Stepping into the lobby lounge at The Boatshed on New Zealand’s Waiheke Island doesn’t feel like entering a hotel, but rather like visiting an old friend – it’s comfortable, relaxed and inexplicably familiar. The décor is light, fresh and, as one might expect given the name, nautical in theme. Fresh bouquets of flowers are scattered around the room and surfaces are covered with books of every size and topic – from a history of gay rights in New Zealand, to a coffee table book of interior design inspiration from around the world.
We’ve arrived at the property, which is perched on a hilltop overlooking Little Oneroa Bay, for an overnight stay and truthfully, I’m already dreading leaving. The December morning sunshine streams through the open plan sitting area, which looks out to the bays and the ocean beyond. Feeling suitably at home, we recline on outdoor deck chairs and are soon served a morning tea platter of thick, sweet bread with various jams, complemented with fresh berries, tea and coffee. Our host Sharon advises that this welcome platter typically has more of a wine and cheese theme, but morning tea seems more fitting at this hour (although the wine offer still stands).
A popular Kiwi holiday spot, Waiheke Island is just a short trip from Auckland by ferry or helicopter and while the island plays host to a selection of luxury properties, The Boatshed is undoubtedly one of the more intimate options. It’s been a family owned operation for 14 years, I’m told by owner Jonathan Scott. The land The Boatshed sits on has been in his family for 35 years and used to house the archetypal Kiwi family bach (small holiday home), a less glamorous version of what stands today. Jonathan’s father David Scott – a now US-based designer – helped build the property and still plays a tangible part in keeping it fresh and lively. Every time he visits, he makes a small amendment. Be it covering decorative cushions with a new fabric he’s carried over with him from the US or adding a new nautical trinket, they are personalised touches that serve to maintain the boutique property’s home-away-from-home vibe.
Jonathan himself isn’t a stranger to luxury hospitality, having worked at The Dorchester hotel in London and also servicing private yachts, an experience he says is comparable to how The Boatshed functions – that is, small groups of people receiving high quality, attentive and personalised service. The property is largely self-sufficient, with all water recycled onsite and an extensive organic garden (arguably the property’s shining feature), which grows an assortment of produce that eventually finds its way onto guests’ plates.
Later, after sampling canapés in the lounge, we peruse the very garden our appetisers came from with a glass of Waiheke wine and wander up to the hilltop gazebo to catch the beginnings of a beautiful sunset. Private dining in the gazebo is an option for guests but for dinner, we retreat to a candlelit table in the main lodge – a cosy affair despite its communal setting. The Boatshed is a small property with only five suites and two bungalows, and most guests who stay here are couples wanting to get away for the weekend and spend some quality time with one another. Tables in the guest-only restaurant are positioned so you feel like you’re in an intimate restaurant with your partner, and Chef Adam Rickett (formerly of the renowned Matterhorn restaurant in Wellington) can customise your meals if desired.
Rickett’s cuisine is exceptional. First up is an entrée of prawns with coconut milk and flaxseed crackers. Next is a 45-day aged rib eye served with asparagus and Parmesan, iceberg lettuce with brioche crumbs and balsamic shallots. The flavours are robust and undeniably fresh, and we have to remind ourselves to save room for dessert – a flourless chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache and mascarpone. Feeling full, we retreat to bed, but not before glimpsing a marriage proposal that has subtly unfolded at the next table. Such is the intimacy of The Boatshed.
Breakfast the next morning is a veritable assortment of blended juices, gourmet cereals and freshly baked breads. We order both the sweet and savoury hot breakfast options and share a plate of salmon eggs benedict, along with rhubarb French toast – fuel that keeps us going while we visit nearby art galleries in Oneroa, followed by lunch and a wine tasting at Cable Bay Vineyard. I decide that on my next visit, I’ll linger a little longer to explore the bays by boat, wine and dine my way around a few more of Waiheke’s prized wineries, and discover more of its natural delights.
Relaxed luxury at The Boatshed | Belinda Craigie