Refined, sumptuous, artistic, delicious… words aren’t enough to describe Bethlehem Shores’ newly opened clubhouse – it has to be seen to be believed.


Fraser and Donna Sanderson.

It’s not easy to describe – you’d better come out and take a look,” says Fraser Sanderson on the phone about the new clubhouse at Bethlehem Shores. I arrive two weeks before the grand opening in June and immediately understand why. 

The clubhouse is a shared recreational space for the residents of Bethlehem Shores retirement village, but that’s a bit like saying the Sydney Opera House is a building in which people play music. The huge entrance hall is an elegant atrium lit by a chandelier commissioned by Martinborough glass artists Leanne Williams and Jim Dennison, aka Crystal Chain Gang, whose work is exhibited in museums in countries as far-flung as Denmark and the US. Comprised of 441 handcrafted glass heron’s feathers, it has glints of blue and green that reference another artwork in this space by Tauranga artist and gallery owner Lynne Brown.

Sanderson Group prides itself on offering some of the finest retirement living in New Zealand, and I can’t imagine many places in the world come close. The clubhouse’s view alone is phenomenal. From the vast deck upstairs, you can see from the Kaimais in the west all the way across the harbour to Mt Maunganui in the east. Fraser and his wife Donna (pictured above) take me on a tour of the building – through the library, cinema, café, restaurant, piano bar, dancefloor, snooker room, and mezzanine area for bridge and other games. They show me where the indoor pool and gym will be when they’re completed later in the year.

What was the thinking behind this outstanding facility? “We wanted to create a welcoming environment that’s family orientated and has beautiful scenery,” says Donna. “It’s open to all residents and anyone who has been invited by a resident to become a guest member.”

Bethlehem Shores is one of eight exceptional retirement villages by Sanderson Group that are peppered throughout New Zealand, all of which have their own clubhouses for residents to enjoy, designed specifically for their locations in Tauranga, Queenstown and beyond. “We always choose the absolute best of everything, so we wanted people who lead their industries to be part of this project,” says Fraser. “We approached Joel and Kate Byrne to run our café because of what they did to the café scene when they opened Café 88 at the Mount and Me & You in Tauranga, and we chose Marilyn Cleland to style the interior because of her impeccable taste.”

The clubhouse cinema

As well as Café 88 and Me & You, Joel and Kate are behind Tauranga’s Little Long and the Mount’s Eddies Brunch Parlour. “When Fraser approached me about running the café in the clubhouse, I was excited about a challenge that’s completely new territory for us,” says Joel. “It’s something a bit different. We’ll be bringing our ideas from concepts we’ve already established and creating a new stamp of individuality for this project. We know that people like to choose food with their eyes, a concept we’ve proven works in the past, so we’ll be offering a great range of home-baked counter goods. We’ve been discussing new recipes and will recreate some classics, we’ll have a strong brunch menu on offer, and we’ll be serving some of the country’s best coffee, Supreme.”

Marilyn Cleland has long been one of the top local names in interior design. She says, “The clubhouse’s interior was designed to feel restful and welcoming, like a lodge, with some areas separated from the main space to create a more intimate ambience, including the library, snooker room and piano lounge. The elements I brought in needed to be strong to complement the scale of the building. There are some lovely touches to reference this scale, like the huge fireplaces with schist bagging, and the tall padded doors to the cinema. 

“As well as providing activities for residents and visitors, the building is the village’s sales and administration hub,” she continues. “These areas required a more practical application, but I also wanted to create a feeling of luxury and comfort. We used lots of muted colours and textures, like greys and duck-egg blues, velvet and linen. There are some emerald touches throughout too, for contrast and to pick up the green in the pot plants and trees.”

Truly, no design detail has been missed. Wherever possible, Marilyn used New Zealand-made furniture and in some cases even modified its proportions to make it easier to use. It’s fantastic, but like her, my favourite feature would have to be that glittering chandelier. In a building that’s a work of art in itself, it’s the ultimate icing on the cake. 

Bethlehem Shores is located at 141 Bethlehem Road, Tauranga. For more information, visit: SANDERSONGROUP.CO.NZ