From Christchurch, we made the quick, nonstop Air New Zealand flight to Wellington, which is located at the southwestern tip of the North Island. With an active harbor, the Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range, Wellington is a delightful and very scenic city—the second most populous in New Zealand after Auckland. It is also the capital, actually the world’s southernmost! Complementing the politics is a thriving film and theater district, some of the best urban eateries in the country and multiple museums. Wellington consistently ranks in the top twenty cities of the world when looking at quality of living surveys, and it’s one of the top cities to visit internationally. We had a thorough tour of the city, “the coolest little capital in the world!”
From Wellington, we headed out to the Wharekauhau Country Estate and Farm. Our driver, Paul Hill, is the Managing Director of Dynamic New Zealand, coordinating guiding, transfers and special events in the Wellington region. Dynamic New Zealand takes great care of our clients. Paul is a delight. He is extremely knowledgeable about Wellington and the surrounding areas. We also enjoyed hearing more about the history of Wharekauhau. Since Paul is a trout fisherman, we also squeezed in some fly fishing conversation, which always makes the drive seem shorter!
Wharekauhau began life as a sheep station in the 1840s. Today, it remains a thriving cattle and sheep operation, but also boasts a 5-star lodge experience. The farm is comprised of over 5,500 acres of pristine coastal farmland with sweeping views of the ocean. The lodge is perched on the clifftop above Palliser Bay with incredible vistas. As the crow flies, the estate is only about fifteen miles from the Wellington airport. The drive, however, is by no means direct…+/- 90-minutes from the airport. We recommend that our clients consider using a guide service to transport them to the lodge. You will enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery and the surrounding farms. Alternatively, round trip helicopter transfers can be arranged and it is a short 10 – 15 minute flight, which we would certainly recommend at least one way.
We have represented Wharekauhau since its humble beginnings in the early ‘90s when former owners, Bill and Annette Shaw started to develop accommodations on this working farm. Since this time, Wharekauhau has attained the worldwide reputation as a secluded holiday spot for discerning travelers. In Maori, Wharekauhau means “place of knowledge.” This property shares in the rich agricultural history for which New Zealand is world famous with a friendly and knowledgeable staff taking an avid interest in their beautiful outdoor office. This rural area of New Zealand is known as Wairarapa and it is virtually impossible to adequately describe the beauty of this farm. It had been a number of years since someone from Frontiers had visited Wharekauhau, and since it is under new ownership and management, we wanted to visit and were incredibly pleased with the experience.
Wharekauhau offers ten impeccably decorated cottages and a private three-bedroom home, making it the perfect place to unwind, curl up and recharge—all while staring out to sea. The main lodge is incredibly impressive with lovely sitting rooms, a comfortable dining room, an open kitchen and adjoining breakfast and lunch room. The culinary team does an exceptional job with delightful tasting menus each evening. The expansive wine cellar features a number of fine local options – paired perfectly with each course during dinner.
There are numerous activities on property, including a thorough tour of the farm, an impressive pool with a gym and spa treatment rooms, mountain biking, posted hiking trails, archery and even sporting clays, which Mike really enjoyed one afternoon. There is a lovely courtyard with croquet and numerous fireplaces throughout the lodge and in the cottages if you want to relax with a great book! We highly recommend the farm tour. It was very interesting to learn about the lamb, sheep and wool business, and the dramatic increase of cattle farming. As dog lovers, it was interesting to watch the sheepdogs moving sheep, and we even witnessed a shearing demonstration.
Another popular day trip is to visit some of the twenty-nine boutique wineries that are situated in close proximity to Wharekauhau. This wine region, known as Martinborough, is widely recognized by international experts as one of the finest wine growing regions in New Zealand – producing some of the very best pinot noirs in the country. A personal guide will chauffeur you around the best vineyards and introduce you to the wine-makers for a behind the scenes tour. Lunch can be taken at one of the vineyard cafes or at one of the excellent restaurants in the village where you also have the opportunity to visit a number of boutique shops.
Guests also enjoy traveling along the rugged coastline to the picturesque historical fishing village of Ngawi, looking back over Palliser Bay to Wharekauhau. In this area, guests experience a very large Brown Fur Seal colony, and it is also popular to hike up to the lighthouse for magnificent views of the bay. On returning, guests stop at the Lake Ferry Hotel for its famous fish and chips and some local microbrews or wines from the southernmost tip of the North Island!
There is a long list of famous visitors at Wharekauhau, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who visited with George on their last trip to New Zealand. We really enjoyed this property and feel that it is an excellent fit for our Elegant Journeys clients looking for a very secluded, high-end experience on the North Island. Wharekauhau continues to be one of the top luxury accommodations Down Under.
The sun came out on our departure. Our pilot, Rick, safely flew us in the helicopter along the spectacularly scenic coast on the quick flight to Wellington. We easily checked in with Air New Zealand and are continuing enroute to Rotorua.