Boutique Bay of Island accommodation Places

Whenever we travel up North to the Bay of Islands, we are always on the lookout for the best boutique Bay of Island accommodation places. Even when we regularly visit, there always seems to be something new for travellers like us to see.  Yet again, we are reminded that the Northland region is a total destination all of its own. In fact, it will only take you a 1-2 hour drive, to cover some key highlights in the Bay of Islands. Check this out: Cape Reinga, Waipoua Forest and the historic Waitangi treaty ground. Plus, the bay itself, will offer so many kinds of water sports. Therefore, it makes total sense to stay here for between 5-7 nights. Think about using the Bay of Islands area as a base from which to explore. That is because so many key attractions are very close by.

Types of accommodation options in the Bay of Islands

I warn you, this blog will only ‘scratch the surface’. But just remember,  that you will have many different styles of boutique accommodation places around the Bay of Islands. For example, if you are looking for a really nice Bed & Breakfast run by the locals, you will find it here. These Bed & Breakfasts usually have 2-4 rooms and provide a more intimate atmosphere.  On the other hand, if the higher end accommodation is what you enjoy, then there are some outstanding lodges and retreats. We are going to highlight only the accommodations we have personally visited – the places we definitely feel are well deserving as options for our fellow travellers.

Boutique Bay of Island accommodation Places - Russell

Harakeke Gardens Guesthouse

We have been sending guests to Harakeke for a couple of years now. And I have to say, that Harakeke is one of our personal favourites – it is a real gem! This property is set among rural, rolling green hills, overlooking beaches and bay. And it is only 10 minutes from the village of Kerikeri. To our way of thinking, Harakeke Gardens Guesthouse is more like a semi detached villa from the main house which is separated by a beautiful courtyard.

Boutique Bay of Island accommodation Places - Harakeke Gardens Guesthouse

The Guesthouse offers two-bedrooms in a setting specifically designed for your full independence. Every one of our travellers that we have booked here, have loved it. I guess one of the reasons for its popularity, would have to be due to the hosts, Jan and Ian. They are charming hosts with a deep local knowledge of the area. In fact, both these guys are very interesting people.  Jan is a respected local artist with well established contacts to the local ‘art scene’. In fact, you may very well see her at work in her studio nearby. When it comes to provisions, you have the choice of bringing your own food or having some of this arranged prior to your arrival.

Harakeke Gardens Guesthouse - Bay of Islands

Crab Cove Cottage Wainui

This little ‘gem’ is the perfect haven for travellers wanting to ‘get away’ from it all! Crab Cove Cottage is about 40 minutes north of Kerikeri and is nestled in a remoter part of the Bay of Islands. Believe me, it is such a sweet place to be. We think this is just perfect for a honeymoon couples. The host. Victoria, is super friendly and will make you feel at home. But what will really blow your mind, is the actual location of the building. The cottage is located right on the cliff edge facing the blue waters and bay. You can walk down to the beach, grab the kayaks provided, and start exploring the bays. You will also have walks to choose from. Each morning, you will be served breakfast on a tray which is discreetly placed on the outside alcove – your privacy is guaranteed.

crab cove cottage with views over the bay of islands

Treghan Luxury Lodge – Kerikeri

Treghan is all about quality, generosity and service. Hosts Anna & Murray have established a real hidden treasure right outside the Kerikeri Village. Just turn down a 300 metres driveway and you will find yourself in a rural setting. But at the same time, you will be close to the local markets, restaurants and other key sites in the Bay of Island region. From the minute you are greeted by your hosts you will have a wonderful time. Quality breakfast provisions are provided, along with a bowl of fresh fruits and beautiful flowers from the garden. You will love the freshly baked cookies!

