Leaving Cape Kidnappers was a difficult decision as we only had one night left. We had heard of a newly renovated resort, Wharekauhau Lodge, rated Number #1 in New Zealand by Conde Nast. Wharekauhau was also closer to the airport so we decided to make the change.

The Western Lake Road, to Wharekauhau

Part of our journey returned on the same route, back towards Wellington, however this time we detoured through a great town worth exploring– Havelock North. We didn’t even have time to get out of the car but as we drove through we saw Havelock was packed with galleries, shops, cool restaurants and was buzzing. If we had more time at Cape Kidnappers this town would have been the perfect day out CK recommended Martinbourgh for a day trip, the area is great for wine tasting. We drove through the region later in the day, on the way to Wharekauha but felt it was too far from Cape Kidnappers if you are only there for a weekend..

We pressed on to Woodville, if you are just passing through, ‘Yummy Mummy’s‘ has unreal cheese cake, all homemade, great sandwiches and a great minced beef mint pie. YUM. Their zucchini, cheese and red pepper pie is also great. Note: this is a quick stop or you can take the food away for a picnic along the Wharekauhau Road.

Heading towards the Sea, Wharekauhau

We turned off the main route to Wellington just after Featherston and took the Western Lake Road to the hotel. Gorgeous open country side sandwiched between mountains and rivers all running up to the sea. The New Zealand scenery blew us away again.

As we approached Wharekauha Lodge, we hit the sea and took a quick walk along the beach which was wind swept, wide and dramatic.

Wharekauhau Lodge

Entrance, Wharekauhau Lodge

The property has undergone serious renovation. The driveway was wonderful. However, the tide started to turn when we were greeted by what I can only describe as the ‘Stepford Family’.
The staff must have been alerted as to our arrival when we drove throught the gates.  When we arrived at the front door three casually dressed members of ‘the team’ introduced themselves as, “the three who do everything around here”. They were devoid of emotion and looked like they may have been imprisioned in the Hotel against their will! Haha! There was an unsaid undertone, a distinct possiblity that if we stayed, we may never be allowed to leave. Kidding, but these guys were truly weird!

Individual lodge type room, Wharekauhau

The casual greeting, (this one worse than most), seems to be part of the New Zealand Lodge etiquette. When did someone in New Zealand Hotel history decide that people wanted to be greeted by their own family! This is wrong! Often you are cranky from a car journey (or any bloody journey — think very CRANKY). These guys were so casual I wasn’t sure who they were.

On arrival you need to be able to distinguish who the bell man is and then hear a few recognizable ‘hotel’ words: “welcome, you must be the so and sos, checking-in”? Said with a knowing, comforting manner that reassures and makes you feel that–yes, perhaps you could possibly become a nice person again after your journey from hell ….do you know what I mean? Normally, as you are gently extracted from your car and ushered into the reception area, you can make a quiet transition from the journey to the Hotel. With your head still whirling around like the exorcist, you can scope out a spot to have tea or a drink–without having to talk to anyone. Other than perhaps the receptionist, who should never ‘over do’ the conversation…just as it should be. These casual, informal, greetings filled with artificial intrest about where you came from, just won’t do!

The ‘leader’ of the greeters took us immediately on a tour, no tea or wine was offered. Wharekauhau Lodge is vast and impersonal, strange metal windows reminiscent of English homes in the 50’s spoil the fabulous views. Very often in these Lodges there is no bar area. Here there was only a claustrophobic lounge devoid of interesting decor and absolutley zero amptmoshpere. You may, very self consciously, want to have a cup of tea in here but definately not a glass of wine or god forbid, a cocktil. There was also an appallingly dull dining room. There were actually very few guests to help lighten the mood, we would have welcomed the sound of animated conversation or the tinkling of glasses etc. Nothing.

On we were propelled towards our ‘villa’. The bedroom and seating area were very comfortable, all the rooms had just been redone and the upholstery was fab. A big plus here was a wonderful fireplace. Although pretty, the views were not jaw-droping, though I am sure we had been spoiled by unreal views right from our beds at the Matakauri and Cape Kidnappers.

The terrace had a partially blocked view, which admittedly wasn’t so bad, but the worst thing was that the outdoor chairs were so uncomfortable you wouldn’t want to sit out there.

Despite the drawbacks, there was some enjoyment to be had in the garden, which was undoubtedly my favorite thing at Wharekauhau Lodge. They had done a great job on the indoor pool also. Sadly for me, though it wasn’t enough to make me stay here on my last night in New Zealand–not for $1,000+ per person. After all, ambience is everything; it’s so hard to get it right and I can tell you even though this place is very well appointed– for us it missed the boat.

The Vegetable Garden

So, no time to dwell, it was time to escape. We wanted to have fun and although New Zealand Lodges have amazing scenery, it was time to go a little crazy. We checked out before we had really checked in.

The Lawn, Wharekauhau Lodge

After the escape: Wellington

We drove to Wellington like possessed beings as we had no where to stay. There was an International Art Festival and a cricket match in town so every hotel was booked. On the advice of a random Hotel Concierge, we booked into The Bolton. There was no view but it was close to the Quay. The room was small, edgy and corporate in style but the bell man said all the right things. He promptly took the car and the luggage was immediately delivered to the room.  Within 15 minutes we were walking into town. The Bolton Hotel is listed as a 5 star Hotel. I think this is a bit of a push but it was reasonable and super efficient, even with a small staff.

The Quay in Wellington is a fun place to walk. There are Restaurants, Bars, Museums and shops. We stopped for drinks at St John, which was so fun, a great spot! Each evening St. John has entertainment and on the evening we were there, a band was playing outside, so there was great atmosphere. If you can get a seat outside its more fun.  Order the seafood platter with New Zealand goodies like green lipped mussels and west coast whitebait fritters and New Zealand scallops, and OMG, if you are sick of refined lodge food, get the chunky fries with gravy! Trust me, St John didn’t have a full harbour view, but there’s water and a scene– after all those quiet romantic lodges, you need to be re-emersed into party central!

As we were driving around looking for accommodation I had noticed out of the corner of my eye, ‘Masala‘, a really super Indian restaurant…we ate there, it was curry bliss.

For other options I saw two other hot spots.  A restaurant called Anscesterol and a bar called The Apartment.

All this done in less than an hour from Wharekauhau Lodge. We are the G.

All pictures are Copyright 2013 Trendy Girl Travels

(except where specifically credited to other people)



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