Imagine staying in a four-suite only luxury lodge where you can enjoy complete privacy and unforgettable experiences amongst towering snow-capped mountains and lush green valleys. For 24 hours, I did. And not surprisingly, I didn’t want to leave.
The Mahu Whenua Ridgeline Homestead is a 20-minute drive from Wanaka, and a 90-minute ultra scenic journey on to Queenstown over NZ’s highest mountain road – the Crown Mountain range. You can also touch down in a chopper (only ten minutes from Queenstown) and land on the front lawn helipad if that’s the way you roll.
Astonishingly, the entire 55,000 hectares (550sq km) Mahu Whenua estate is only slightly smaller in size than the country of Singapore, making it New Zealand’s largest area of private land to be protected under a Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) National Trust Covenant.
The vast terrain consists of four adjoining high country sheep stations – Motatapu, Mt Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak – which, combined, stretch from Glendhu Bay in Wanaka all the way through to Arrowtown in Queenstown and host some of New Zealand’s most iconic and dramatic natural alpine scenery.
As one of the newest members of The Luxury Lodges of New Zealand portfolio, it’s quickly become one of its most sought after, and it’s easy to see why.
Arriving at Mahu Whenua is like turning up at your own private national park where you can leave the world behind once the gates close behind you.
It’s like walking onto the set of a Lord of the Rings movie (probably because you are – much of it was filmed around here), but with all of the luxe trimmings to satisfy any self-respecting Lord or Lady, so you don’t need to endure any of the hardships like Frodo or Bilbo Baggins did on their journey’s.
You can also forget any standard hotel ‘check-in’ here.
This is more like arriving at a long-lost wealthy relatives place where you are first embraced and then sat down by a roaring open fire and welcomed with a refreshment of your choice and the simple question of whether you’re hungry and what you’d like to eat, while someone else takes care of your bags.
My hosts Anna and Jess played stellar roles and together delivered an authentic, relaxed and completely informal welcome – and I loved it.
Let the spoiling begin.
Stepping into the main Homestead is like stepping into a Vogue Living magazine spread, with all manner of beautiful things, books and art to paw over and is a drool-worthy sanctuary where you can sit back and relax, absorb the breathtaking views and be indulged by your hosts.
There are endless spaces to unwind: a sprawling farmhouse kitchen, large open living room with (yes more) ludicrous views, dining room, library and even a media & games lair downstairs including a full-size pool and snooker table.
Time seems to stands still here and I found myself mesmerised by the unreal views and peace and quiet of it all. So much so I felt inclined to just sit and do nothing with a nice cup of tea, pondering whether I really was hungry or not.
Mahu Whenua also has its own magical story to share which soon becomes an “Aha” moment once you hear it. Meaning “healing the land” in Maori, the private owner’s vision has been to regenerate the land since the lodge’s beginning in 2007.
In addition to introducing sustainable farming practices, the owner has started an extensive plant regeneration and native ‘Weka’ and ‘Pukeko’ bird breeding programme which have been an enormous success and drawcard for visiting guests.
Without the risk of sounding like a cliché here, this place has got soul. And you can feel it everywhere.
You can choose to stay in one of the four luxury Ridgeline Suites which sleep up to two people each. Or you can book Mahu Whenua exclusively and be joined by 11 of your nearest and dearest. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Hint: The stately Tui Master Suite has the most insane bathroom view I’ve ever seen. Check out the picture above to see what I mean and no; this pic still doesn’t do it justice.
I stayed in the Pukeko Cottage, which is one of the two Cottage Suites that look out to the lodge stables and mountain ranges beyond.
While not in the main Homestead, the cottage is just a two-minute fern lined walk away and blissfully private. My only company was that of two strikingly beautiful and curious dapple grey horses that appeared in the stable field when I pulled back the curtains the next morning.
Style never went out of fashion here, with the cottage beautifully appointed and timelessly designed in a farmhouse theme and huge windows that put the vistas front and centre entertainment wise.
There was a TV I believe, but I never felt the desire to turn it on. Every single item in the room was of the highest quality, from the luxe linen and the heated tile floor to the lodges’ heavenly (and Wanaka made) scented candles that you can take home with you.
But the best bit? The absolute privacy and solitude.
Falling asleep snugly with the faint sound of a river flowing in the distance amongst complete darkness was surprisingly comforting. No air-con hum, no noisy neighbours. Just silence. It’s this kind of isolation that is fast becoming the new definition of luxury, and I so get why.
FOOD AND DRINKS
All of the food and drink options are, generally speaking, locally sourced, seasonal premium products. Which when you consider where you are, means oodles of fresh stuff including hand-selected award-winning wines such as delicious Central Otago Pinot Noirs along with Manuka Honey, field mushrooms and the freshest scallops and salmon.
Start your day with a slow, hearty breakfast and then tailor the rest of the day’s meals to match your chosen activities.
Choose a poolside lunch or a picnic down beside the river; or in the evening, perhaps a barbecue or more formal dinner in the dining room. The choice of whatever and whenever you want to eat is always yours.
The daily room rate includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning and afternoon teas, pre-dinner canapés, refreshments and picnics, as well as premium wine and beverages served with canapés.
FACILITIES AND SERVICES
Depending on what you’re up for, you can do as little or as much as you want during your stay at Mahu Whenua and tailor every experience to your mood.
From the Homestead, you can go horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, practice yoga, enjoy spa treatments, cooking courses and even heli-skiing where they’ll pick you up and drop you off again from the front lawn. Wanaka, Queenstown, Fiordland National Park or Mt Aspiring National Park are all close too if you can be bothered to leave your newfound utopia.
As an eco-sanctuary, you also have the opportunity to take conservation tours to learn about the native plant and bird projects underway and sustainable farming practices on the property.
Or… You can just lie back with a cocktail and take in the views. Outside, there are several spots to unwind – two dining areas, a hot tub, covered swimming pool and large decking area to make the most of it all.
Take me back. That’s my verdict. One of the finest places I’ve ever been lucky enough stay in, not least for the incredible hospitality of the Mahu Whenua hosts Anna, Jess and Charlotte and the owner’s story and commitment to conservation and giving back to the land.
The style, design and surrounds are out of this world (of course), but there’s something more profound and meaningful going on here that gets under your skin and stays with you long after you’ve left.
For most, it’s a dream stay given the price tag, but for anyone thinking of splurging, my advice would be – go there and stay at least three nights to fully enjoy the experience.
Rates: Cottage Suites start at NZ$1,850 per night for up to 2 guests and NZ$2,450 for up to 2 guests per night for the Tui Master Suite. A two-night minimum stay applies.
Rates include all meals prepared by in-house Mahu Whenua Chef (breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning and afternoon teas, refreshments and picnics), Pre-dinner canapés, Cocktails served with pre-dinner canapés (including wine and beer), Minibar and WiFi
Access: Mahu Whenua is a 20-minute drive from Wanaka and a 90-minute drive from Queenstown
For more information go to: www.mahuwhenua.co.nz
Matt stayed as a guest of Mahu Whenua.
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