This review of Eagles Nest in Bay of Islands is taken from our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection Australia/New Zealand.
‘The name’s Smith… Mr Smith.’ We’ve just been shown to our villa at Eagles Nest and memories of the three hours of travel from Auckland have magically dissipated. It’s not hard to imagine why Mr Smith has gone all 007 on me. For the next few days, the two of us are staying in the Eyrie, a super-luxe, ultra-contemporary three-bedroom bolthole. There’s a home theatre, magnificent all-white bathroom, paintings by New Zealand artists and, best of all, an enormous deck with private infinity pool and Jacuzzi. Up to six people could stay here, but having this sort of space and privacy – we can’t hear any other noise or see evidence of other guests – feels pretty rock star.
Already Kelly has given us a tour of our digs, including the fully equipped kitchen and, most importantly, the fridge stocked with all types of delectables. She’s barely out the door when I crack open the bottle of complimentary champagne and tuck into the chocolate treats from the larder. She’s also recommended a spot in nearby Russell where we might find ourselves some dinner before having an early night. An hour or so later, we’ve plonked ourselves in front of the television and are unwrapping the spoils of our food run: piles of hot fish and chips. The catch of the day, according to the man in the chippie. I don’t recall – did James Bond ever kickback with a takeaway?
Jet-lag has Mr Smith up the next morning way too early for my liking, but my disappointment doesn’t last long. He’s opened the shutters and within seconds I am literally drooling. The sun is beating down and beyond the deck is a view that you could stare at for days: boats zip across the bay that is itself dotted with islands. I’m reminded of scenes of Jamaica in Live and Let Die. Palm trees line the sides of the deck, stopping anyone from seeing into our pool. We dive in but it’s a little chillier than anticipated, so Mr Smith and I quickly duck into the steaming Jacuzzi and stare out at that water. We’ve heard you can spot dolphins out there, so, on a whim, Mr Smith pops inside to call the Eagles Nest office and see if they can organise for us to go on a tour of the Bay of Islands. Not only is it possible, they say, but we can go this morning.
Having already collected passengers at Pahia, the boat stops at Russell to get us. The crew is extremely knowledgeable about the sea life in the area, but after 40 minutes we’ve yet to see a dolphin. Then a call comes in from another vessel: there’s a big pod of the mammals having their morning feed not far away. Within minutes we’ve spotted them and they put on a show, swimming alongside the boat and leaping acrobatically into the air. Everyone on the boat is beside themselves with excitement.
Heading out to our next spot, the Hole in the Rock, the weather turns and the boat starts to bob. ‘I think I’d rather be having breakfast in bed right about now,’ says Mr Smith, as we both start to feel decidedly green around the gills. The seas soon calm and we keep the contents of our stomachs where they belong, our nausea eclipsed by the scenes we’re being treated to.
Back on shore, we head to one of Russell’s waterfront cafés and indulge in some real comfort food: nachos for Mr Smith and a bacon and cheese toastie for me. Back at the villa, we decide to make the most of our five-star surrounds. I send Mr Smith up to the office to collect a copy of The Spy Who Loved Me from the DVD library – it seems strangely appropriate, perhaps minus the Russian submarines and nuclear warheads.
Unlike many of New Zealand’s luxury accommodation options, Eagles Nest doesn’t have a central lodge where guests can gather or have meals. It can, however, organise for a chef to whip you up a fine spread to enjoy in your villa. To make sure we didn’t miss out, Mr Smith organised all of this before we arrived. At 7.45pm, our personal chef Michael knocks on the door – we’ve already opened a bottle of bubbly – and he starts preparing our feast. We sup on starters of tiger prawns with citrus and rocket salad, and lamb and feta with roasted capsicum on crostini, followed by filet mignon served with portobello mushrooms, pommes Anna, roasted garlic and red wine jus (for Mr), and duck breast wrapped in prosciutto with roasted vegetables, baby potatoes and anise demi-glaze (for Mrs). Not only is he a great cook, but Michael is an amazing host, too. If only we could eat like this every night.
Having not made use of the amazing gadget-packed kitchen ourselves, the next morning Mr Smith and I decide to prepare an enormous departure breakfast (anything to delay leaving). Big servings of bacon and eggs, toast and juice are the perfect prelude to our upcoming drive. We grudgingly wave goodbye to our beautiful villa and its stunning subtropical setting. From behind the wheel of our tiny hire car, Mr Smith stares back with regret on his face and starts humming ‘Nobody Does It Better’. He’s right; we’ve never before experienced anything like Eagles Nest, and for a few days at least we got to live out enough Bond fantasies to last a lifetime.