Sheep farms abound in New Zealand. In fact, sheep outnumber humans in the country at a ratio of 7 to 1. So for a truly authentic New Zealand experience, I love the idea of spending a few days on an actual working sheep farm and Wharekauhau Country Estate is the perfect place to do just that. This Relais & Chateaux property has operated as a sheep station since the 1840s and guests are offered the unique opportunity to see what this means first-hand through the lodge’s farm tour.
Wharekauhau is located in the Wairarapa Valley on the North Island of New Zealand, about a 2 hours’ drive from the capital city of Wellington. The lodge can arrange for vehicle transfers for those who do not want to rent a car, or, you can opt to arrive by helicopter in just about 15 minutes’ time!
The oceanside property is sprinkled with one-bedroom cottage suites, most of which offer interconnecting options to allow for families or larger groups to stay together. All of the suites overlook stunning vistas of Palliser Bay, and feature gas fireplaces, super King-sized four poster beds, plush couches, and of course – a jar of homemade cookies. The large walk-in wardrobe leads into a small wet bar area and then on to the bathroom where guests will find heated marble floors and large soaking tubs with views over the front lawn.
Breakfast is served in the kitchen of the main lodge – a continental buffet of breads, pastries, fruit, fresh jam and honey, plus a menu of hot selections available for order. Pre-dinner drinks and canapés are served in the living room and offer guests the opportunity to mingle and discuss the day’s activities by the fire. Dinner is then presented in the formal dining room – a delicious 4-course menu (changing daily) with an optional wine pairing. Many of the wines are from local Martinborough vineyards or produced by the lodge owner’s vineyards around the world.
Room rates are inclusive of daily breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapés and 4-course dinner. Guests can opt for lunch at an additional fee, but given all the food, you may want to skip it as we did, and just grab a pastry from the cloche in the kitchen to tide you over.
There are so many fun and unique activities to do at Wharekauhau! We partook in the following:
- Martinborough Wine Tour – the Martinborough region is known for fabulous Pinot Noirs. Just about an hour from Wharekauhau you’ll be in wine country with easy access to multiple different vineyards. Wharekauhau arranged a private guided tour for us that included tastings at four different wineries. Moy Hall was one of my favorites due to the design of the building. And we loved the lunch spread at Poppies – a platter of cheeses, meats, breads and spreads is always perfect for wine tasting. If you’d like to ship a case of wines home from a variety of the vineyards you visited, don’t forget to stop at the Martinborough Wine Merchants store in town before you leave and assemble your box.
- Farm Tour – As I mentioned above, the Farm Tour is an absolute must for all guests experiencing Wharekauhau as it gives you the opportunity to really understand what goes into operating a sheep farm – from training sheep dogs to shearing the wool. The day we participated, everyone else staying at the lodge was also on the tour and it was a great way to connect with our fellow travelers.
- Archery – With the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, archery has become a popular activity for New Zealand visitors. Wharekauhau offers an incredible archery experience with a seasoned guide.
These were just a few of the activities we enjoyed, but there are many more options available!
Each place we stayed in New Zealand was completely unique and Wharekauhau did not disappoint. I loved being near the ocean, gazing past herds of sheep to the bluffs of Palliser Bay. The property is stunning and the warmth and hospitality you’ll feel at this estate is palpable. ATLAS + VALISE clients also receive special Virtuoso amenities, including a $100 resort credit and early check-in!