The review of the Farm at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay is taken from our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection Australia/New Zealand.
There’s no mistaking it: we are smack-bang in the middle of the countryside. Bob, a charming local, has picked us up from Napier Airport and whisked us away in his Mercedes. Now, as we pass through the art deco township, he begins telling Mr Smith and I about the evolution of Cape Kidnappers from a working sheep farm to a luxury travel destination. The road follows a riverbed and cuts through pine forests, while we spot plump, happy lambs grazing in the valleys. My anticipation is rising. Soon, we glimpse the ocean, and then the broader panorama of Hawke’s Bay reveals the majestic lodge that appears, from here, to be perching on top of the world.
Lisa warmly greets us in the courtyard, but I can’t wait to get into the main lodge to absorb it all in full. I’m not disappointed. The styling is reminiscent of a French country house. The common areas feature exposed wooden beams above rough grey stone walls, natural wood panelling and stone floors scattered with cowhide rugs. Plump oversized couches before the fire invite you to snuggle up with a glass of fine New Zealand pinot and your favourite person. I smile at Mr Smith, who already has a twinkle in his eye.
First things first though. I might not be a fine golfer, but I do love the game, and Cape Kidnappers’ course has been voted one of the world’s best. It’s easy to see why. For the experienced golfer, the par 71, Tom Doak design presents a challenge of accuracy as the distant greens seem to disappear into the ocean. For an experienced (yet unpolished) hack like myself, it offers the forgiveness of open fairways that allow you to enjoy your game and take in the gob-smacking scenery as you find your ball.
Appetite duly stimulated, Mr Smith and I head back to the lodge for dinner. There’s a multitude of venues to choose from here, but being a hopeless romantic, I’ve organised for the two of us to dine privately in the snug. With its pale wooden walls, it’s a little like being seated in an oversized wine barrel, albeit one with a roaring open fire. After a delicious five-course meal – the menu changes daily but there’s always local lamb, beef and seafood on offer – we curl up on the leather day-bed and let the immense satisfaction wash over us. Our Lodge Suite, a blend of country charm, state-of-the-art finishes and heavenly Italian bed linen, is part of the main building and we’re grateful for the short stagger to bed.
Surrounded by the luxury of the lodge, it’s easy to forget you’re on a 2,400-hectare working farm. You could sit back and take it in from a distance, but there’s also the opportunity to get your hands dirty. Mr Smith and I have decided to take the quad bike tour of the property. It’s led by Carolyn, a local with as much charm and character as the Cape itself. Not having driven one of these four-wheelers before, I’m relieved to discover it’s easy to establish who’s boss. As we splash our way through puddles in stony riverbeds, climb steep sheep paths, spot newborn lambs, pass through cattle paddocks and work our way through the hills, I have a smile pasted on my face. This much fun is normally hard to find.
Carolyn also runs the skeet shooting on the property. In no time at all, she has us hitting targets like we are sharpshooters on the way to the next Olympics. After half an hour of precision shooting, Mr Smith’s ego is as plump as the neighbouring sheep.
Following a laid-back lunch in the sun-drenched loggia, we pull on our trainers to stroll along the lavender walk, one of the easier yet most picturesque walks on the property. Passing through a field of scented lavender, we follow a canopy of pine trees to a look-out on the cliffs. Here, the earth drops away to a beach. The view is absolutely breathtaking and as I sit on the pebbles, cosied up to Mr Smith, I realise it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Back at the suite, even though the sun is still high in the sky, I fill the tub and light the scented travel candle I always carry with me. Relaxing in the warm water is the perfect antidote to the exhilaration of the past few days’ activities. After I’ve extracted myself, Mr Smith and I prepare for one final sunset on the suite’s veranda. The sky blazes in shades of pink and lilac as we gaze out towards the ocean. When dusk fades, we go inside; the lamps glow warmly, the fire is lit and my iPod is playing Van Morrison. If this scene were a food, it would be a delicious just-baked apple pie – indeed, it is as inviting as hotel settings get.