Arriving at the winding driveway to Otahuna Lodge we catch glimpses of its majestic gabled form outlined through gaps in the tall trees. A green swathe of lawn opens in front of long shady verandahs and rolls off down towards a still garden lake. Behind, the sun-drenched hills of this dry Canterbury landscape appear rocky and tall, in contrast to the green softness of the lodge gardens. As we near the lodge the gardens close in around us with cooling shade. It’s a sublime place to arrive at.
Otahuna Lodge is one of New Zealand’s grandest homesteads, set just a short drive out of Christchurch, the country’s second largest city. It was built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes, a politician and local benefactor and he lived there for over 60 years. His passion for horticulture is most evident in the home’s magnificent garden and fine collection of grand old trees, and the present owners of Otahuna have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the gardens are preserved and enhanced to their full potential.
Built in the Queen Anne style of the late 19th century, Otahuna is considered one of the best examples of this style of architecture in Australasia. The sheer scale of the rooms, the large verandahs, deep roof lines and sumptuous decor all create a feeling of grand comfort and elegance. The entry hall, with its cool greens, ornate arches and solid timber stairway are beautifully offset by the Victorian fireplace and quiet colours. The wisteria-themed drawing room is a soft, elegant space where pre-dinner drinks are served, and it’s also a cosy spot to curl up and read in during the day. The dining room, on the other hand, is a richly decorated space with ornate wallpaper, leather and wood detailing.
The accommodation is in seven beautiful suites. The two master suites are a little larger, and all have luxurious bathrooms and fine linens. Several rooms have verandahs, others have a lounge area or study, and each has a beautiful view of the garden.
The lodge cuisine is memorable with a 5-course degustation menu each night. Matched with fine wines, mostly local and New Zealand vintages, the dishes make the most of local foods and flavours. There is an extensive organic potager garden and orchard – take time to wander through and see where much of this delicious food comes from.
Otahuna is an easy drive from the sights of Christchurch, a city now in full rebuild mode. Other half or full day trips include the beautiful little harbour town of Akaroa, the Waipara wine region, the amazing Southern Alps with their alpine activities and winter skiing, whale-watching at Kaikoura, the small thermal resort at Hanmer and nearby salmon and trout fishing.
(C) Sue Farley