Overlooking the Pacific Ocean on New Zealand’s North Island, Helena Bay Lodge is a luxury farm escape.
Feel free to ignore the breakfast menu. “We’ll make whatever you feel like eating,” promises general manager Neil McFarlane. “That’s one of the advantages of having only five suites.” It’s not just the food that’s flexible – you can choose where you eat it, too (the sunken terrace, complete with firepit, is very inviting). Welcome to Helena Bay Lodge, the North Island getaway where it’s all about doing it your way. Nestled on the coast three hours drive (or a 40-minute chopper flight) north of Auckland, Helena Bay does indulgence, exclusivity and adventure in equal measure.
Meet the resident alpacas and goats on the farm, take an e-bike ride along the surrounding nature trails or join the farm hands as they muster the Wagyu cattle. If the ocean is calling, try your hand at fishing, take a kayak out for a spin or dive at the world famous Poor Knights Islands, known for their underwater caves.
And when you’re ready to reset, you can pull up poolside, head to the onsite bathhouse or simply laze on one of the beaches. Our pick: the private beach at Mohei Bay, where a pavilion with airconditioning, refreshments, showers, loungers and armchairs awaits. There’s even a phone so you can call the wine cellar should you run out of chilled rosé.
“I came to this area for a minibreak and it turned into the rest of my life,” says Kate Malcolm, co-owner of local dive operator Dive! Tutukaka. After two decades in the district, Malcolm says “it’s still a place that touches my soul.” Here are her favourite spots.
“Whale Bay is absolutely beautiful. It looks tropical, with the pohutukawa trees dropping their red flowers onto the white sand.”
“I walk up to Tutukaka Lighthouse every morning with my dog. It’s about five kilometres from town up to the headland and you can see straight down the coast in both directions.”
“At Helena Bay Gallery, you can find incredible works by local artists. It looks like an old barn and has its own café, with good coffee.” The dive site “Maroro Bay is great for snorkellers as well as divers – it has the most amazing biodiversity. There are boulders and kelp forest, nudibranchs, stingrays and moray eels – it’s 3D life.