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Wairua Lodge rainforest retreat v2

Wairua Lodge: The North Island's secret relaxation retreat

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The treetop bath house at Wairua Lodge

The treetop bath at Wairua Lodge. Credit: Brook Sabin/Stuff

So, here I am on a herbal smoothie detox, chugging down four enormous glasses of green goop each day. Generously, I can say it tastes like liquid hay. And, it has the fibre content to match – because the digestive impact has been nuclear. Put it this way, I’ve produced enough energy to power NASA’s next medium to long-range rocket.

So, how about you? Do a quick scan of your body and let everything loose. Did you notice your shoulders tight? Jaw clenched? Eyes strained. We all have a metaphorical inner-spring that coils up and relaxes depending on what’s happening in life. But it seems in the past year, that coil just kept getting tighter – which is why we’ve seen a surge in one type of holiday: wellness escapes.

I’ve just finished a 100-day road trip around New Zealand, seeking out the country’s best hidden treasures. And of those 100 days, there is only one place where my spring really uncoiled: Wairua Lodge.

When most people think of wellness retreats, their mind immediately conjures up images of high-end mountain escapes where kale smoothies, silence, and yoga are mixed together In a pricey prescription for enlightenment.

Wairua Lodge rainforest retreat

Wairua Lodge is less than three hours from Auckland. Credit: Brook Sabin/Stuff

But this retreat costs a little over $200 a night, and owners Debbie and Aschi Baumberger deliberately keep their prices low because they want Kiwis to enjoy their slice of paradise.

Welcome to the Garden of Eden

Our car rolls over a small stream that feels like a moat to the outside world. There is no cellphone reception here, no city noise, no pollution.

We’re 15 minutes outside the Coromandel town of Whitianga, surrounded by thick native bush. It’s the type of forest that holds a crisp refreshing dew, even on a sweltering day.

The Stuff car crosses the ford at Wairua Lodge

The Stuff Travel car approaches Wairua Lodge. Credit: Brook Sabin/Stuff

Across the stream, our car climbs a steep hill before the expansive Wairua Lodge reveals itself like a long-lost paradise. The impressively large lodge – with immaculate lawns, loungers and outdoor spa – is a striking contrast to the thick bush surrounding it. Flocks of quails prance around the place like a miniature military, on some kind of welcoming parade.

The moment we step out of the car, we hear a chorus of tūī and other birdlife a city dweller like myself struggles to identify. I immediately relax.

Room at Wairua Lodge v2

Our room at Wairua Lodge. Credit: Brook Sabin/Stuff

Debbie greets us with a warm smile; she’s a Kiwi who spent decades in Switzerland and returned home with her Swiss husband Aschi to realise their dream of starting a retreat. And the Swiss touches of precision and attention to detail shows – the place is pristine.

We’re shown our way around the extensive walking tracks and where to find the best spots to read a book before our room is revealed. There are four main cabins, alongside a two-bedroom apartment. All have a distinctly Swiss-style, with wooden ceilings and walls, plush beds, and a modern bathroom. Blend that all together in a smoothie of relaxation, and you have the perfect recipe for sleep-ins.

Wairua Lodge has a series of water holes v2

The lodge has a series of waterholes. Credit: Brook Sabin/Stuff

Beyond extraordinary

While the rooms are beautiful, what makes Wairua exceptional is what you’ll find outside your front door.

Most people spend their day exploring the extensive set of walking tracks that meander through the bush. Along the way are clearings with hammocks and chairs to relax in next to the stream or waterholes. There is even a treehouse to climb, swings to “Tarzan yourself” into the water, and a waterfall to climb up (with the help of a rope).

But most people settle for finding a hammock under the trees (grabbing a blanket on a cooler day) and reading or napping to the sound of cicadas.

Hammock at Wairua Lodge v2

One of many hammocks tucked away along the walking tracks. Credit: Brook Sabin/Stuff

The next morning it rained, and as we feasted on our homemade breakfast of fresh bread, cereal and fruits, we watched the rainforest refuel. Reading a book on the deck, to the soundtrack of rain, is one of life’s great pleasures – which makes Wairua just as good in the sun as it is in a storm.

By evening, the magic continues. You can book an hour slot in the treehouse bath, which will be ready with candles burning and a playlist of classic love songs. You can also book the star spa; a place where you can marvel at the Milky Way.

We booked an hour at each before ending the night around a roaring firepit where marshmallows and chocolate biscuits were waiting to create gooey s’mores. It’s the kind of place where you bring a glass of wine, and talk the night away while trying to spot shooting stars.

Star spa at Wairua Lodge v2

The star spa is available for hour-long bookings up until midnight. Credit: Brook Sabin/Stuff 

 

On our 100-day road trip, the only true relaxation I felt was here. There were no smoothie detoxes or crack of dawn yoga classes. This is a place to relax, in your own style. And for the first time in a year, there was only one “C” word around. No, not Covid. Calm. And that feeling is priceless.

SMores Wairua Lodge v2 End the night making your own s’mores at the firepit. Credit: Brook Sabin/Stuff 

More information: A night at Wairua Lodge is $225 for a double room or $320 for a two-bedroom apartment. Price includes breakfast and use of all facilities including a communal kitchen, treehouse spa, limited wifi, star spa and firepit.  

The author was hosted by Destination Coromandel and Wairua Lodge. For more adventures from Brook Sabin, head to Stuff Travel.

 


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