Mudbrick Owners Retreat
It’s not often that I hesitate writing about an experience in fear that the secret gets out and it ruins my very own paradise – this was the case with my recent stay at the ‘Owners Retreat’ on Waiheke Island. My stay at this property was so relaxing and tranquil – it seemed too good to be true and with that, I wanted to keep this all to myself. However, after much soul searching, I thought that sharing this oasis with others in desperate need of a private getaway is a form of good karma (why not give something back!). If you fit that over worked demographic and want to escape civilisation, this property may be the option for you.
As you’ve probably figured out, our five night stay at the Owners Retreat was a much needed way to de-stress and go off the grid. Escaping the chaos of a busy Sydney work week was our number one priority, and Waiheke Island just off the coast of Auckland, was a perfect location for a quick getaway.
Now this property didn’t slap me in the face immediately when considering our options. In fact we hadn’t even considered Waiheke Island as a destination until I happened to stumble across a random link to the Mudbrick vineyard and restaurant website. There I found a link to Mudbrick owned accommodation and there I discovered the Owners Retreat for the very first time.
Reading the description of the property, co-owner of Mudbrick and the Owners Retreat, Robyn Jones, draws you in with a regale of how the property ended up in her possession. The extremely well-written monologue of how Robyn discovered and developed the property makes you feel like you’re there in the flesh:
From the moment you start to wind along the coast, you start to feel it. A retreat – a complete getaway from anything urban and an entry into a luxurious coastal escape. […]
You are part of a secret that lasts as long or as little as you desire. Nobody is going to find you there, you won’t hear anybody: there’s nobody around. It’s headland to headland with no neighbours.
Take some wine to the bottom of the lawn, jump in the dinghy and catch your dinner. Or just watch the fish jumping in the bay.
Reading Robyn’s personal connection to the property made what could’ve been a drab private rental advertisement real and alive – and we wanted to be part of it. So the following day, we booked the Owners Retreat and we were counting down the days before we left for this oasis.
Before you continue, let me just state for the record – this property has minor blemishes but it is priced accordingly and clearly none were deal breakers for my partner and I. More on this later.
Making our way to the island, we caught a taxi from Auckland airport to the Fullers Terminal in downtown Auckland – a fare of between $65 – $75 depending on traffic and takes roughly 30 – 40 minutes. The ferry is a scenic 35 minutes way and a return ticket costs $36. Mudbrick advise that a Heli pad is available at the property, and they’re right – however expect to pay $1200 each way for the privilege of traveling by helicopter.
On arrival we picked up our 4WD as recommended by Mudbrick – roughly half the journey is on unsealed and at times narrow, steep and windy country roads. The drive takes you through some fantastic New Zealand country scenery, all the while sinking in how far away from civilization you really are. Some clever driving instructions were provided that helped navigate our way to the property; the drive takes about 30 minutes from the ferry depending on how cautious you are behind the wheel.
We arrived at the property at 7:30pm as the sun was about to go down over the beautiful Hauraki gulf and the southern suburbs of Auckland in the far distance. It was quite the sight and we instantly felt like we were at home.
We unpacked the car and had a look around the house – it looked unassuming and modest from the outside but inside it was tastefully furnished in a white and wooden nautical theme.
Entry is via the kitchen which has most of the amenities you would need to live comfortably for a few days. The pantry and fridge had some items left from previous renters which was a nice touch – often private rentals are sterilized to the point that you have to buy every spice and oil that you want to use during your stay. Thankfully the pantry was stocked with the basics which was appreciated.
The kitchen has an adjoining dining room with large wooden table and six chairs. Large floor to ceiling windows create a feeling of space wile giving you a view of the surrounding bush out the back of the property.
The dining opens up to a split level open lounge area. The space could be filled with more lounging furniture but the centrepiece of the downstairs area is the huge bay window, which was enough for us. My partner and I spent lazy evenings here watching the flat screen TV and drinking a drop of local wine… magic.
The lounge has French doors leading to the wrap around deck where four large bean bags and a coffee table await. Again, more outdoor furniture wouldn’t go astray but we made do with what we had.
