If you’re looking for the ultimate winter getaway I’ve just had a couple of days enjoying the luxury at The Lindis, a stunning lodge, close to the Lindis Pass in the South Island.
I was shown a picture of the lodge by Nick Hill from Pure Black NZ several months ago and was completely consumed by the undulating wooden roof, mimicking the surrounding hills of the Ahuriri Valley.
We headed off early from our home near Arrowtown via the Gibbston Valley to Cromwell. Then, instead of taking the direct route, we detoured to St Bathans, a place I had not visited before. Hangry from an early morning start, we rang ahead to check the famous Vulcan Hotel was open. The lunch menu had been scaled back, but I was very happy with one of Wanda’s (the proprietor’s) homemade beef and a blue cheese pies…delicious.
St Bathans is a very old town, established during the gold rush, but sadly it’s now has a ghostly feel. However, it’s not surprising as not much has happened for well over 100 years since the miners deserted the town in droves. In fact, the locals believe the old Vulcan Hotel is haunted. A famous resident and prostitute, Rose, died in the Vulcan over 100 years ago. The locals believe her spirit haunts the hotel and she has appeared before many male guests staying at the hotel.
The town started as a tented city, but over time it turned into a real town. Streets were formed and wood, iron and mud-brick buildings replaced the calico huts. At the height of the gold rush, the population peaked at 2,000 and was served by a police station, courthouse, jail, hospital, 13 hotels, two banks and many businesses.
Today, the big drawcard to St Bathans is across the road from the hotel, the Blue Lake at the foot of Mt St Bathans. It’s a small man-made lake, the result of sluicing operations that began in 1873 to mine the gold.
It’s a great summer destination for swimming and picnics. The lake is surrounded by the most amazing rock formations made up of 200-million-year-old greywacke giving the lake an incredible aqua colour.
Back on the road, we headed to The Lindis arriving in the late afternoon and were let through the gate continuing on the gravel driveway to the lodge.
The staff greeted us at the lodge entrance and we were ushered to the lounge and dining area. With a glass of wine in hand, we chatted about the architecture, the lodge owners, Ben Avon Station and the activities we could embark on during our stay. The staff made an enormous effort to make our stay exceptional, personalising service wherever possible.
A little later, pre-dinner canapes and drinks were enjoyed before a stunning three-course dinner. The food was flawless as you would expect, as was the breakfast the next morning.
But what really differentiates this luxury lodge from others is the environment. Having negotiated the Lindis Pass we had turned off the main highway onto Birchwood Road and continued on a gravel road for 20 kilometres, up the glacial valley. The rawness and remoteness of this location is the magic, with 6,000 hectares of Ben Avon Station as a playground. During our stay, we ventured out on several occasions to hike on the property and also e-biked. The rugged landscape and winding river, renowned for great fly-fishing, creates a very soulful experience. Although we didn’t ride, a stable of 16 horses is available for riding as well as any number of excursions including Aoraki, Mt Cook heli-experience and much more.
With a choice of accommodation, we opted for one of the three pods, the newest additions to the lodge. Each pod is completely stand-alone and private. Primarily constructed from glass the 18 square metre pods are self-contained, with a king bed, ensuite and outside bath. They create a real connection to the wilderness, just what I was looking for.
The lodge also has five suites in the main building, somewhat different from the pods. They are spacious with more amenities and luxury.
With overseas visitors unable to come to New Zealand The Lindis is offering a local special until November 2020 starting from $770 NZD pp a night, inclusive of pre-dinner drinks and canapes, dinner and breakfast.