Boutique Bay of Island accommodation Places - Treghan Luxury Lodge

Treghan has three independent cottages and each one affords you the privacy you desire. If you would like to chat to Anna & Murray, they are more than happy to oblige. Another big plus for travellers, is that Treghan has a gorgeous little art gallery on site (The Little Black Gallery). This features features beautiful art and ceramics by the local artists of the area. Anna can easily arrange restaurant bookings for you.  However, she did mention that it pays to arrange these prior to your arrival – especially during the peak summer season.

treghan luxury cottages kerikeri bay of islands

Donkey Bay Inn Russell

If you check out the location map on the top of this blog you will see that Russell is ‘on the other side’ of the ‘Bay’. And that means taking a rather long, windy and dusty road – or using the ferry service from Opua. Guess what, most travellers will go for the ferry service, which runs about every 15 minutes. It will only take you 5 minutes to get across. The cost for this was NZ$27 return when we did this trip in September 2019. Russell is generally quieter than Paihia, which is on the other side of the ‘Bay’. About 800-900 people living here permanently. Great local vibe here.  But let’s talk about the amazing Donkey Bay Inn…


Donkey Bay Inn is a destination in itself – not only another accommodation. You will come here to experience the remoteness of Russell with the funky, eclectic style with a definite Italian influence. You will get a clue as to how different this place is when you hear the room names –  ‘Emperors Suite’, ‘Skyfall’ or ‘DB5’. Some travellers may be a little ‘iffy’ about one of these beautiful suites.  There is not door to separate the the large bedroom from the huge bathroom. But on the other hand, the views from the private balconies are really ‘to die for’. There are not many place in New Zealand where nature’s remoteness can harmonize so perfectly with European style. Donkey Bay Inn is one such property. So be prepared for the sometimes strange but beautiful furniture and fittings when you book in at Donkey Bay Inn!

Donkey Bay Retreat in russell bay of islands

Appledore Lodge Paihia

You will find a number of bed and breakfast options in the Bay of Islands. On our recent trip we visited Appledore Lodge, which is just 10 minutes drive outside Paihia. This property sits in a wonderful location right on the Waitangi River. The beauty about Appledore Lodge, is that you will be well away from the busy vibe of  Paihia.  Yet at the same time, you will be close to everything. Most travellers tend to get around with a rental car anyway, so a wonderful location like this is so perfect, The two rooms in the main building are spacious and well appointed. The cottage accommodation is just a few metres away from the main house. We’d recommend for cottage for families or two couples travelling together. If you want to interact with the locals, then staying at a bed and breakfast is such a wonderful way of travelling.

Appledore Bed and Breakfast near Paihia Bay of Islands

Summary on Boutique Bay of Island accommodation Places

This blog is by no means a complete guide on boutique places on the Bay of Islands. But we have listed the Boutique Bay of Islands accommodation Places that we have personally visited and met their owners. We are confident that each place we have listed will provide travellers like yourself with a great welcome.  You will definitely leave with a smile on your face. Read about Coromandels vs Bay of Islands travel blog too.

Travel is all about people and experiences, so the more contact you have with the locals, the better the experience. After all, surely that is what ‘Real Travel’ is all about.

Happy Travelling the Bay of Island!

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

Are you going to choose the overnight option to do the Kepler Track Te Anau walk?  If you are, then I would recommend that you walk the route going anti-clockwise. Now if like me, you only have a few hours for a day walk, either direction will give you a great walk through nature.  So if you are running short of time, why not try this 2-hour option.  You can start in the morning from the Lake Te Anau Control Gates.  This route will take you to Rainbow Reach.  You will be heading south in the direction of Manapouri.

Kepler Track Te Anau walk

Kepler Track Te Anau walk – Native plant species

There is a very beautiful part of this track, which goes alongside the Waiau River in the Fiordland National Park. And the great thing is, that you will find far fewer people walking in this direction.  So that means you will be guaranteed of getting a large part of this walk all to yourself.  Now, one amazing attraction you will see along this nature paradise, is the beautiful moss.  In fact, this whole area is incredibly rich with most moss growth and stunning walks.  It is quite fascinating the way it springs back when you touch it.  But do be gentle – the moss here takes many years to grow and get established.

