In the northeast of the South Island, The Marlborough Lodge is a vineyard-adjacent boutique hotel in on of New Zealand’s most well-known wine regions. Once a turn-of-the-twentieth-century convent, the clapboard building has been fully restored and relocated to its current location: inside, each of the 10 unique suites has distinct historical features, including stained glass windows and pitched roofs. Buffet breakfasts can be taken on the veranda, and for lunch and dinner you need look no farther than locavore-loving Harvest Restaurant. Spend your days floating in the tree-framed pool, exploring the extensive grounds… or just sampling until you find the vintage that suits you best.
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A bottle of local Marlborough wine and a cheese platter
One of the top-floor suites has the original stained glass windows, which fill the room with colour when the sun hits. Within each category, individual rooms are named after trees and birds in Te Reo, the Maori language.
A brick-paved area surrounds the family-friendly swimming pool, which is heated from October to April. There’s a small clapboard pool house stocked with towels, sun cream and water, and drinks and snacks can be served straight to the poolside sunloungers or the tables arranged on the lawn just beyond the pool terrace.
You’ll find the petite spa in the far end of the revamped chapel. Stained glass windows cast a colourful glow over the sage-green single treatment room. Choose from relaxing Swedish massages, deep tissue interventions, hot stone treatments and massages focussed solely (see what we did there?) on your feet, head and shoulders; all massages use oils from John and Lyn Rainey, New Zealand’s oldest continuously operating essential oil production company. Don’t fancy padding across the soft grass in your lush robe? There’s a private changing and shower suite just steps from the massage table.
Bring outdoorsy apparel to make the most of Marlborough’s dramatic landscape, something bright and breezy for evening meals and an extra case for all that wine you’ll want to cart home.
The Lodge Room on the ground floor is wheelchair accessible and has a fully adapted bathroom. All common areas on the ground floor, including the veranda, are wheelchair-accessible with ramp entry to the Lodge.
Over-eights are welcome; younger guests may only stay if booking the property for exclusive use. There are bikes to borrow and a tennis court and pool onsite.
Very. The Lodge recycles (including grey water), composts (and feeds pigs), and uses green cleaning products. Energy-efficient insulation was installed during the building’s restoration and electric golf buggies are used onsite. The Marlborough Lodge is also enticing native birds to return to the property by planting native trees and shrubs throughout the grounds.
For a romantic tête-à-tête with garden views, snag a seat by the windows. Ask for a seat at the chef’s bench if you like your dinner with a show.
Take a cue from the gardens (and the original artwork that lines the walls) with a floral print or pop of colour.
Garden-view Harvest Restaurant, helmed by chef Sam Webb, is open for lunch and dinner. The ever-changing menu of of à la carte dishes, from sharing plates to morish mains, makes use of what’s in season directly from the grounds. Dishes include the likes of harissa-roasted carrots drizzled in yoghurt and burnt honey, bluff lemon sole for two, and puttanesca gnocchetti. As you’d expect, there’s an ample selection of local, regional and international wines, and other tipples too. Breakfast is served in the dining room, which has tall ceilings, large bay windows, and a vineyard-view veranda. The buffet spread includes fresh and poached fruit, muesli, cereals, yoghurt, smoked salmon, cheeses, freshly baked bread and muffins, cooked-to-order eggs and sides of bacon, tomato, mushrooms. There’s also freshly squeezed juice, aromatic coffee and a selection of teas.
There’s no separate bar, but you can take your drink of choice and curl up with a good book in the Library. If you’re feeling social, make your way to the Great Room, or head out to the outdoor fireplace to really air out that bottle of wine.
Breakfast is served from 7.30am (or earlier, on request), an à la carte menu is served from 6.30pm each evening and Harvest Restaurant is open from noon to 9.30pm.
None, but all items in your well-stocked minibar –, including red and white wine, soft drinks, beer, savoury snacks and chocolate – are free.
The Marlborough Lodge is in one of the most famous wine regions in New Zealand, at the northeastern end of the South Island.
Blenheim Airport is 10 minutes away by car, and transfers can be arranged for NZ$45 each way for up to four guests. The next closest airport is Nelson.
Blenheim train station is 15 minutes away by car.
