New Zealand

  • New Zealand’s Sub-Tropical Paradise

    For most travelers who dream of one day exploring New Zealand’s landscapes, their thoughts likely drift toward the mountain peaks, glacial rivers, blue alpine lakes, and the black sand beaches boarded by frigid seas. Many parts of both the North and South Island country do contain these wonders; however, there’s a mellower side to the land that is less visited but no less beautiful known as the Bay of Islands.

    Bay of Islands | Photo Credit: TIME Unlimited Tours

    Bay of Islands | Photo Credit: TIME Unlimited Tours

    Helena Bay

    The Bay of Islands is known to the Kiwis as the “winterless North.” This sub-tropical region found at the very top of the North Island rarely sees temperatures dip below 60 degrees, even in winter. In the summertime, highs hover between 72-80 degrees. Few places take advantage of this temperate region’s wonderful geography as well as the luxury lodge Helena Bay. I was lucky enough to visit Helena Bay in May of 2017 with a group of fellow travel professionals. To say I was wowed is a true understatement.

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Situated 40 kilometers north of the town of Whangarei, Helena Bay is located next to the sea. It is only a 45-minute helicopter flight from the capital city of Auckland.  The lodge’s five waterfront suites are the perfect location for soaking in the scenery. Also, there is access to an array of aquatic adventures including stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, and small craft boating.  During my stay, I chose the time I wanted to go paddle boarding and was then met by an employee on the beach. My board was on the sand and a paddle was pre-set to my size.  The opportunity to paddle the waters and take in the surrounding green hills from the solitude of the sea felt like New Zealand truly personified.

    Pool | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Pool | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Lounge Area | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Lounge Area | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Cattle | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Cattle | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    So Much To Do

    The opportunities for fun on land were no less abundant and our group made good work of the lodge’s many options for exploring the property’s 800 acres.  Before Helena Bay was turned into the picture of luxury for travelers, it was a sheep farm.  Today, cattle are raised on the property and the lodge keeps miniature donkeys, alpacas, and chickens as pets for the guests to enjoy.  A quick ride on the electric all-terrain vehicles delivered us among the farm life.  Later in my stay, I opted to go off-the-beaten path via a mountain bike. I had a blast climbing hills and visiting secret beaches all to myself.  Although they offer many outdoor activities, if the weather is poor, the fully equipped indoor gym, heated lap pool, sauna, and steam room should keep the active crowd satisfied.

    Paddle Boarding | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Paddle Boarding | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Kayaks | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Kayaks | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Biking | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    Biking | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    Amazing Cuisine

    Finally, I have to mention the food.  Michelin-starred Ristorante Don Alfonso of Southern Italy operates in Helena Bay. The philosophy is respecting the local food culture while incorporating the age-old traditions of the Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast.  A good deal of the produce we found on our plates for each meal is grown on-site. We had farm fresh eggs at breakfast each morning.  The staff and overall experience our group found at Helena Bay was second to none.

    Dinner | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    Dinner | Photo Credit: Helena Bay Lodge

    New Zealand Cuisine | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    New Zealand Cuisine | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    Dessert | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    Dessert | Photo Credit: Jayson Repko

    As New Zealand’s newest luxury lodge, Helena Bay is still under the radar. However, with the unrivaled Kiwi experience offered, it won’t be long before the waiting list fills up quickly.

    I’m am East Coast native (Philadelphia) who relocated to sunny Southern California. Growing up I was lucky enough to visit all over the United States with my family going on snowboarding trips along with excursions to some America’s best beaches. After a trip to Costa Rica I was hooked on international travel and have since visited ten additional countries including New Zealand and the Cook Islands and I can’t wait to add many more. I’ve worked in the travel industry for six years now, starting with Home Exchange before moving to become the Marketing and Sales Manager for the Cook Islands Tourism Board’s North American Office. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Swain Destinations Team as the Relationships Manager for American Express Travel.

    September 5, 2017 • Jayson Repko, New Zealand, Property Highlights, Travels • Views: 2579

  • New Zealand, Every Day A Different Journey

    New Zealand can feel like an epic, once-in-a-lifetime dream trip. But in fact, it’s the type of place worth returning to repeatedly—and one where even during a single visit, each day is intriguingly different from the last.

    How, you wonder? Well, your week in New Zealand may go something like this…

    Monday: Giving it your best shot at Over the Top Golf—what a view! Gotta be the world’s most remarkable par-three hole.

    Wednesday: Navigating the Dart River in a Funyak inflatable canoe. Around the next bend? A film location used for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbiton movies.

    Friday: Waking up to a scenic helicopter ride that whisks you away to a secluded alpine setting for a gourmet picnic paired with fantastic views.

