On the road in New Zealand
The DH aka Sleeve Notes and I stayed in many different accommodations during our four week road trip in New Zealand. We travelled from Christchurch to Auckland, via Picton, Blenheim, Greymouth, Hanmer Springs, Franz Josef, Queenstown, Bay of Islands, Waipoua and Cape Reinga by plane, train and automobile. Mostly on the road in a hire car. All organised (bar the last few days when we went freestyle) via New Zealand Self Drive Tours.
All the hotels and motels we booked through the tour company were good. Many were excellent.
One was outstanding.
A couple of days before our stay here I received an email from the hosts of Waipoua Lodge with a menu, requesting that we pre order our evening meal. This was the first clue that this was going to be a memorable place to stay.
The choice of food was simply outstanding – not a long menu – which is in my mind usually a good thing, yet it was clear that the person who put his menu together understood and loved food. I was not wrong. Slow cooked pork belly, rillettes of lamb, salmon with basil and lime were some of the choices for the mains.
Unusually for Instagram fangirl me I did not take any photos of the food we ate that night. We were the only guests at the lodge and, with a personal chef and waiter aka Fran and Ian, this was a dining experience we wanted to immerse ourselves in fully. Food bloggers will tell you that once photos have been taken, notes made, the food is cold. This was not going to be a night like that.
Fran kindly sent and gave me permission to us a photo of the main that the DH had, Slow Cooked pork with chilli and lime. DH said it was outstanding. It was (I tried it too).
I had the salmon for my main which was also excellent.
For pudding the choice was easy, the lemon souffle, a signature dish of Waipoua Lodge. A melt in the mouth taste experience. Yet this is Waipoua Lodge – here you get invited into the kitchen to watch Fran make it. She made it look so simple, and in theory it is. How can something with four ingredients, that takes moments to make and minutes to bake, taste so good?
I have yet to make it (sorry Fran still no oven). As guests we left with the recipe and an invite to be a member of her online cookery school. And when I get a kitchen I will be making a few of her recipes.
And while I have focussed on the food – because it is so very good – I need to tell you about the rooms and the location.
The lodge is on the edge of the Waipoua Forest miles from any town or village. We travelled from Auckland on SH1 then travelled via Dargaville on SH12 to the lodge. The last 45 km drive on SH12 was particularly spectacular. A magnificent coast and as you drive over the ridge you see the forest. It can get pretty windy up there, camper vans have been blown over, and as Ian said, if you think that is spectacular, it just gets better. It does. There are some pretty spectacular drives in New Zealand – add SH12 to the list.
A Warm Welcome
From the moment we arrived at the lodge Ian and Fran made us feel so welcome. It was as if were invited to a special house party and we were the only ones on the guest list.
They ushered us into the lounge room and served tea in vintage china cups. We chatted about the journey, our travels, the lodge and just about everything. Conversation was easy as if we had known Fran and Ian for years. A time was agreed for dinner and we were shown our room with some suggestions of a walk in the bush walk if we wanted to stretch our legs after the long journey.
The rooms are beautifully appointed. Comfortable with good bedlinen and top notch Aotearoa Koha Spa toiletries this is luxury 5 star accommodation. Yet is is not at all stuffy. I felt that we were staying in a friend’s home. A friend with immaculate taste in home furnishings and who cooks like a Michelin starred chef.
After dinner, we chatted for hours with Fran and Ian. It was an extremely relaxing evening. I hope they enjoyed the conversation as much as we did. I think they did.
The next day, after an excellent breakfast, Ian gave us a detailed and fascinating talk about Waipoua Forest and the Kauri Trees. We had visited the Kauri Museum the day before. I was somewhat underwhelmed and thought it poorly curated. I learned more from Ian about the history of the area, the impact of the deforestation, in his short and informative chat than I had in an hour or so at the museum, with its display of some big trees, a bottle collection and waxwork figures. And that is a shame, because the Kauri and its history shape this part of New Zealand.
Ian suggested some places to stop on the drive to our next destination, The Bay of Islands, and then we reluctantly took our leave, back on the road again.
But not before Fran and Ian, owners and custodians of Waipoua Lodge, took one last photo for their scrapbook. Here we are with their dog. Bonnie.
Note: Phil and I were paying guests at the lodge. Fran and Ian did not ask me to write this (they did ask us to rate them on TripAdvisor and I have).
Addendum August 2017
Fran and Ian have now sold the lodge – and bought a luxury yacht.