A world away from it all, Cabot Lodge is an intimate, undiscovered farmstay where the scenic backdrop is one that could only be New Zealand
It’s one of those typically moody southern New Zealand days, where patchy rain occasionally gives way to teasing moments of sunshine, transforming the landscape. Plenty of travellers rely on blue sky days for their holidays, but I’ve always felt that in New Zealand, dramatic weather just adds to the experience, and this couldn’t be truer from my current vantage point. As I stare out the window of my cosy room at Cabot Lodge, admiring the drama of the distant mountains and the glistening white of last night’s snowfall, I realise I have no idea how long I’ve been sitting here.
Not that this is anything new. Cabot Lodge isn’t the kind of place you stay at when you want to spend your days chasing as many activities as you can, simply filling the hours. You can forget about shopping and sightseeing tours – you come to this part of the world to switch off, and the pace slows down the minute you reach the driveway.
Turning onto the grey, gravel road and passing the first of the cattle grids, you enter a totally different world – one where the romance of life on a farm collides with the smug satisfaction of luxurious lodgings, rounded out with a backdrop that offers some of the best views in New Zealand.
Winding your way through the lush green paddocks, it’s hard not to stop completely so you can take in the scenery. Thankfully, the countless baby lambs bouncing around their feeding mothers and crossing the road ahead force you to drive at a near walking pace, which gives you ample time to take in the views. The horizon is filled with snow-capped peaks, with the vast expanse of Lake Manapouri and its many islands in front, and the water gives way to the most brilliant of green rolling pastures, dotted with grazing sheep.
It’s the spectacular setting and relaxed pace of life that drew owner/operators Breidi and Brad back to the family farm. This was the childhood playground for Breidi, who grew up surrounded by nature’s beauty on what is still a working sheep and deer station. As an adult she exchanged the country life for one in the city as a lawyer, but something of a premature midlife crisis saw Breidi and husband Brad realise they needed more from their working days than what the corporate world offered.
Before they knew it, they had packed up and left Auckland’s bottle-necked roads behind and embarked on a new journey at the tail end of the country, in Southland. It was a decision they both immediately realised was the right one, and today their time is spent sharing their passion for the region with the many guests that arrive on their doorstep.
So what can you expect from a stay at Cabot Lodge? If you’re anything like me, a typical day at this country escape starts with at least half an hour spent looking out the window, engrossed in the scenery and losing track of time, before stomach grumbles signal it’s time for the short walk from my luxurious room to the kitchen. I know better than to get distracted by the gardens, because what awaits each morning is a delicious meal that includes a hearty farmer’s breakfast, or the lighter option of a salmon bagel.
From there, it’s to one of the living room’s comfy sofas to relax, or one of the farm-based activities on offer, like visiting Brad’s beehives or learning about the deer. I’m always hungry for adventure, so I like to head off for a day exploring Milford Sound, or take the famed Kepler Track hike or one of the shorter walks along the drive to Milford. Soft adventurers can try their hand at fly fishing, too, and thankfully, Breidi’s gourmet packed lunches are always on hand for the day’s adventure.
Arriving back at Cabot it’s time for a hot bath to soak away the aches and pains of a day tramping in the mountains. Once again the panoramic views are the star of the show, but thankfully it’s only sheep peering back at you through the picture windows.
My days at Cabot lodge always tend to end the same way. I make my way to the library and sitting room for pre-dinner canapés, relaxing fireside with a glass of pinot in hand as the room fills with chatter and guests tell their tales of the day’s activities. With a few new tips for the next day’s adventure, it’s time to move into the dining room and indulge in some some regionally-inspired fare, which ranges from local salmon to venison and lamb, fresh from the farm.
The meals here are sumptuous and beautifully presented on large platters, creating the feeling of a luxurious family-style feast. It’s usually at this point I start quizzing Breidi about what the weather is doing, what ideas she has for tomorrow’s fun, and which wine I should be drinking with dinner! To complete the day we again retreat to the fire, only this time it’s to quietly thumb through the books and enjoy a glass of whiskey.
If there was such a thing as a perfect day, I reckon it would look like this.