    Saturday: Experiencing Maori culture, starting with the traditional greeting known as hangi. Done with a pressing of the noses, hangi means we are considered family.

    At home in Middle-earth_LOW_RES

    The film location used for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbiton movies. | Photo Credit: Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tour

    Such thrilling activities are just one aspect of the New Zealand journey; the range of accommodations also comes into play. Take your pick among award-winning luxury lodges, intimate B&B’s, and architecturally stunning private homes. What they have in common are welcoming hosts who really know how to deliver outstanding service and experiences. On the North Island, Wharekauhau Lodge, which is also a working sheep station, provides insight into a livelihood that still exists today.

    Wharekahau Photo Grant Sheehan (7)

    Wharekauhau Lodge | Photo Credit: Wharekauhau Lodge

    New Zealand’s lodges are also a fantastic jumping-off point for embracing the outdoors, with hiking trials and wildlife encounters just beyond the doorsteps. A great example is Blanket Bay, located in Glenorchy on the South Island. From here, you can indulge in activities including fly-fishing, heli-skiing, and horse riding. If you prefer to meet the local wildlife, head to the North Island’s The Farm at Cape Kidnappers for a Kiwi Discover Walk, which brings you up close to the farm’s native bird population.

    The-Dramatic-Coastline

    Cape Kidnappers coastline | Photo credit: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers

    Your Kiwi experience starts, however, even before you check into your room. It starts when you board your flight with Air New Zealand. You are encouraged to ask the flight attendants about their favorite breakfast spots or an out-of-the-way hiking trail. Moreover, you can expect a warm, informed response from proud locals happy to share their insider knowledge. It comes straight from the heart, from an airline that is constantly renewing and reinventing itself. Air New Zealand now serves five North American getaways (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Honolulu, and Vancouver), connecting to a network of 50-plus cities in 15 countries.

    Over The Top - Milford

    Over The Top helicopter tour of Milford Sound | Photo credit: Over The Top

    The final ingredient is enlisting the service of experts who can put together your ideal New Zealand experience. Swain Destinations creates tailored, independent vacation packages, and our dedicated staff shares a unified passion and commitment to providing exceptional service to every traveler.

    Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply looking to go on a one-of-a-kind vacation, Swain Destinations will personalize your journey from start to finish —in New Zealand and beyond.

    June 25, 2016 • Articles, Destinations, New Zealand, Travels • Views: 1475

  • Experiencing Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses

    As I flew into Blenheim from Auckland over the small islands that start the South Island of New Zealand, the lush green countryside began to unfold amongst the crystal clear water, separating the finger-like peninsulas jutting out. Budget had my car ready and off I drove for the 70 mile journey to Kaikoura. It is amazing how this coastline is almost as untouched as it was when the Maoris first came here; a real treat. As I approached, the Treehouses and Lodge at Hapuku Lodge came into sight. Continue Reading

    April 9, 2015 • Bloggers, Destinations, Ian Swain Sr, New Zealand • Views: 3380

  • Top Ten Things to do in Auckland

    Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city, offers the visitor a modern buzz blended with old world charm. Continue Reading

    June 5, 2014 • New Zealand, Property Highlights • Views: 8388

  • The History and Tradition of Anzac Day

    ANZAC Day is a day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. It takes place every April 25th.

    More solemnly, it commemorates the “baptism of fire” both nations suffered in World War I. Hundreds of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders signed up to support British troops and wound up in one of the darkest and most illogical battles of the war– Gallipoli. Continue Reading

    April 25, 2014 • Australia, New Zealand • Views: 4550

  • Otahuna Lodge: A Food Lover’s Delight

    Jimmy McIntyre, Otahuna Lodge’s star chef, learned early on not to play with his food.

    A native New Zealander, Chef Jimmy grew up in the kitchen. “My step-father was a chef, so from an early age, I was in the kitchen. But my first job, I wasn’t allowed to cook. I washed dishes. But I observed, listened, gleaned knowledge. Charlie Trotter was my idol, a genius. Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver were also huge influences.” Continue Reading

    Most claim that this captivating young adventurer made his first appearance in the travel industry at the tender age of five, working diligently to become the most efficient brochure boxer this side of the Atlantic, all the while running up and down the office halls in-between projects. Always following his father around the office throughout the years, Ian began to learn the ropes and become more engaged with the company and travel industry. As Ian grew older, his knowledge and skill set were outpaced only by his passion for travel and desire to see the world, venturing to destinations across the globe from Australia to Africa,. After four years of study, and a few years working within the hotel industry, Ian began his official career much like it started, with a wide-eyed enthusiasm and tireless work.

    March 7, 2014 • Bloggers, New Zealand • Views: 2432