Kepler Track Te Anau walk - native bush

Kepler Track Te Anau walk – the unusual

Interestingly enough, the lush native bush that grows here is not the only plant life to thrive in this area. At certain times of the year, when the conditions are just right, these brightly coloured mushrooms appear and they add such a beautiful pops of colour. But be warned folks  – while they may be pretty to look at, they are not to be eaten.  This particular mushroom is red, but there is a photographer over on the West Coast who regularly showcases the most beautiful blue mushrooms!

Kepler Track Te Anau walk - beautiful mushrooms

Along the Wairau River

After about half an hour of walking, you will follow the track pass the powerful Wairau River. The sun throws fairy lights across the water which provides a dappled effect.  You will probably notice that some walkers lingering around here.  The Wairau River flows very fast – the sounds of which are very soothing to the human spirit.  In fact, you will find that it has an almost hypnotic effect where you can empty your mind of all your cares for a while. Jet boating tours are available as well.

Kepler Track Te Anau walk - going pass the Wairau River

Kepler Track Forest Restoration

We shall never forget meeting a local legend on this track, Mr Ray Willet. Ray has worked tirelessly for decades to help restore the forest and its birdlife.  Ray told us that the birdlife here has actually trebled in the past 2 years!  That is fantastic news for conservation. We could quite see many fantails and bellbirds, that make the prettiest song.  But what was really so exciting was that we actually got to see the elusive little rifleman, New Zealand’s smallest bird. Recent photos have provided that the rare Blue Duck (whio) has been sighted by overnight trampers near the Iris Burn Hut. What a wonderful story for all those bird lovers out there!

Lord of the Rings connection

What a lot of people don’t know, is that the  Wairau River featured in the Lord of the Rings movie. It served in the opening aerial shot of The Fellowship of the Ring, and showed the legendary so called ‘Anduin River’. That is another cool thing about this walk – actually walking in the footsteps of the ‘Hobbits’ from Rainbow Ridge bridge towards Lake Manapouri!

Summary – Kepler Track Te Anau walk

These walks are actually just a tiny option of what you can see and do in this beautiful area.  One such amazing experience is to heli-hiking tour up to Mt. Luxmore and walk back to Lake Te Anau for pick-up.  You can also take a float plane flights to the remoter parts of the Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland region. Also, the ‘Faith in Fiordland’ boat tour on Lake Te Anau is highly recommended.

Helihike Mt Luxmore

Believe me, these trips really open up the region which is so rich in history and pristine natural beauty. And unlike the Milford or Doubtful Sounds, you’ll get a sense of having an entire valley to yourself. How’s that for an enticing option?

Happy travelling in the Fiordland region!

What to do in Waitomo

There are stunning regions in New Zealand. In tourism terms, some of these regions could be described as ‘underdeveloped’. But believe, if you are a serious travellers you will probably agree that this is a good thing. Because if any area is ‘underdeveloped, you will get to be away from mass market tourism and those populated hot spots. This is where the beautiful rural ‘King Country’ of the Waikato region really comes into it’s own. If you travel through the Waikato Region, you will probably stop to explore the famous Waitomo Caves.  So here are a few tips on what to do in the Waitomo area of the Waikato Region.

What Waitomo has to offer … firstly Caves

Most of first-time travellers to New Zealand that the Waitomo Caves is an absolute must-do. There are a number of different caving tours at the Waitomo Caves. These options include SpellboundBlack-Water-Rafting and 4 or 7 hour Abseiling tours. Can you imagine yourself doing this?

What to do in Waitomo - caving options

…or this crazy looking guy having some fun…

What to do in Waitomo - abseiling

Kawhia Hot Water Beach

You could spend another fantastic day out at the Kawhia hot water Beach. When I visited this beautiful beach for the very first time, I discovered something really beautiful.  The tussock that grows here, is such a stunning feature of the landscape.  For sure, there is a bit of a climb over dunes to get to the beach, but most people can cope with this. And you will be glad you did this. Kawhia Beach stretches out as far as the eye can see. The very first thing you will probably notice, is the black-iron sand – it provides so much drama to the overall look.  Best of all perhaps is that amazing hot water! Just arm yourself with the spade provided and dig your own personal spa.  But do remember to go at low tide.



