One of Waiheke island’s most acclaimed guest lodges has been placed on the market for sale by its original owners and is being marketed by Bayleys Waiheke salesperson, Clive Lonergan.
Boutique Te Whau Lodge was established some 17 years ago by business couple Gene O’Neill and Liz Eglinton who saw the need for an easy escape from the bustle of Auckland – a boutique retreat.
Purpose-built and architecturally designed, Te Whau Lodge was one of the first commercial standard lodges on the island and its simple, clean lines stand the test of time and allow all rooms to capture the panoramic sea views. Easy to operate, Liz and Gene came to the business with no prior experience in hospitality and have built an enviable business with a high number of return guests – both local and overseas.
Accommodation facilities at the Lodge consist of four double guest rooms each with ensuite and private balcony. The standard nightly rack rate – including canapés and breakfast – is NZ$495 per couple. The 779 square metre building (424 enclosed building plus 355 covered entrance, decks and walkways) sits on some 5.9 hectares of land with uninterrupted views over the Waitemata Harbour looking back to Auckland City.
In addition to the four guest rooms, Te Whau Lodge has a commercial grade kitchen (newly made-over in August 2015), a generous dining room with seating for up to 14, a guest lounge with gas fireplace, extensive decking , ample laundry and service areas plus a two-bedroom owner’s/manager’s area.
Mr Lonergan said Liz Eglinton and Gene O’Neill were among a group of entrepreneurial visionaries who, in the 1990’s, saw the future potential for Waiheke’s wider tourism sector – piggybacking off the close proximity to CBD Auckland just a 35 minute ferry ride away. Aucklanders are a cornerstone to the business which is roughly split 50 percent local and 50 percent off shore guests.
“Over the past two decades, Waiheke’s appeal as a leisure, tourism and incentive/corporate travel destination has escalated phenomenally. Large scale venues such as Mudbrick, Cable Bay, Stonyridge, Goldie and Poderi Crisci emerged as a result to cater for the likes of weddings and larger corporate bookings” Mr Lonergan said.
“Te Whau Lodge’s operators specifically chose to avoid competition with the bigger food and beverage-focused hospitality venues, and utilised this as their point of difference. With consents in place to cater for up to 35 guests for functions, the Lodge has hosted groups for weddings, conferences, cooking schools, and celebrations. There is also consent in place for helicopter operations to and from the property.”
“More recently the owners have chosen to run the Lodge as a lifestyle business and concentrate on the accommodation aspect – the opportunity to diversify the business again and capitalise on the demand for boutique venues in Waiheke, provides untapped potential for an incoming buyer.”
Mr Lonergan said that while Waiheke Island now had a vast array of upmarket food and beverage function venues, the number of upmarket commercial accommodation providers was still relatively small – underpinning the exclusive nature of Te Whau Lodge’s core accommodation business.
“Privately-let holiday homes are still the prevailing accommodation option on the island” Mr Lonergan said. “However there is still a discerning market which prefers to chose a specialist accommodation provider wanting to be pampered and catered for and this is the sector where the Lodge has earned its enviable reputation.”
Co-founder of the Waiheke Island Tourism body, Susan McCann, said that while Waiheke’s peak summer season originally replicated many New Zealand holiday destinations – running from December to February – that timeframe had subsequently stretched at both ends....now beginning in mid-October and lasting through to mid-May. However the Te Whau Lodge owners have found the accommodation season now stretches year round.
The island’s reputation has been enhanced by media profiles in the likes of the New York Times, while last year, travel guide Lonely Planet named Waiheke Island as the fifth best region in the world to visit.
“These recognitions of Waiheke as an attractive tourism destination have already impacted by way of increased volumes of tourists to the island. I do not expect this growth to stop.” Ms McCann said.
Meanwhile a demographic report card prepared by the Auckland City Council noted that the fast ferry service linking downtown Auckland and Waiheke had: “encouraged residential and economic growth on the island”. The frequency of ferries to and from Auckland has almost doubled in the last two years with in excess of 60 sailings per day.
Mr Lonergan said that Te Whau Lodge was trading very successfully under its current format and he noted that in addition to diversifying the business mix, there was potential to expand the accommodation facilities subject to council approval. The lodge is situated on land zoned under a rural classification.
“The topography of the hilltop land and bush surrounding the existing lodge building would allow for a small number of individual upmarket chalets to be developed around the property without interfering with the existing environmental aesthetics “he said. “Also the proximity to Auckland could allow an incoming buyer to combine the lodge lifestyle with a commuting lifestyle,” he said.
The Te Whau Peninsula on Waiheke has developed as a destination in its own right with vineyards, sculpture garden, olive producers, and an artisan baker. Te Whau Lodge is not linked to nearby Te Whau Vineyard but the two independently-owned businesses complement each other helping make the Te Whau region a unique and very desirable location.
Te Whau Lodge has provided the perfect semi-retired lifestyle that has suited Gene O’Neill and Liz Eglinton well - they have enjoyed their annual trips to Europe so much that they plan to extend their time travelling.
“Being such a unique property, the owners wanted to take the guess work out of the sales process and so had the land and buildings independently valued by a registered valuer in December 2015. Based on this, the sale price is set at $3.65 million (plus gst if any),” said Mr Lonergan.