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Any visitor to New Zealand looking to experience the Maori concept of manaakitanga (the importance of hospitality towards guests) need look no further than Otahuna Lodge.
The American owners have pulled off that difficult trick of blending the contemporary (modern art by leading Kiwi artists, outdoor Jacuzzi) with an extremely traditional setting (original Victorian wallpaper, croquet lawn) to create one of the South Island's most distinctive and welcoming lodges.
There are just seven suites in total, each with super comfy super-king sized beds and large bathrooms liberally stocked with Penhaligons goodies. The Rhodes Suite (named after original owner and all-round local hero Sir Heaton Rhodes) is actually a series of four rooms, including a dressing room and octagonal study. Meanwhile the Veranda Suite has - as the name suggests - a glorious 50ft long veranda that's the perfect venue for enjoying a sundowner as the sun sets behind the Southern Alps in the distance.
Peer down from the same veranda and you will see another wonderful feature of Otahuna - the extensive and award-winning garden and grounds surrounding the lodge. Designed in English country house style, there are immaculately kempt lawns, daffodil fields, beds of camellias, an ornamental lake and mature woodland to wander around, as well as a tennis court and swimming pool.
The 30 acre grounds are also home to a potager garden and orchard that provide a lot of produce for Otahuna's kitchen where the chef creates five course degustation menus each evening served in the original Victorian dining room. The emphasis is on communal dining, local produce and seasonality, and the end result is one of the finest places to eat in New Zealand, with the local wines (stored in the old game larder turned wine cellar) the perfect complement.
Given the quality of the grub, it's appropriate that there are several foodie themed activities on offer, including cooking classes with chef Jimmy McIntrye, foraging for mushrooms (in season, which starts in June), trips to visit local artisanal producers and wine tastings in North Canterbury's vineyards. On a less foodie tip, guests can enjoy massages in the spa, visit nearby Akaroa to swim with dolphins (fingers crossed), sail in a harbour created from a volcano crater or take a helicopter ride from the Great Lawn in front of the lodge.
Why we love it
The owners encourage communal dining at Otahuna but couples can always retreat to a table for two in the cosy library, the romantic turret in the drawing room or even the sunken wine cellar.