Kiwi Connection — Having an Authentic New Zealand Experience
Posted on April 28, 2017
The sparkling blue lakes, glittering white glaciers, and majestic fjords of New Zealand are deservedly world-renowned. I’ve lived there, and over the years have explored nearly every nook and cranny. But it’s still so breathtakingly beautiful to me that I frequently pause along rural roads and lose myself in the glory of her scenic wonders.
Even so, I actually think NZ’s greatest wonders are her people. Kiwis, as residents are often called (after their famous flightless bird), are the kindest, most helpful, and friendliest people I have ever met. That’s the reason I make a point of staying at personally hosted accommodations and enjoying genuine New Zealand hospitality when I visit. Here are a few of my favorite places to bed down:
Ascot Parnell Boutique Bed and Breakfast
About 15 years ago, Bart and Therese Blommaert bought 5,000 square feet of space on the second floor of a posh condo building in Auckland’s best neighborhood. They proceeded to create an apartment for themselves and three luxurious suites for guests. Each of these is beautifully furnished and has either a garden or harbor view. The shared living room has a fireplace and comfortable seating, and a spacious balcony provides a panoramic view of the city skyline.
I first met this lovely couple years ago when they owned a nearby bed and breakfast, and I recall being impressed with the care they showered on visitors. Happily, that hasn’t changed. Bart often meets new arrivals at the airport, helps guests plan sightseeing, and makes restaurant reservations. The delicious made-to-order breakfasts include homemade baked goods, lots of fresh fruit, and eggs just the way you like them.
In contrast to busy Auckland, the area around Donnellys Crossing, three hours to the northwest, is sparsely populated. The few visitors who head up this way are motivated by a chance to see kiwis (the feathered kind) in their native habitat and witness impressive stands of old growth kauri trees. These forest giants grow up to 165 feet tall with trunks more than 50 feet in diameter.
The last time we were in the area, my husband and I stayed at Birdsnest Glamping, an innovative option created by Richard and Angela Bird. On their 20 acres of bush, the Birds offer a luxe “camping” option that is nothing like real camping (which explains why I liked it). We slept on five-star linens in a cozy queen bed under a lofty canvas tent. The adjacent rustic chic bathroom offered a solar-heated shower and a flushing loo with a view. I understand that the “bath in the bush,” Richard’s work-in-progress when we were there, is now completed and gets rave reviews. Our private compound also included an attractive outdoor kitchen with a sink and stove, and Angela’s imported tableware.
The best parts of this shared paradise? Seeing glowworms in the bush after dark, listening to the wind in the trees during the night, and waking to birdsong.
You may not have heard of New Zealand’s East Cape, but if you watched Whale Rider, the popular 2003 movie, you know what it looks like. This remote area is the farthest eastern point on New Zealand’s North Island. It is also famously the first place in the world to greet the sun each new day.
A single road, Highway 35, follows the coast around the cape, and empty beaches fill the space between the road and ocean. Above Anaura Bay, overlooking a stunning sweep of sand, Rangimarie Beachstay offers comfortable lodging, and amiable host Judith Newell goes out of her way to ensure guests have everything they need. Newell’s property is bordered on all sides by Maori land, and she has longstanding friendships with these neighbors and the nearby Maori communities.
We were tired on our arrival and gladly accepted our host’s offer to deliver dinner to our suite. We didn’t expect a gourmet meal, but were pleasantly surprised by salmon in filo served on Villeroy & Boch plates and accompanied by a nice wine, candles, and starched damask napkins. Given the location, I had already anticipated a beautiful sunrise, but when I woke during the night, I was completely taken aback by the brilliance of the bright stars in the very dark sky.
I stayed awake for a long time, enjoying New Zealand’s natural wonders and feeling grateful for her wonderful people. Elizabeth Hansen
Photography courtesy of ADAMS / HANSEN STOCK PHOTOS