Living like royalty, in luxurious accommodation with limitless views of luxuriant landscapes while being served lavishly, delicious meals… Sanjay and I were a part of this amazing and slightly surreal experience recently, while celebrating our five year wedding anniversary!
Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat
A luxury lodge nestled in a secluded forest wilderness in the Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area, with stunning views of Mt Cook and Lake Pukaki. Our time at the lodge was perfect right from the moment we arrived onsite.
We were greeted by Max and Meg, two gorgeous collie crosses eager to say hello, followed closely by Luke and Kaye, the owners of the lodge. We were taken into the Pukaki Homestead (where Kaye and Luke live) and instantly blown away by the view from the giant sweeping window, overlooking the strikingly turquoise water of Lake Pukaki.
I should mention that there is only ever one group of people booked into the lodge at a time, so you have the whole place to yourselves – Ultimate privacy!
After taking us through the plans for the next couple of days and what we could do in the area, we walked to the nearby wine cellar with Luke, accompanied by Max and picked out a bottle to enjoy before dinner. We then followed Luke down to the Ashley Mackenzie Villa – Our home for the next two nights, the villa is about 350 metres away from the homestead and is set picturesquely on a clifftop, with views equally as stunning as the homestead. Luke gave us a quick familiarisation of the villa, private gym, sauna and outdoor hot tub then left us to it.
The villa oozes classic luxury, the drawing room has a high wooden ceiling, antique furniture and a gorgeous fireplace.
The bathroom/wet room is elegant with a grand black bathtub overlooking the beautifully landscaped garden.
The bedroom is inviting with its soft neutral tones, it’s filled with light thanks to the lovely French doors that open out to the breath taking view.
The entire villa is filled with gorgeous little details that make your stay so much more special – Homemade jams and preserves, fruit platters and delicious nibbles and dinner prepared daily by lovely Kaye. I also appreciated that slippers were supplied, a lot of hotels don’t seem to provide them these days! My favourite though was an entire draw filled with different types of tea and a complimentary block of chocolate 🙂
We hadn’t eaten before we arrived and were famished so quickly got into the delicious nibbles and cake Kaye had prepared for us. Talk about afternoon tea with a view!
The retreat is on the doorstep of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park which has magnificent walking tracks, so after polishing off all the nibbles and the cake we drove out to the park to take a short walk before dinner.
That night we’d arranged to have dinner with Luke and Kaye in the homestead, we sat by the fire, the dogs lying nearby while we chatted away, waiting for the food to finish cooking. They pride themselves on garden to plate cuisine, their garden is full of fresh homegrown herbs and vegetables, they source what they can’t grow from local suppliers. Kaye had prepared some local salmon (which the Mt Cook region is famous for) with roast potatoes and pumpkin, followed by the kiwi classic, pavlova for dessert. We spent the evening getting to know each other, it was just like sharing a meal with good friends, Kaye and Luke are very genuine and welcoming, displaying kiwi hospitality at its finest.
After the delicious meal, Sanjay and I went down to the wine cellar with Luke to do some star gazing. The retreat is located within the gold level Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, which means it is perfect for uninterrupted star gazing!
Down in the cellar Sanjay and Luke enjoyed a drop of whiskey while I gorged away on chocolate, we sat and watched a short video about what we would soon be seeing. Yes, you read right the wine cellar – A couple of steps above it, is a small room with a giant telescope and the roof literally slides away exposing the gorgeous dark sky filled with bright stars (Luke designed the roof himself!)
Luke programmed coordinates into the telescope and we gazed at the amazing constellations, Mars, Venus and very briefly the moon (which actually kind of does look like a piece of cheese!). After bidding Luke good night, we headed back to our villa for a soak in the hot tub under the stars.
Two photos below courtesy of Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat (My camera didn’t like the dark that night!)
The next morning we woke to a spectacular sunrise and another soak in the hot tub – Had to make the most of it!
The bed was super comfy too!
Breakfast provisions are provided each morning, fresh eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, sausages (suitable for us non beef/pork eaters) chutney and bread. There’s also porridge, homemade muesli and yoghurt if you’d rather.
We loaded ourselves with a large breakfast then set off to the national park again to walk the Hooker Valley, a stunning three hour hike which takes you to the beautiful Hooker Lake. It was overcast and quite cool but we still managed to get some stunning shots.
After the walk we headed back to the villa to relax and wind down, we lit the fire and admired the view while eating a platter a of snacks and drinking tea.
The weather had deteriorated a bit so we stayed inside and watched a movie on the tablet before it was time for our massages – We thought we’d treat ourselves and had asked Luke to arrange this for us prior to arriving, the massages are done in the gorgeous little private spa next to the villa.
About 30mins after our massages Luke arrived at the villa with our dinner, piping hot in a cute wicker basket. Kaye had prepared venison steaks, kumara (sweet potato) mash and roast pumpkin with cashews, a garden fresh salad and vinaigrette.
After dinner we spent our last night snuggled up by the fire, eating dessert, a delectable berry crumble with hokeypokey ice cream, perfection 🙂
Our days at the Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat were absolute paradise, everything about the place is magical. Luke, Kaye, Max and Meg are so lovely and made us feel so welcome. The villa was like our stunning home away from home, a true “slice of paradise!”
Happy Travels, Priti X