It’s not very often that one gets to test-drive their own honeymoon, but in my line of
work blogging I sometimes do get lucky that way. The most recent addition to my list of most romantic places around the world is an eco Bed & Breakfast on the West Coast of Northland, New Zealand’s Northern province, a place so special it only caters to 2 people at a time – the Kokohuia Lodge.
Just off the main road, following the unassuming dirt road up the hill, one would never guess just what awaits them up there. In fact, when I first arrived I actually drove past it! A small sign indicates a single parking spot for the arriving guests, a wooden staircase leads down to a little piece of eco-friendly heaven. Entirely powered by solar panels, this is award-winning sustainable tourism at its finest, with the lodge leaving almost no impact on nature, despite its stunning setting in the midst of native bush and organic gardens.
The people behind this unique luxury retreat are Steve and Suzanne, a lovely British – Kiwi couple, who one day decided to turn their backs on life in the big city where Steve ran a nightclub and Suzanne worked as a psychiatrist, to start a new life in Omapere, along the stunning cost of the Hokianga area. “We just really like meeting people”, Steve says, listing his reasons for opening up Kokohuia back in early 2012. The warm hospitality of the two only adds to the charms of the lodge, providing for a very special experience, unlike much even seasoned travelers have experienced.
As unexpected as the place itself is its price, one night staying here costs little more than a night at an average city hotel. “We want it to be accessible to people from all walks of life. Anyone from builders to lawyers come through here.”, Steve and Suzanne explain to me over coffee. “It’s really not about money at all.”
The heartfelt spirit of the lodge rubs off on visitors almost instantly, with open arms and hearts the owners provide an endless list of things to see and do, Steve will often go out of his way to drop people off in special places and pick them up again, Suzanne whips up an incredibly delicious breakfast and upon request can even provide you with a romantic dinner for 2 on the terrace.
No one can be blamed for wanting to spend the entire day in bed, enjoying the view through the all glass doors, but for those who do want to go around for some unique experiences, there sure is a lot on offer. One of the most popular reasons for people to visit this part of the country are the infamous Kauri trees. These gigantic trees, some of which are up to 3000 years old, can be visited in what is left of the Waipoua Forest. Over 98% of the forest have been destroyed in the past, but the remainders are being preserved with great care. You can drive up to the forest with your own vehicle and see the trees by following the indicated signs. For a more intense experience and background knowledge by a local Mauri guide, Footprints offers a twilight encounter tour that gets rave reviews.
This tour lasts from 5.30 to 9.30pm, so be sure to eat beforehand. Pick-up and drop off point is the Copthorne Hotel, which happens to have the restaurant with the best view and food in town. Order a glass of wine and take a stroll along the beach while waiting for your steak.
Another option for a fun local activities is taking the boat over to the sandbank and going sandsurfing. Upon request Suzanne will be happy to prepare a picknick basket for you to set up a romantic lunch there as well. Ask her and Steve about details to the tour.
Long walks through the forest or along the coast, bone carving with a local Mauri artist, short trips to charming nearby villages, one day was not nearly enough for me to find out about all the lovely things that can be done when visiting Omapere and Kokohuia. One thing I do know for sure, however, no matter how long you stay here, it will always be unforgettable.