Back inside, and off the lounge area you have the main bedroom – a rather spartan space with a queen size bed, two bedside tables, a tallboy with mirror and a tall free standing cupboard. Thankfully the bed was comfortable and the pillows were fine for this pillow snob. The French doors in the main bedroom lead to the deck with those million dollar views and a new looking jacuzzi. Heaven!
The bathroom / laundry is just off the kitchen and sports a large modern bath which also doubles as a shower. The laundry comes with a separate washing machine and dryer. You can also find the fishing gear here, with the BBQ and fish hot smoker just outside the back door.
To get upstairs, a quaint staircase leads you to a split level space with two single beds in one area and a queen size bed in another. These rooms do not have sea views, with the queen bedroom looking out over the back of the property. The room had other essentials such as a baby cot for those travelling with kids.
Now back to our arrival. We put the bags down, changed into some daggy trackies, poured a wine, put on some lounge music and watched the sun go down. We felt the stress of the rat race melt away as we settled in to five nights of bliss. This was pretty much the modus operandi for our stay, admiring the sunset and enjoying the view.
So what can one do when isolated in the middle of nowhere? Clearly the main drawcard is the sea, and we spent many hours on the supplied dingy catching fish, or we were hunting for rock oysters that lined the rocks at each end of the bay. If sun baking is your thing, then you can pull up a towel on your very own beach and catch some rays.
We were often visited by interesting wildlife, such as hedgehogs and rabbits, and birds such pheasants, kingfishers and tui’s. It was quite a smorgasbord of local wildlife, we even saw an unfortunate baby rabbit get killed by a wild stoat – a reminder of how rough the bush is!
The house is unsurprisingly prone to mosquitos as we discovered on our first night – we opened some windows to let in the sea breeze which was an invitation for the local mozzie population. Thankfully the house comes flush with mosquito repellant devices that plug into the wall.
The house has a flatscreen TV in the lounge with a dozen old DVD’s to put on if the free to air digital receiver doesn’t yield anything interesting. A couple of books and some playing cards are available – thankfully we also bought along a laptop with our own supplies of entertainment which helped pass the hours.
As you would imagine there isn’t a hell of a lot in the surrounding area. If you’re looking for the closest restaurant, local vineyard Poderi Crisci has a restaurant that does lunch and dinner and is only a 10-15 minute drive away (though we did not dine here during our stay).
Now to the not so great – but of course totally first world problems and definitely not deal breakers:
Curtains were next to non-existent at this property, with the only curtains found in the main bedroom covering the French doors – but only then some, with the curtains not meeting in the middle. This proved to be troublesome, particularly if you long for a late sleep-in or if you favour a dark bedroom. We did adapt to the constant light, however sometimes we wanted to escape the sun and it often felt like we had no reprieve (#firstworldproblems I hear you say!).
The fishing rods were well used with only one of them in normal working condition. The others were broken or didn’t work well enough to catch fish. Thankfully we made do with what we had and managed to catch a couple of snapper and bait fish kahwai in the bay.
Unfortunately the dingy was a bit banged up hey, it did the job – note that there isn’t a engine so you must rely on oars to get you from A to B, which proves to be troublesome when you get hit with an unepected westerly that blows you in all sorts of different directions. An anchored buoy lies offshore and is a handy place to tie up the boat so it doesn’t drift.
While clearly obvious, the location of the property prevents one from just ‘ducking down to the shops’. A Countdown supermarket is found on Waiheke Island in Ostend, the largest supermarket where you can find most items including wine and beer (but not spirits). On our first day, we picked up a large swag of groceries, followed by two further visits during our stay for the things we missed. We suggest writing a list for items you need so you don’t forget during your next town visit.
At the end of the stay my partner and I promised each other that we would return to this slice of paradise. With it being so close to Auckland, and with Auckland being only a 3 hour flight away from Sydney – it’s a quick dash to get away from it all.
Pricing is from $400/night in low season, $500/night in peak season to $1000/night over Christmas. Extra guests $50/night. More details here: http://www.mudbrick.co.nz/index.php?page=mudbrick-accomodation-the-owners-retreat