Marino Ridge, Waiheke Island

While many Aucklanders day-trip in Waiheke Island, we spent a couple of nights on the island to really get an in-depth feel. Also, we wanted to hit up Waiheke's wineries, and there was no way we could fit 20-odd cellar doors in just a one-day excursion.

And while Waiheke attracts a lot of tourists, it isn't exactly teeming with luxury hotels. There's the one, or two, luxury lodges, but those have constrained capacity and are few and far between.

And because we decided on a Waiheke side-trip very late in the day, we were unfortunately left with limited choices for accommodation. Anyhoo, we ended up at Marino Ridge, a "luxury hosted accommodation" which was really a pseudonym for a bed-and-breakfast at a stunningly sleek bungalow, replete with the most spectacular scenery.

Marino Ridge is actually the homestead of Peter and Caroline, who honed their trade as a luxury yacht captain and chef in their previous lives. Warm and friendly, they make you feel immediately at their, now yours too, home away from home. Add to that their poodles, Isla & Fabio, and we were in love!

Because of their background in high-end hospitality, Peter & Caroline were experts in arranging our itinerary around Waiheke Island. The wine tour they engaged for us, with Michelle of Waiheke Bespoke Tours, brought us to the best cellar doors Waiheke had to offer, even those off the grid. We're still dreaming about that Montepulciano from Jurassic Ridge, who opened their doors to us despite the fact that they were closed for the season. Marino Ridge also put us in touch with Waiheke Horse Tours, where we rode horses featured in blockbuster movies, including those in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That's right, my closest brush with celebrity is riding the same horse Tom Cruise did in The Last Samurai.

Located at the north-western end of Waiheke, Marino Ridge overlooks the azure waters of the Owhanake Bay. It's a convenient 9-minute drive from the ferry terminal, and only 7-minutes to the main town of Oneroa, yet it feels like a tranquil world away from the bustle of town.

The magnificent exterior of the bungalow. The private helipad is just behind the bungalow, and is probably the most convenient way to enter Waiheke from Auckland.

You enter through 2 entrances, the one on the right is through the library and leads to the suites, which is accessible with your house key 24/7. The one through the sliding doors to the main living/kitchen areas is open during the day and till about 10pm.

The living room, dining, and kitchen, all of which have heated floors so you stay toasty in winter. There's a wraparound veranda off the kitchen, overlooking the bay, where you can while the day away, over a bottle of wine. Many of their guests have been known to take their breakfasts on that veranda, it's a picture perfect spot to start your day, no?

There's also a lap pool and barbecue area, with an outdoor dining table, to party on during the summer months. In addition to the pool and jacuzzi, both of which are heated during the cooler seasons, there's a yoga studio and modest exercise room to work out in. If you feel you need to unwind those knots, Marino Ridge will arrange for an in-house massage in the designated spa room.

We stayed at the Coromandel Suite, with an en-suite bathroom and balcony. Sun-drenched and modern, it was cosy and adequately fitted out with a mini bar, tea/coffee-making facilities, bluetooth/iPod dock, in-room safe, wifi, HDTV, and a DVD player with a collection of shows you can borrow from the library. Rates start at NZ$695 per night.

The bathroom had a heated towel rack, very appreciated especially during the cooler months. Pros, the big tub, and luxe all-natural Nellie Tier amenities. Cons, the lack of privacy with that clear screen looking into the balcony.

The view of the balcony which overlooks the Cocomandel Peninsula.

Little welcome bites, fresh fruits, candies, and homemade chocolate bakes. These were replenished every day, and devoured in seconds.

The best part of staying at Marino Ridge was the afternoon tea, which indulgent nibblers were quite the extravagant touch. Fresh NZ oysters, fat and brimming with sweetness, ready to be washed down with a bottle of their local white.

The sardine crostini with tapenade, finished with a sprig of dill, was robust and well-balanced.

The pepper-crusted seared tuna was nuanced, uncomplicated, and delicious.

We loved the uncomplicated layers of burrata, tomatoes, and basil on the caprese crostini. A mill of fresh black pepper was all it took for it to come alive.

More seafood, by way of an oyster bloody mary shooter that was intoxicating and absolutely smashing.

Fresh fruits set out on a pretty platter, with walnuts and violets.

Marino Ridge
211 Delamore Drive
Waiheke Island
Auckland 1081
New Zealand
Tel: +64 9 372 9799
Website: www.marinoridge.co.nz

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