Think of New Zealand and you may picture mighty, cloud-shrouded mountains, dramatic fiords and ancient fairytale forests – but there’s a lush, sub-tropical paradise side, too. And the cute North Island seaside town of Paihia is at the centre of it. It’s the gateway to the Bay of Islands region, where jewel-like islets stud a sea of luminous blue, and where Maori history and culture takes centre stage.
It’s only a shame that the same architectural touches used in the dreamy poolside restaurant here weren’t expanded to the rooms. The low, A-shaped timber ceilings of the restaurant, all exposed bolts and cross-beams, induce a breezy South Pacific islands vibe – made all the more holiday-heavenly by the view across the palm tree-shaded pool. Rooms are clean, bright and comfortable, if slightly low on character, with wicker-style arm chairs and pops of lime green.
When you’re in the Bay of Islands, you want to be facing the water – for the views of those broccoli-head islets and the glittering yachts that sail the turquoise sea around them. You’re in luck here, as most of the options at this suites-only hotel, spread across a couple of buildings near the waterfront, have some of the best sea views in town. Particularly the three-bedroom Waterfront penthouse, which is as close to the water as you can get without being in it.
Located five minutes’ drive south of Paihia town centre, these cute, modest, self-contained apartments and studios may lack the decorative pizazz of other properties in the area, but with views like these, you won’t be looking at anything else anyway. Perched on the crest of a promontory pushing out to sea, they reveal a sweeping panorama of azure waters, clusters of storybook-pretty outcrops and silken swathes of golden sand – all to enjoy over a glass of local white on your private balcony.
Initially, there’s something dreamily disorienting about checking into an Alpine-style chalet in New Zealand’s tropical north. But you’ll quickly settle in – thanks to the distractingly-generous dimensions of the two suites and, of course, the views you’ll find stretching out before you from the bed. Austrian-Swiss owners Inge and Ed have recreated a cosy taster of Europe’s picture-book Tyrol region, with beds and sofas piled with blankets and cushions, and wooden furniture that complements the chalet’s exposed rafters.
The only issue we have with this multi-tiered, cliff-hugging lodge? Its communal lounge area is so irresistibly cosy and welcoming that the rooms (also gorgeous, we should add) hardly get a look in. It feels like a well-loved and lived-in family home: towering wooden bookshelves jostle for wall space with prints and paintings; antique rugs frame oriental-style wooden furniture; and an eclectic pottery collection adorns the top of the standalone fireplace. The communal kitchen, upstairs, is arguably even more coddling. You’ll be right at home here, we guarantee.
Choosing between the two self-contained apartments in this house-sized property is easy. For loft-like airiness, and better views of sparkling blue sea through the trees, pick the upper-floor Tree House. Choose the Garden Suite for more space, along with an all-white colour palette that makes the lush surrounding greenery appear to be reaching in to wrap its tendrils around you. Either way, you’ll feel like you’ve secured your own private patch of Paihia, where you can settle in and fire-up the balcony barbecue, or prepare a slap-up dinner in your own well-equipped kitchen.
All-white shiplap cladding and intricate Victorian-style mouldings give this cluster of self-catering suites an old-world colonial feel that belies its 1950s heritage. Inside, things get more modern again – many of the rooms come equipped with contemporary kitchenettes, stylish bathrooms with gleaming subway-style tiles and wifi. For the best sea views, bag yourself the penthouse suite; for a cute private balcony, go for the King Fish Suite, and if only a large double spa bath will do, insist on the easy-to-remember Spa Suite.
There’s something chic – kind of St-Tropez-in-the-1960s – about this boutique-y, suites-only hotel. Not that it’s retro – it’s dazzlingly contemporary in fact. What clinches it is the elegance of the all-white, Lego-block construction, and each suite’s balcony overlooking the dinky semi-circular pool out front. Lit up at night, it’s as alluring as a Sloane Street shop window, glowing like one of those paper-thin porcelain candle holders. The interiors are no less elegant, with lashings of blonde wood and stylish, textured soft furnishings. Check in for instant Kiwi-cool.