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I encounter my only conundrum of the trip: what to do first? Tee off on the best course I’ve ever laid eyes on (true story) or check in to my stately suite. I spent about 30 seconds pondering this question before noting the weather Gods were indeed shining and thus opted to go to the pro shop and politely request to have my tee time pushed forward a bit. This was not a problem at all, in fact, the staff go above and beyond to make everything a breeze here, it is a theme that sets in for the duration of my stay. I glance at the ‘visitors book’ - decades of pages, all signed with guest testaments that resolve my sentiment.
Designed and built by David Harman, the Kauri Cliffs par 72 championship golf course measures 6,528 metres and offers five sets of tees to challenge every skill level. Fifteen of the holes feature stunning view the Pacific Ocean, six of which are played alongside cliffs that plunge to the sea. The Cavalli Islands and Cape Brett provide a mesmerising backdrop for a game of golf at this wildly remote yet brilliantly balanced venue.
During my stay the course was never too busy at all, such is the advantage of it’s exclusive nature and remote location.
I was ecstatic to score a birdie on hole 5, a demanding par 3, where paying attention to wind direction is critical to one’s success. Another highlight of mine was hole 6 aka the Falls, this challenging par 4 looks pretty tricky with its uphill approach and an extremely deep and undulating green. In any case, I got lucky and with a bogey.
The golf complex includes a world-class practice range, putting and chipping greens and a well-stocked golf shop (ladies get set to spend up on the fab luxe golf apparel here). Premium rental clubs are available too.
Fact: New Zealand’s rural-based economy requires strict bio-security, so it is important for golfers to enter the country with clean golf shoes and clean golf clubs.
I spy boutique lodgings with seductive designs and tasteful furnishings at every turn. From the splendid artwork adorning the walls to the antique collectibles lining the halls, nothing is an afterthought, on the contrary, it’s clear that the masterminds behind the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs have thought of everything to ensure a luxurious stay in elegant surroundings.
My suite was a gorgeous cottage-style offering overlooking the 10th and out to an expansive ocean vista. It featured a private porch, an inviting bedroom with a cosy fireplace and a beautifully appointed ensuite (love the deep-set baths here). It’s fair to say, I never wanted to leave and have vowed to return again asap.
Larger golfing parties and/or families would be best to select one of the 4 x bedroom residences complete with a full kitchen, and swimming pool. These private home-like stays are nestled in the trees, with views of the beach and close to all the Lodge amenities. It’s surprisingly easy to make yourself comfortable (the ambiance is super relaxing) in the sophisticated elegance that is synonymous with Kauri Cliffs.
Diners can expect to be wowed from sun up to sundown. My first impression (I arrived just after noon) was a delectable 3 x course lunch menu with a selection of dishes, evidently gourmet every step of the way. Soup of the day, spiced lentil with house-baked bread, I’ll take it. A perfect Ceasar salad and a club sandwich combo almost make me call everyone I know to yell down the phone and invite them over. How can such classic lunch items taste this sensational? I suspect some magical gastronomic alchemy is at work in the kitchen. Come dinner time, whilst digesting an entrée of fresh scallops followed by a local lamb shoulder and a bottle of superb Hawke’s Bay Pinot Noir my theory is proven.
Dessert is yet to arrive and I’m already wanting to interview the Executive Chef in an attempt to extol his kitchen wizardry secrets. I consider myself an astute foodie but at the time I find I’m perilously close to sliding into fangirl territory. I glance around the opulent yet welcoming main dining room setting and note the spirited smiles of ultra pleased guests.
NB: all meals are included in the daily tariff and the menu changes daily.
Kauri Cliffs’ Northland location provides a bounty of the freshest ingredients for delectable cuisine that champions local growers and seasonal fresh produce.
There are plenty of great activities and sightseeing opportunities in and around Kauri Cliffs. Signature Northland beach fishing is a thing! Reel in a gold band snapper, and have the chef prepare it for lunch (at the restaurant or at the private BBQs on Pink Beach). I almost scoff at the proposal because catching reef fish from the sand is unheard of at my coastal home in Australia. Nevertheless, it’s true and (pending the season) you’ll likely catch one too.
Other adventurous activities include horse riding, surfing, sea-kayaking, helicopter tours and mountain biking. More inclined to enjoy subdued yet interactive entertainment? If so, go and explore the property’s many easy-walking nature trails, or sign-up for the Kauri Cliffs Guided Heritage Discovery tour and gain an unparalleled insight into New Zealand’s complex identity – fascinating!
Travel tip: a Bay of Island sailing charter is a very romantic experience or if you’re traveling with the family (yes, children are welcome here) make sure to play a fun game of pickleball together at the on-site courts.
In this often fast-paced day and age, it would be crazy not to indulge in a few wellness rituals when the opportunity presents itself. Particularly when you’ve been out on the course (having a ball and hitting one) for hours on end and are keen to relax and refresh. After my excellent spa experience here, I urge all visitors to pop a luxurious treatment on their Kauri Cliffs itinerary.
The day spa is a destination in itself, and I’m told plenty of non-golfers visit Kauri Cliffs purposely for the 5-star spa facilities. The spa is sublimely located at the edge of a Totara forest and each treatment room offers floor-to-ceiling views of its verdant foliage.
Services include massage, facials, hydrotherapy, body treatments and elegant nail polish and designs. Plus, there’s a sauna, a jacuzzi, an indoor heated lap pool and a fitness centre for guest use. However, after playing 18 holes, I was content to enjoy my massage, slip on a robe and sip herbal tea on the private patio enveloped by birdsong.
Kauri Cliffs is located at Matauri Bay - four hours’ drive from Auckland. I hired a car and took the scenic route, but many guests choose to fly from Auckland direct to Kerikeri (a 20-minute drive from the Lodge) by commercial airline or private jet. Guests regularly arrive at this exclusive estate via helicopter too.
The Lodge (and the course) is set upon rolling farmlands flanked by a dramatic coastal cliff-lined landscape. There are plenty of guest
activities on offer, incredible farm-to-plate dining, and three private beaches here. Yes, Kauri Cliffs is unequivocally experiential travel
of the highest degree.
Here’s an incredible stay-and-play offer for our readers!
The Winter Special Rate is NZ $1035 per person /per night + GST. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus pre-dinner cocktails & canapes and a choice of unlimited golf or a 50-minute spa treatment per person for each night you stay.
Valid through September 2023 at Kauri Cliffs or sister property The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Words: Roxanne Andrews