Access & Resources
The three rooms and one beach cottage at Cavalli all sleep two and start at $180, breakfast included. 011-64-9-405-1049, www.cavallibeachhouse.com
IT RAINED THE ENTIRE four-hour drive up the coast of the North Island from Auckland. A freak summer squall, they called it. It'll blow over in no time, mate. Well, it didn't. Until I crested the hill leading down to the secluded cove where Cavalli Beach House sits. Then the clouds parted and the rain stopped. In front of me lay Rapaki Bay, beyond it the Mahinepua Peninsula Scenic Reserve, and beyond that the Cavalli Islands themselves. After a day of Middle Earthy gray mist, suddenly everything was bathed in color: big orange sun, black-and-blue ocean, lush green hills. Someone put a glass of wine in my hand and directed me to the hot tub. I was home.
"I don't believe in tripe, I believe in the religion of life," Bill Schwass, co-owner with his wife, Paula, told me. I could tell. Just three years old, the mod wooden beach housethree floors and three rooms, with a triangular white roof that curves down over the top like a mainsail filling with windsits on the northern edge of the Bay of Islands, one of the prime sailing, snorkeling, diving, and fishing grounds in the world. The wreck of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, which sits just off the Cavalli Islands, is a popular dive site.
That evening, over a dinner of fresh red snapper and a few glasses of local sauvignon blanc, Bill hatched a plan for a dawn-brigade kayak excursion. We'd paddle across the cove, drag our kayaks over a narrow section of the Mahinepua Peninsula, and explore a sea cave on the ocean side where little blue penguins nested. A capital idea, I thought. Until the next morning, when I found myself snorkeling into that cave with Bill, trying hard not to swallow another gallon of salt water as the waves bumped us off the dark walls. "Now you know what it feels like inside a washing machine," Bill yelled. Yes, I do.