In my humble opinion New Zealand is one of the greatest travel destinations I have been lucky enough to visit and truly captured my heart. So much so, my husband and I looked into emigrating falling in love with the people and places. Our mission on this trip was to capture as many of the different scenes of the ‘land of the long white cloud’ – the translation for Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand. And our first stop provided us with the perfect blue skies to showcase those clouds.
Eagles Nest is a secluded enclave of five villas set within a 75-acre estate in the area known as Bay of Islands, situated in the farthest north of the North Island. Reached via a short flight from Auckland to KeriKeri we began to see the New Zealand we imagined; lush, green, rolling hills. After our flight from Manchester, which lasted almost 24 hours (albeit in two legs via Los Angeles – which in itself confused our body clock and made our brains explode a little as we arrived tomorrow!) the domestic flights were a dream, nothing like in the UK. Air New Zealand is the only operator in most airports so you just turn up scan your ticket and hop on the plane. Simple.
Walking across the runway from the plane and collecting our bags, we were one short transfer and ferry trip away from Eagles Nest. As the name suggests, Eagles Nest is perched on the ridgeline of a peninsula nestled amongst native manuka trees. There are five villas within this all in their own private space and all could have come out of the latest Bond movie – white bikini or trunks not included.
We stayed in The Eyrie, a three-bedroom villa with pool, Jacuzzi and stunning views which you’d be forgiven were Mediterranean in look and feel as the sun warmed our skin. There’s a home theatre system (we used it for music as the view was all we needed to watch), full kitchen and fridge stocked and restocked daily with lovely local produce, from bacon to ginger beer.
As if by perfect timing, as the sun went down and the birds evening chorus began, Graham, our personal chef, arrived to cook us dinner. Tailored to your dietary needs and any requests there’s a team of chefs at your service throughout your stay should you wish to call on them.
Needless to say over our two nights we dined like royalty. And the standard was set for the rest of the holiday with local lamb, smoked duck, Gurner and oozing chocolate pudding. Do try the local rock oysters (you can see the Bay they were picked from your balcony) I can’t recommend them highly enough and I am not an oyster afficionado. Delicious.
Next day was for exploring and tearing ourselves away from the view and luxury. Russell Nature Walks offers short, easy guided walks in their private reserve. It’s home to New Zealand’s famous Kiwi and the curious North Island Weka both extremely rare, along with a whole host of other creatures who rely on the forest and each other. Go for the night walk (great with the kids) if you want to catch an elusive parent Kiwi foraging, although Eion and Lisette, who run the reserve, have captured some amazing footage from the nest-cams if you miss them. We’re following the chicks’ progress even now that we are on the other side of the world.
Whether you’re an avid naturist or really don’t know your Weka from your Weta (like us) it’s well worth your time. Plus, $15 from your ticket goes directly into regenerating the reserve for the future generation.
Russell is the nearest town, by the ferry pier and has a colourful history shall we say (home to a few unsavoury residents in its time) and is worth a wander whether it’s the oldest church in New Zealand complete with musket holes from 1845 to a leisurely lunch at the Duke of Marlborough. We loved drinking with the laid back locals over the catch of the day before returning to our nest, settling on our perch and soaking it all up.