We arrived at Otahuna Lodge late our first evening, after a long day of travel from Kokomo to the main island of Fiji then on to Auckland and finally to Christchurch. Despite the late hour, we were still greeted in the front drive by several staff who helped us with our luggage, gave us a quick tour of the property, showed us to our upgraded Master Suite, and then served us a 3-course dinner at 10 pm. I immediately felt as if I had stepped back in time, to the world of Downton Abbey – we were the Lord & Lady of the Manor here. Words can hardly describe how incredible this hotel was – it was more than a hotel – it was an experience, one that we felt so grateful to have on our Honeymoon and one that left us counting the days until we can return.
Otahuna was built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes, a Victorian country gentleman, and his wife, Jessie. Sir Heaton lived in the home for 60 years until he passed away at the age of 95, leaving Otahuna (which means “little hill among the hills” in Maori) as his greatest legacy. Though the home has been through several incarnations over the past few decades, it has operated as a hotel since 2007. While privately owned and operated, the property is part of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio and lives up to the brand’s extremely high standards of service, luxury and cuisine.
The property has just 7 rooms, each one of them completely unique in style. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to the Rhodes Suite – 1 of the 2 Master Suites. This series of four rooms was originally the master bedroom for Sir Heaton Rhodes himself – complete with a private verandah, octagonal turret room, a study/foyer and an ensuite bathroom. The accommodation also features beautifully carved woodwork, an operational fireplace and stained glass windows.
Food lovers rejoice at Otahuna! I honestly have probably never had better food in my life. At breakfast, guests are greeted warmly in the country-style kitchen with a slew of freshly baked breads, homemade jams, butter and honey, as well as homemade buffalo yogurt, fresh berries, melon, and of course kiwi! Each day, there will undoubtedly also be a fresh (literally right out of the oven) baked good – perhaps some blueberry muffins or maybe banana chocolate chip. The juicer is also out on the counter, ready to serve up the lodge’s signature Orange-Ginger-Carrot concoction. And a chef in the kitchen can cook up eggs, bacon, sausage to order – or probably any hot breakfast you have in mind. While lunch isn’t included in the rate, ATLAS + VALISE clients receive a complimentary Virtuoso picnic lunch for one day during their stay. We enjoyed this on the back patio – a delicious salad with smoked chicken and vegetables cut from the garden, freshly baked focaccia bread with local olive oil, and a work of art otherwise known as panna cotta with freshly picked berries. Of course there was wine too – whatever wine we wanted! – but I can’t resist a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
I dare you to go hungry at Otahuna, but if you do, there is a pantry of snacks stocked on the upstairs landing, as well as hot and cold beverages – so help yourself! At dinner time, guests meet in the drawing room for cocktails and canapés before entering the communal dining room for the lodge’s signature 5-course dinner. (Guests can also opt for one of a few private dining locations if they prefer not to eat with the group). Each course is paired with a local New Zealand wine selected by the highly trained server/sommelier. But if you don’t like any of the choices, don’t be shy – just ask for something else.
At the Lodge
- Tour the Gardens and Visit “Oinkahuna” – Otahuna is home to spectacular gardens, from its massive front lawn and daffodil field, to the vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. You’ll also find some secret garden paths in the woods – leading to hidden clearings and frog ponds. And don’t miss “Oinkahuna” – home to the Lodge’s two pigs.
- Learn to Cook from a Master – Any visit to Otahuna must include a cooking class. These hands-on lessons are offered in one or three hour formats. We opted for the shorter one, but still learned to make so many different things – from brioche to homemade sorbet, and handmade tortellinis.
- Bike Ride – The Lodge has bikes on hand if you’re hoping to stretch your legs through the Canterbury countryside.
- Visit Banks Peninsula & Akaroa – One of the main attractions of this area is the historic town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. You can also take a cruise through the Akaroa harbor and see the world’s rarest and smallest dolphins, the Hector’s Dolphins.
- Take the Tranzalpine railway to Arthur’s Pass National Park – We did this full day trip one of the days at Otahuna. The lodge can arrange a guided tour for you with Canterbury Guiding Co. You’ll be picked up early from the Lodge and driven to a nearby train station to board the Tranzalpine Railway – one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world. You’ll follow a river as you climb up into the Southern Alps and Arthur’s Pass National Park. You’ll disembark the train there and meet up again with your guide who will take you on some beautiful hikes before returning back to Christchurch by car.
- Fly Fishing & More
Rates are inclusive of breakfast and dinner (beverages too). Contact me to book your visit to this amazing property today and receive your exclusive amenity of a complimentary picnic lunch and bottle of wine!
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