to-ceiling windows so you can make the most of the view at all times. Outside there’s a large dining table as well as other seating areas. At the back of the main building, up some more stairs, there are three chalets - more traditional bach-style accommodation, with shared bathroom. It’s the perfect place to book out as a large group for a special occasion.
The interior has everything you need for a comfortable stay - well-appointed bedrooms, modern bathrooms and fully-equipped kitchen, large screen TV, wi-fi, heaters etc - as well as some extras that help with Island life: binoculars and a high-powered telescope to hone in on those captivating views.
Bathroom: Visiting in the height of winter - albeit on a rare sunny weekend - the ensuite bathroom was freezing, especially the floor. Bring slippers. Toiletries are from Glow Lab in large dispensers.
Food and drink: There are no shops on Kawau so you need to bring everything with you. For longer stays you can have groceries delivered by the water taxi service. From Labour weekend, the Kawau Yacht Club is open but you would need a boat to transport you round there - if you don’t have your own, you can book a water taxi with Kawau Cruises. There is a full kitchen and multiple barbecues for you to self-cater. Breakfast provisions are provided, including eggs, bacon, bread, milk, and capsules for the industrial-sized Nespresso coffee machine.
Facilities: You are so lucky when you stay here because North Cove becomes your playground. Kayaks and a rowboat are available for free use (with life jackets provided). There’s a range of outdoor seating areas, including the Cabana Bar - a kind of tiki bar by the water’s edge - as well as sun loungers, a swing chair, and outdoor dining tables. A bush track leads up the hill behind the lodge, with some cute treasures the kids will love looking for. Summer would be paradise here, but winter is heavenly too - and likely much quieter with far fewer visitors.
In the neighbourhood: Other private houses, the harbour, and not much else.
Family friendly: Kids will love it here, but be aware there are lots of stairs, high balconies, wharves and a tidal harbour, so younger children will need to be well supervised at all times.
Accessibility: Due to its remote location, and no step-free access, this unfortunately is not a place suitable for wheelchair users or those with mobility issues
Sustainability: Water conservation is encouraged. The lodge is on a septic tank system, so flush only biodegradable matter. There’s a bottle crusher for recycling glass, a compost system, and a vegetable/herb garden. The lodge is committed to caring for native trees, birds and ecosystems, with an ongoing programme to remove noxious weeds. They also provide refillable consumables where possible, as well as a coffee pod recycling programme.
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