Where to stay in: Canterbury
Built in 1895, this elegant private lodge on the edge of Banks Peninsula was once a hippie commune, but – apart from the daffodil display in spring – its psychedelic days are over and all that remains is the desire to give peace a chance. Tucked amongst woodland and surrounded by manicured gardens with views of the Southern Alps, this is the place to come for unhurried relaxation in the lap of Victorian luxury. They want you to feel at home here, and nothing is too much trouble, whether it’s culinary tips from chef Jimmy; or a tour with the gardener of the English-style lawns, flowerbeds and vegetable patch; or even advice on how to play dirty in a game of croquet.
After a day out exploring the nearby French-settled little port of Akaroa, fly-fishing for trout, or heli-touring from one side of the South Island to the other, you’ll be hungry. So what could be better than taking a seat at the long table in the dining room for a five-course dégustation dinner and seeing how Jimmy has managed to use all that estate-grown produce? Each course is matched with the perfect wine, so it’s just as well that all you have to do afterwards is sit by the fire until you’re ready to retire for the night: perhaps to the spacious Rhodes Suite, or the light and airy Verandah Suite or, right under the roof, to the woody angles of the Garret Suite where you can pretend to be an artist – minus the starving part.
Ways to unwind at Otahuna Lodge
On a winter’s day, how delicious to have a choice of 15 open fireplaces to work your way around, each one with a selection of squashy sofas and armchairs perfectly placed by the flames. Entry hall, dining room, library… That’s a lot of toe-toasting.
The Victorians invented high tea, so enjoy it authentically, surrounded by wood panelling, art, high mantelpieces and elaborate flower arrangements. Tea in a pot, dainty cups and saucers, tiered stands of sandwiches, scones and fancies – it’s a glory of world cuisine and you just know the French are secretly jealous.
There’s no rowdy Australian frog-chorus here around the still, reflecting ponds – just an occasional restrained throat-clearing to let you know the amphibians are happy in these restful surroundings. Sit by the water and spot your small green friends or wander along the herbaceous border, over the hump-backed bridge, through the trees to the vegetable potager.
There’s nothing like a wood-panelled library to bring out your inner Sherlock. Sink into a padded leather armchair and think deep thoughts, peruse some fine literature (possibly something altogether lighter) – or channel Sherlock properly in a game of Cluedo. Hope it wasn’t Colonel Mustard with the lead pipe in the library.
Other accommodation options
Combining gracious Edwardian lifestyle with modern comforts and conveniences, at this country lodge in the Wairarapa inviting chairs are set beside all the windows to allow long and reflective appreciation of the stunning views over Palliser Bay.
A haven of comfort in the big country of the Canterbury backblocks, there’s a range of accommodation options at this lodge. Whether you stay in the original homestead, dating from 1858, the Mountainview Chalet or the Riverview Cottage, you’re assured of a country welcome and a range of experiences, from a picnic by the lake to a horse trek into the hills.
The elegant Huka Lodge, on the banks of the Waikato River, is arguably New Zealand’s most luxurious retreat. The Relais & Châteaux property has hosted the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, Barbara Streisand and Bill Gates. Just a 10-minute drive to the town of Taupo, this luxurious and secluded lodge has renowned gardens beside the Waikato River. Cuisine has always been a prime focus at the lodge, currently headed by chef Paul Froggatt who has several Michelin-starred restaurants on his CV.
Other regions to consider