There’s a car park onsite, and the lodge is a laid-back 25-minute drive from Picton.
The onsite helipad is 20 meters from the lodge, and private aircraft can land at Blenheim Airport (transfers to The Marlborough Lodge can be arranged from there). Boats can moor at Picton Marina, which is 35 minutes away by car.
Worth getting out of bed for
Private wine tastings of the region’s finest can be arranged in the onsite wine shack during summer months. Delicate trails criss-cross the sprawling flower- and fruit-tree-filled gardens, where many of the restaurant’s ingredients are grown; ask nicely and the head gardener will give you a guided tour. Fancy a friendly match? Head to the grass tennis courts (a selection of racquets hangs at the ready) or strike up a game of boules or croquet with your other half.
The Marlborough region is surrounded by mountains, most of which are part of nature preserves – including the famous Queen Charlotte Track – and open to the public for hiking and mountain biking (the hotel has a small fleet of suitable bikes on hand for guests to borrow). If you’d rather glide along on water, there’s kayaking on Wairau Lagoon or through the waterways of the Marlborough Sounds. Tarquin Cruises departs from Picton Marina and cruise for half a day through the Queen Charlotte Sound; add gourmet goodies and local wine to make an event out of it. Prefer a bird’s eye view? Helicopter tours can be arranged, too.
Plane spotters may want to peruse the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim; Sir Peter Jackson (of Hobbit fame) has amassed an impressive collection of vintage aircraft.
If it’s vineyard tour (and wine tastings, of course) that you’re after, you’ll be spoilt for choice. There are over 100 wine makers in the region, and most can be visited on either public or private tours; you’ll also have the option to meet many of the winemakers, or head out on half- or full-day cellar-door tastings. Stuck for where to start? We’d go for Cloudy Bay Vineyards in Blenheim. While there, you can also sample Cloudy Bay clams, freshly pressed olive oil, local cheeses and Manuka honey on a gourmet food tour.
Just down the road, Saint Clair Family Estate Vineyard Kitchen is set against the backdrop of the dramatic Richmond Range. The estate offers wine tastings and tours, of course, but they also carry a wide-reaching range of New Zealand craft beers, including Pan Head, Parrot Dog and Marlborough’s own Renaissance. The ever-changing restaurant menu features fresh local fare; start with a shared plate of seafood sourced from the Marlborough Sounds – house smoked salmon, paua and half-shell mussels, all served with freshly baked bread. For mains, there’s pan-seared fish, New Zealand-raised lamb and chicken. There’s also a children’s choice menu, which includes a waffle cone of ice cream with every meal. The modern cube of a restaurant at Brancott Estate Wines seems to float over the vineyards; with floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, there’s not a bad view in the house. Go for leisurely lunches of warm, dukkha-topped focaccia, citrus-cured Ora king salmon, and pan-fried Canterbury free-range pork; wine pairings for all options, appropriately enough, are at the ready. Make your way into nearby Blenheim for dinner at Gramados Restaurant & Barfor a New Zealand twist on Brazilian cuisine. Try the smoky Feijoada or lamb assado. You could leave without sampling the brownies and Brazilian pudim, a close cousin of caramel flan, but why would you do such a thing?
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 hotel in Marlborough and unpacked their bottles of pinot noir and sauvignon blanc, a full account of their North Island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Marlborough Lodge in New Zealand…
The moment you arrive at the Marlborough Lodge, the fresh scent of whatever is in season (in our case it was sweetly citrusy grapefruit) will stealthily diffuse any residual travel tension. Drop your bags in your stellar suite – make note of the minibar, where free midnight snacks await – and dive into the tree-surrounded pool, wander through the seemingly endless gardens to the nearby creek, or immediately set up camp with a bottle of wine on the veranda.
In true New Zealand fashion, the entire building was taken apart and transported, section by section, to where it now stands; the stained-glass windows and other historic features are the same its former residents, a murmur of nuns, would have enjoyed. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just love a good glass with dinner, it would be holiday sacrilege to forego a stop in the local vineyards. After a day of tastings, make yourself at home by the outdoor fire with your newfound favourite tipple: perhaps something from the regional trinity of pinot noir, sauvignon blanc or chardonnay?
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