Bushbaby Travel: Inspiring travel for life
Hapuku Lodge

Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura, South Island

bushbaby rating
five/five
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Kaikoura - where the mountains of the South Island meet the sea. Home to a stunning eco-retreat, famed for its unique architecturally-designed tree-top rooms, deliciously fresh local fare, beds famed as 'the most comfortable on the Island' it is the perfect spot to begin your adventure in the area known as the 'Serengeti under the sea'.

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Hapuku Lodge
  • rooms

    The level of detail and thought that has gone into the creation of each and every room at Hapuku is what gives it its niche. Designed by the family of architects and builders, the majority of the furniture found throughout has also been lovingly designed and handcrafted from local wood. And it's all about the sleep here. From extra thick carpeting to sound proofed windows, and the final cherry on the top – the beds. Custom designed mattresses with swedish slats designed to support and flex – you'll have the best sleep of your life. Add in the jaw dropping vistas, heated slate bathroom floors and all the mod cons of DVD, TV and you'll never want to leave.

    Choose from the main Lodge rooms comprising of two suites, one Lodge room and the Hapuku room. The suites are super spacious, with a fireplace, soaking tubs for two and rain forest showers. Sit on your own balcony and gaze at the vista outside. The Lodge room and Hapuku Room offer the same decadent furnishings with views over the deer paddock and up to the majestic mountains. Wallow in the Japanese style tubs for two and relax.

    If you'd rather be more private, then choose the Olive House suite. Your own beautiful living quarters with kitchen, spa tub, rain forest shower and full neck swiveling views of the olive grove, mountains and coastline.

    But really, the tree houses are the main attraction here. Set 30 ft above ground within the tree tops of a Manuka grove, these offer wraparound spectacular views of the entire area encompassing the sea, the mountains and the land of the long white cloud. Built to compliment the natural environment they are clad in native woods and in line with the family feel the furnishings were carefully crafted by local friends. There are open outdoor rain showers (if you dare) or wallow in the spa bath. Choose from an upper or lower branch room or, for a little more space, the family tree houses connect the two. Nestle into the seating nook on your private deck, light the wood fire and indulge in the delicious home made biscuits.

  • facilities & activities

    Set in the sprawling 600 hectare grounds, nestled between the mountains and the sea, a peaceful outdoor swimming lap pool allows you to literally soak up nature as you swim or just warm your toes in the hot tub and sauna.

    Borrow a mountain bike (free for guests) and explore. For the surfer, Mangamaunu Bay is just down the road or potter along to the home grown olive grove and deer stud. But really the retreat is a luxurious base camp from which to see the incredible marine safari nearby. Whale watching, including the rare humpbacks and orcas, dolphin and seal swimming, sea kayaking and deep sea fishing are all world renowned here. Or marvel at that ancient maritime symbol of good luck – the great giant albatross - found in abundance. There are night sky tours, Maori cultural tours and the resort can give you some great advice on hikes (or 'tramping' as it is known colloquially). And if all that is far too much hard work, hit the local wineries and get tasting that famous wine.

    Be put back together in your room with a personalised spa treatment and hunker down with a DVD in front of the fire.

  • dining

    So it might be worth a mention that the food is cooked by a previous master-chef finalist? With a passion for local, seasonal food infused with ambition these dishes are quite simply delicious. Wild game, crayfish and local seafood are accompanied by herbs and vegetables mainly sourced from the lodge's own garden. The menu changes daily but we have it on good authority that the venison and wild blackberries in port, on an agria porcini gratin followed by the warm hazelnut muscovado cake with wild raspberries in a Pinot Noir syrup with organic plum ice cream (phew!) is out of this world. Everything is homemade – from the breads down to peanut butter. Even the in-house Hapuku olive oil is made from the olive orchard on the farm. Grab a cocktail and relax in the beautiful alpine-feel open plan dining room with its double fireplace or savour every bite in front of the towering mountains in the garden.

    If you are out for the day then per-ordered picnics are also available. And when you've really had enough of the great outdoors at its greatest, then room service is available for the Lodge Suites.

  • family

    While all are welcome here, the hotel itself suggests it is best for over 12's. Children of any age are welcome to stay in the Family Tree House and Olive House apartment but only the over 12's are allowed in the four main Lodge rooms. For a family, the best option is a family tree house – they won't believe their luck. They'll ignore the incredible views at the top, possibly too busy having adventures being pirates or monkeys or….the list goes on. One upper branch bedroom is connected by an enclosed stairway to the one below and you'll all feel like real life members of The Swiss Family Robinson. The Olive House apartment is another good option for a brood. This consists of a spacious apartment complete with its own kitchen, spa tub and rain fountain shower. Enjoy the 360 view of the olive grove, the coast and the mountains while sitting in front of your own fireplace. Many of the rooms have the custom built Hapuku double bed which handily splits into twins, and whichever option you choose cots and extra rollaway beds are available for rent, as are high chairs and buggies.

    They'll love the outdoor pool and mountain biking in safety around the extensive grounds and gardens. The hotel can also provide details of some great nature walks, and pop down and see some real life Bambi's at the deer stud. Or ask for a picnic and hit the beach - gorgeous and safe for paddling. And with the incredible array of wildlife activities in the area you won't be short of things to do.

    A children's menu is available, with options as delicious as the grown up menu. Everything is fresh and homemade. Children are welcome in the restaurant and there are high chairs available. If you have a tiny one, they will warm milk or heat up food. You can also order a packed lunch if you have a packed day ahead.

  • location

    With mountains to the west, ocean to the east and surrounded by deer, the lodge is found perched at the end of a jaw dropping scenic drive along the coastline, an easy 12k north of Kaikoura, on the east coast between Christchurch and Blenheim. The area is famed for its abundantly rich nature, being a top spot for whale, dolphin and seal spotting. The closest airport is Kaikoura airport, just a 15 minute drive.

    Alternatively Christchurch International Airport is 2.5 hours or Blenheim is 1.5 hours. And any drive is worth every minute for the vistas alone. Alternatively soak in the rugged coastal scenery on the train – choose one of the open topped carriages and feel the warm sun and sea spray on your face. TranzScenic's tranzcoastal service, one of New Zealand's most beautiful train routes, runs daily between Picton and Christchurch, stopping at Kaikoura. It's then just 10k to the hotel. The hotel will pick you up and drop you back for your return journey or there are several taxi companies based in the town.

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