Built from locally sourced stone and wood and decorated with gothic-inspired chandeliers, modern art and sheepskin rugs, boutique hotel Mahu Whenua is a unique stay on 200 square miles of eco-sanctuary near New Zealand’s Lake Wanaka. This luxury lodge has four suites – all with sweeping views of the dramatic landscape – a clutch of cozy lounge areas (with roaring fireplaces, of course) and a heated mountain-view pool. All meals – and accompanying regional wines – are locally sourced and included with your stay, and though there’s no dedicated bar, we promise the friendly staff won’t let you go thirsty.
Double rooms from $1027.40 (NZ$1,609), excluding tax at 15 per cent.
Rates include all meals, afternoon teas, refreshments, picnics and pre-dinner drinks and canapés. A three per cent surcharge applies to all credit card payments.
The property covers over 200 square miles and includes four still-working stations – Motatapu, Mr Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak. To ensure that the owner’s conservation initiatives continue, over 90 per cent of the land has been legally protected in perpetuity, making it the largest conservation undertaking on private land in New Zealand.
Annually from 26 May to 20 June.
At the hotel
Free WiFi, library. In rooms: a TV; free minibar; free bottled water; tea- and coffee-making kit and air-conditioning.
Our favourite rooms
The Kereru Guest Suite has gorgeous valley views; you’ll likely spot horses grazing in the morning. If you prefer to look out to the mountains, pick a cosy cottage for your stay.
The pool, next to the main lodge, has valley and mountain views. It’s a welcoming 28–30°C from October to May and supervised little Smiths are welcome to take a dip. There’s also a small spa pool with mountain views.
Bring layers for days exploring the hotel’s extensive grounds and binoculars for spotting the local wildlife (mostly of the winged variety).
Uneven paving on the driveway and steps to the homestead mean Mahu Whenua is not best suited to guests with mobility issues.
Welcome. It’s NZ$250 a night for tots under two (cots can be provided on request) and NZ$550 a night for under-12s. One rollaway bed can be added to the Kereru Suite.
Extremely. Mahu Whenua’s owner has initiated extensive plant regeneration and native-bird-breeding programmes to regenerate the land after a long history of high-country farming. These conservation efforts have been protected by Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenants that effectively make Mahu Whenua New Zealand’s first privately owned national park.
Dine with the other guests of the lodge, choose any other area of the homestead you’d like, or dine in your room.
At home on the range.
All meals are included and prepared in-house, but there’s no formal restaurant; guests can dine in the main homestead lodge, on the terrace, or in their rooms. The menus are ever changing, but past dishes have included prawn, fennel and orange salad, lamb with minted-pinot-noir jus and fluffy tiramisu. The Continental breakfast includes a selection of fresh pastries and muesli, as well as à la carte favourites including French toast, poached eggs with salmon and omelettes.
There’s no bar, but you can ask for a drink anytime, anywhere, and Mahu Whenua’s staff will sort you out.
Breakfast and lunch can be served whenever you'd like. Canapés are normally served at 6:30pm, and dinner starts about half an hour later.
None, but snacks and fruit are left out for guests between meals.
Mahu Whenua is on 55,000 hectares of land that stretch from Glendhu Bay to Arrowtown.
Queenstown Airport (ZQN) is 90 minutes away by car; transfers can be arranged for NZ$465 each way for up to four guests. Larger vehicle transfers are available for groups of up to 11, or those who’ve seriously overpacked, for NZ$700 each way.
If you’re road-tripping across New Zealand on your own set of wheels, there’s free parking at the hotel.
Helicopter transfers are available from Queenstown Airport (starting from $2000 each way).
Worth getting out of bed for
The staff at Mahu Whenua can arrange two-hour four-wheel-drive eco safaris (from NZ$475 for up to two guests) from the Ridgeline Homestead; your private guide will lead you around the high country and highlight the history of the eco-sanctuary, Manuka honey farms and surrounding land. Keep your eyes open for birds of paradise and Weka birds, both of which are supported by Mahu Whenua’s conservation projects. If you prefer horsepower of a more traditional kind, the hotel also offers half-day and full-day riding outings (NZ$300 a person for half-day, or NZ$600 for a full day ride, including lunch). After a day on the range, arrange a private yoga session or in-room massage (both at an extra cost), chill out with a film in the homestead’s media room, or challenge your partner to a pool match. Swing by the lounge every day at 6.30pm for canapés and drinks before leisurely dinners served anywhere you’d like.
Take a day to tour around scenic Lake Wanaka – the lovely staff at Mahu Whenua can suggest trails and highlights for all levels of hikers. If you prefer a bird’s-eye-view, take to the skies with Southern Alps Air for a Milford Sound flight and glacier landing, or catch a tour over Mt Aspiring. There’s also fly fishing, mountain biking and an assortment of outdoor adventures to take part in around Lake Wanaka.
Head to The Landing for a leisurely roast lunch on the lakeside terrace. Start with sides of freshly baked sourdough bread and gravlax, and save room for the sorbet of the day. Organic produce is the name of the game at Ode Wanaka, where ingredients are sourced locally. Take your pick of the three-course chef’s menu or the eight-course tasting menu. Both change on a weekly basis, but include options such as roast hawea pumpkin soup, local sourdough with cured egg yolk, organic West Coast grass-fed sirloin, and wild Wanaka apple sorbet or freshly churned ice cream. Ask for a table by the windows at Wanaka Gourmet Kitchen for a side of snow-capped mountains with your dinner. Share a plate of steamed green-lip mussels, a local delicacy, served with toasted ciabatta and chili-garlic butter. For the main event, there’s the signature slow-cooked lamb shoulder and pan-fried Chatham Island blue cod. If you’re feeling hands-on, order the stonegrill dining option and a flaming hot stone will be delivered to your table, where you’ll sear bite-sized slabs of meat to your liking. You’ll need wine to go with all that hard work, of course.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury lodge hotel in New Zealand and unpacked their favourite bottles of the South Island’s finest, a full account of their countryside break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Mahu Whenua in Wanaka…
The lodge’s heavy wood doors – sourced locally, of course – wouldn’t be out of place in a fortified castle, but this wood-and-stone stay is more modern than meets the eye, with floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary art throughout. Boutique stay Mahu Whenua, which means ‘healing of the land’ in Maori, is part of sprawling eco-sanctuary in New Zealand’s South Island.
Consider Mahu Whenua your home(stead) away from home and be as active or relaxed as you like. Lace up your boots and spend your day exploring the dramatic surrounds or gather fishing tackle from the lodge’s stash and spend a day on the lake. In the evenings (or really, anytime you please), settle back to be wined and dined (all meals are included) by the talented kitchen staff. Relax and raise a glass – something from the local grapes – to your holiday hideaway
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