Hobbiton Location Tour (Lord of the Rings)

The Hobbiton Village is in Waitomo and it caters for large busloads of people.  But listen to this, just hidden away, is the less known Mangaotaki Valley site – you won’t get any jostling for space here folks! This tour has a wonderful point of difference.  The ‘Hairy Feet Waitomo‘ tours will only cater for one small party at a time.  And that means, no more than probably 12 pax . But the next great thing is that you will be guided by the owner of this land who was actually personally involved with the Hobbiton production. In fact, 20 minutes of the first Hobbiton film was filmed right here in this very location.  So if you’re a Tolkien fan, you will love this one.



Marokopa Falls near Waitomo

We are always urging our travellers to slow down!  Sometimes here just isn’t enough time to do everything.  That is why taking this 20-minute return walk to Marokopa Falls will be just perfect for you. It is not every day that you get to see a spectacular 36-metre waterfall!  And to get there, just drive a short 2 kilometres past the Piripiri Cave off State Highway 37. The Marokopa Falls is actually one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. And it will photographs so well for you!


Marokopa Falls2

Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park

Here is your chance to see New Zealand’s most iconic birds – the Kiwi.  The Otorohanga Kiwi House also has other native birds including the cheeky Kea kiwi birds, plus daily talks by the keeper and feeding displays (kiwi, kea & kaka, kakariki and longfin eels). Enjoy the great range of native birds and these includes Keas, Kakas and Kakarikis, If you time it right, you will even get to hear talks by the keeper and see the birds being feed. And all of this can be enjoyed in a peaceful park-like.


Otorohanga Kiwi 2


Kamahi Cottage – Farmstay Accommodation

Waitomo has it’s own 5-star Farmstay which is located close to the Waitomo Caves and the Village of Otorohanga. Liz and Evan run a farmstay style cottage in the Waikato area. The cottage is beautifully rustic on the outside. But it definitely has a softer level of comfort when you step inside.  Liz is a gourmet cook and her breakfasts are to die for.  This was a such a great little find – a hidden gem owned by real New Zealanders in the rural heartland.


What to do in Waitomo - Farmstay Cottage


Farm Tour at Kamahi Cottage

Evan from Kamahi cottage is a retired farmer.  So for an additional charge, he will take you on a fabulous farm tour through a real family-owned farm. Between the months of August and October, you will enjoy the sight of new born lambs.  They are the cutest!

Ed Hillary Walkway – Otorohanga

I came across this very interesting gallery by pure chance.  It is actually quite a unique gallery of Kiwiana displays. You will see some very clever showcasing of New Zealand’s popular culture. Not only will you learn some history, but also about the heroes and icons from different eras. This is a free attraction right that can be found in the main street of Otorohanga.

Beachy & surfy Raglan area

Raglan is such a charming seaside village. It is famous as a popular hang-out for surfers and artists. And to go with that brand, there is also has a vibrant cafe scene – classic NZ lifestyle.

Summary on what to do in Waitomo

I have listed just a few of the many highlights to be found in the Waitomo Caves area of the Waikato Region. However, to see at least half of my suggestions, you need to stay at least 2 days. You will be awed awed by the beautiful North Island landscape found here. And because you will be in an underpopulated spot, you will get plenty of space to enjoy some very special moments.

Check out this Pure New Zealand North Island travel itinerary, which bring you to the ‘real treasures’ New Zealand offers.

Happy Travelling the Waitomo & Waikato region!

Travel Hints for a New Zealand Vacation

Travel Hints for a New Zealand Vacation – Travel Insurance

Looking for Travel Hints for a New Zealand Vacation?  If you are, then it’s probably time to ask yourself a few questions. For example, what happens when get sick and you need medical assistance. Amazingly,  some travellers don’t bother with travel insurance. They see it as an unnecessary costs? Believe me, it is not.  The time my wife travelled to Europe, she made it as far as Auckland Airport before being rushed to an emergency medical clinic. Fortunately she was okay.  However, in the meantime, we had to cancel our connecting flight to Singapore and re-book it.  Our travel insurance covered this unexpected cost. Sure, getting peace of mind can be a costly business but then again, so is an astronomical hospital bill! Learn more about travel insurance options.

