The staggering view walking into Cloud9
will linger forever. This is a $nz1700 a night four-bedroom holiday haven that
is one of those places you must stay in before you die.

Cloud9 is as close to heaven as you can
get: A hilltop house above the sleepy village of Russell overlooking the Bay of Islands; looking down on to dreamy
golden sand Long Beach.

Some experiences in life stay happily in
the mind forever. This is one of those. When I was ushered into Cloud9 by my
accommodation hostess Lesley Joy, we stepped down into the lounge and onto the
whitewashed floorboard. Lesley was explaining how to work the flat screen DVD,
the wi-fi internet and how to ‘drive’ the kitchen.

To be honest I didn’t hear a word she
said. I was gaping like a stunned goldfish at the priceless view across the
Pacific Ocean and the Bay of Islands.

Lesley took me outside to the edge of
the infinity pool which seemed to blend in with the ocean as one. The property
was given the name Cloud9 as it appeared the nearest place to heaven.

This place must rate the most welcome
destination in this part of the world. All the bedrooms have a cedar patio or
deck that have panoramic unobstructed views to the islands and the ocean.

I lay in my cosy king sized bed that
night with the doors opened and heard the flightless kiwi big – the famous New
Zealand symbol – scurrying around in the bushes among the ferns and nikau

The next morning I rummaged through the
kitchen and Lesley had left me bacon, eggs, mushrooms, yummy MacKenzie Country
fresh bread, fruit juice, fresh fruit platter, cereal, tea, coffee and just
anything else I would have wanted for breakfast.

I walked down to the beach. The water
was so warm and I swam in the still Pacific Ocean before laying on the sands
under the sun before striding back up the hill to Cloud9.

The sky cable television had all the
movies and channels you could wish to watch. I never turned it on. There was
too much natural beauty to soak up. I cracked open a lovely bottle of award-winning
Spy Valley sauvignon blanc – the best of Marlborough wine - and sat out on the
deck to watch the sun set. I could hear the waves crashing, the native birds
scurrying above the bush – and nothing else. It was like being in a movie in
privacy and almost in blissful silence.

The next day I strolled slowly through
the Russell township. By now my pace of life had slowed to such a lazy gait I
had completely unwound. I popped into Janet’s South Sea art gallery which was
the most earthy and welcoming of the three galleries in the main street. Helena
Blair’s iconic Kiwi beach scenes were eye-catching and commercially very

But I didn’t want to stay away from /Cloud9
too long. I bought some fresh groper from the local shop to take ‘home’ and
cook. Another night of bliss out on the deck among the palms: not a ripple
across the infinity pool, the gentle crashing waves on the empty beach. For a
time life stood still.

I headed off the next morning, promising
to spread the word and to return to Cloud9 one day.

The lodge sleeps eight people in three
double bedrooms and one twin room. Two of the doubles have ensuite double
shower rooms while the other double shares a bath/shower room with the twin
room. All bathrooms have double basins. The lounge is superbly fitted-out and
so relaxing but the breathtaking views are unbeatable.

 Cloud 9 in the dreamy Bay of Islands of
New Zealand is the real natural piece de resistance but like an upmarket Kiwi
bach (holiday home).  It’s the best of
the best. Ironically, the only cloud in sight when I drove away was Cloud9
which still taunts the happy side of my mind.