Orongo Bay Homestead


ORONGO BAY HOMESTEAD was built for Irish born, naturalised American Commercial Agent James G White. Today the impressive, fully-restored, two-storey wooden Homestead is an exclusive, historic country residence with fine wine and renowned hospitality.
Organic certification and a healthy regard for luxury, promise an experience unmatched anywhere. Even the water for the guests and gardens is drawn from natural springs among native bush.

The Homestead enjoys views across the clear jade waters of New Zealand’s sub tropical Bay of Islands from the bay over which it has a commanding presence. A boardwalk and coastal trail winds through the mangroves at our doorstep.

Owners and hosts Chris Wharehinga Swannell and Michael Hooper invite you to share the peace and comfort of their natural haven. A sheltered sun-facing verandah looks over sweeping front lawns across Orongo Bay to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where Maori and European first formally agreed to live together in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Nearby Russell was the nation’s first Capital. Chris, who is part Maori, can share with you his people’s history.

An old Homestead product ad!

After 1872 the house became the nucleus of a mining village, once larger than the nation’s capital itself. When the manganese ore and whaling boom died down, the Homestead was used as a sanatorium for American sailors, a school, and a church for Methodist services on Sundays. In an ironic turn, it was later to be used briefly as a hotel, before falling, like many of its patrons, into disrepair. We have also been a motor camp, when inflation seems to have attacked the pricing; quite the opposite of the Covid crisis where our rates have reduced. The phone number has also changed a few times since these ads!

The Homestead restoration was completed by 1990, after research through the Historic Places Trust, and discreetly includes every modern facility, and some older treasures including a hand-carved Victorian chaise longue and even a vintage Austrian grand piano for musical guests. The guest lounges and dining room have high, solid native timber ceilings, while the three, airy guest junior suites are all in the privacy of their own unique building, a short stroll over the lawn, on the edge of our quiet duck pond (the only big bills here are on the lake!).

With its natural spring, ozone, and oxygen-rich cloak of tall trees, the Homestead’s spray-free estate is fresh and healthful. We try to respect and reflect that in all we offer.

No setting in New Zealand is richer in history or nature than the Bay of Islands.