Travel Hints for a New Zealand Vacation – Footwear

Are you wondering if you need proper hiking boots? Well, unless you’re a serious tramper and love taking multi-day hikes, probably not. What you do need, is good waterproof walking shoes. Fortunately New Zealand has many very easy and well maintained walking tracks. But do remember that if you are buying new shoes for your trip, wear them in before you travel. Blisters are not fun! Learn more on what to pack for a New Zealand vacation.

Travel Hints for a New Zealand Vacation - Forest Walk near Staveley North Canterbury

The check-behind-you rule

Before you disembark from a plane or even a bathroom, check behind you, before you leave.  This also will apply to your rental when you drop it off at the depot.  Even boats have a way of hiding a cell phone behind a seat somewhere. Airline staff will tell you that I-pads and cellphones blend in very well to the decor. I had a client who had carefully stashed  $2000 into the wall safe of her hotel suite.  She forgot all about it and flew back to her home country.  Fortunately the Manager quickly retrieved the money and returned it via her bank account. Phew!

View some lovely Nature & Lifestyle itinerary samples.

What clothes to pack?

Remember, that in our blessed little country you can experience 4 seasons in one day! Pack for every types of weather. New Zealand is well known for its casual vibe. People don’t dress up for everyday living.  Of course, there are one or two high end lodges in New Zealand that expect men to dress in a jacket & tie for dinner. Most of the time, being tidy but casual, is the norm. Learn more what to wear in New Zealand.

purepod port fairy

Checking the house rules

Unless you’re in a self-contained accommodation (with cooking facilities), cooking is not permitted in your room.  Also, toilet and shower facilities may be plumbed to that of your homeland.  Of course, good hosts are expected to explain these matters to guests – but they don’t always. It is best to ask the hosts about the bathroom facilities. Save yourself the awkwardness of having to explain the flood coming out of your bathroom suite. Check out Department of Conservation site. Learn more about New Zealand accommodation options.

Customer complaints

You may have a genuine customer complaint. You really should approach this immediately to resolve any issues you may have. Give the service provider a chance to put it right so that the rest of your stay can be a happy one. We stayed at a beautiful luxury B & B in Akaroa a couple of years ago.  I mentioned to the hosts that the toilet seat in the ensuite was loose. By the time we returned from dinner an hour later, the seat had been fixed. That’s service for you!

Check seasonal availability

Your friends may have told you about a great boutique vineyard or a wildlife tour.  But what your friends may not know, is that some attractions in New Zealand close at certain times of the year.  An example is the Royal Albatross colony near Dunedin. Many vineyards close for wine tastings and some tours only operate in the Summer months. Some tours have age and weight restrictions – especially those relating to more physical adventure. Nowadays it is essential that you plan any New Zealand holiday well in advance. This especially applies during the summer season (October – March). That is why we often recommend that you consider travelling in the off season months. Learn more about why we do so.

top 10 new zealand honeymoon things to do

Summary Travel Hints for a New Zealand Vacation

Remember that Kiwis (the two-legged kind) will do anything to help you. You’ll never be without a helping hand.  So have a great New Zealand holiday!

Facts about Credit Card charges and Travel Insurance

We all use ‘plastic’, especially when travelling in foreign countries. They are a great way to make payments easy and convenient. This especially applies, when you are paying for petrol, shopping or dining out. Plus, they seem to offer all those lovely ‘rewards’, such as travel insurance and points. So, how does this all work? How are these so-called ‘rewards all possible? This blog looks at the facts about credit card charges and particularly the travel insurance that is often attached with it.

Why do we all love to use credit cards

Those clever marketing people love giving free gifts.  And we, the consumers, love receiving them.  They’re designed to make us feel valued. But lets look at the facts around credit card charges and travel insurance. What we think may be a ‘freebie’, comes at a price to someone. Credit Card companies are a classic example of appearing to offer something for free. We get “gold” or “platinum” cards with added bonuses, air-points and, you guessed it, travel insurance! But you can bet those rewards will come at a cost.

Credit Card Photo2

What charges are applied with credit cards?

Here is a great example of credit cards charges when you use them on an overseas trip: Let’s say you have a US issued credit and you are paying for a trip to New Zealand:

  • you will probably get the worst exchange rate. Generally this is a  2-3% difference in the total amount. See sample between different payment options.
  • additional exchange rate conversion fee, which are generally 2-3% of the total. View supporting read.
  • merchants (the company you buy the products and services from) will be charged another 3-4%. This goes into the overall pricing of the product/service.
  • Naturally about 20% of credit card holders overspend while on holiday. Then they go paying off the debt with fees of up to 15-20% interest per year.
  • So far, the overall credit card margin for your ‘free gift’ is 7-10% ! The Economist has written about the Payment card fees numerous times.

Note: the above example does not apply to all credit card contracts. For that, you will need to check with your bank / credit card issuer for the finer details.

exchange rate overview sheet

What other payment options do I have?

Fortunately the world of banking has moved forward. So called ‘Fintech’ companies are now giving banks and credit card firms a reason to rethink their business model. As a result of technical developments over the past 5-10 years, banks are now on the ‘back foot’. Only now, are they spending billions of dollars adjusting their systems. So what is the good news? Fortunately, there are  alternative options to paying bills on your overseas trip – especially those larger ones: Here are the pros and cons to these following options:

  • Bank transfers:
    Pros: you know the exchange rate they are charging you. There are no additional ‘conversion fees.
    Cons: some transfers takes 5 minutes (especially from modern countries like Singapore). Others can take a week (from the US or Germany). Also, sometimes they are hard to trace!
  • PayPal payments:
    Pros: Fast and very efficient. You may have a PayPal account to use funds from. Or you can use any credit card for the payment.
    Cons: expensive especially when currencies are involved. Also, costly for the merchants, which have to add the charges into their prices.
  • Modern Payment Systems (Fintech) is
    Pros: Best exchange rate. Fast and efficient. Payment is different currencies. Use your local bank account. Traceable, plus a notification system.
    Cons: You have to get your head around it and review all. Though they are all doing a pretty good job with graphs and videos in these days.



Facts about Credit Card charges and Travel Insurance

When it comes to Travel Insurance, we should be very cautious as to how effective credit card insurances are. First of all, how many of us believe that in an emergency, we shall get direct contact to our credit card company? The truth is, most credit card companies outsource their travel insurance to third party insurers. However, a first-class travel insurance is still absolutely necessary with any overseas trip. Read more.

Is your travel insurance adequate?

When travelling overseas, it is crucial to have a solid and reliable travel insurance. Health issues and accidents can happen to anyone. And let’s not forget the enormous cost of being repatriated home. We’ve all heard the stories about travellers suffering massive financial loss – and all because their travel insurance did not cover essential medical services. Here’s some interesting reading:

Facts about Travel Insurance

NZ Herald – Be cautious with credit card travel insurance – When good time turn bad – Can you rely on credit card travel insurance?


Facts about Credit Card charges and Travel Insurance

How to choose Travel Insurance?

So how do you choose travel insurance with adequate coverage?  A great start is reading the fine print. Personally, I’m happy to part with a few hundred dollars by using my local health insurer (many of them do offer overseas travel insurance). It gives me peace of mind, knowing that I will receive full hospital and health coverage. Plus, I’m also covered for personal liabilities, cancellations, interruptions and luggage. Here are options on selecting a good travel insurance:

  1. contact your local health insurance and ask them if they offer overseas travel insurance packages.
  2. if not, then contact your local insurance broker – they will probably have a reliable insurer on their books.
  3. check out online travel insurance options, such as Lonely Planet Travel Insurance.

Note: the key with travel insurance is: a) your country of residency, b) what passport you are travelling on, c) where you are travelling to, d) length of trip and e) your age.

Facts about Credit Card charges and Travel Insurance

Do you have a different opinion and experience of travel insurance? Feel free to air your opinion in the comments field below. We’d love to hear about it! Here are also more handy hints on travelling New Zealand.

Happy travelling with or without credit cards!


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