Location: The top of South Hill in Ōamaru, just a few minutes' drive from the centre of town
Style: An historic Victorian mansion with a gourmet focus
Perfect for: Romantic weekends exploring a new part of the country
Price: Rooms from $550.
First impressions: Pen-y-Bryn sits atop South Hill. It's a grand approach: visitors drive upwards from Central Ōamaru, then pull into a tree-lined drive that rounds a quick corner to reveal the lodge. Your hosts will greet you on the sunny veranda, to help with luggage and show you around the lodge - there is so much to explore here, so take the tour. The entrance hall is stunning and mostly original - tall leadlight doors, polished oak parquet floors and antiques and pieces collected from around the world.
Rooms: This Victorian mansion was built in 1889 for local businessman John Bulleid and his family. The interiors are carved from English oak which the Bulleid family had shipped across the world. The house now has Category One historic status and every corner is rich with detail. You'll find polished oak parquet floors, a full-size billiards table (sourced from Parliament), reading nooks, drinks cabinets, and bookcases loaded with books to peruse. Owners James and James lived in China and have set aside a corner for intricate tea ceremonies, which they guide guests through on request.
There are two rooms in the main lodge and three in the annex extension, which is solid Ōamaru stone and the rooms here are the lodge's largest. Each has a king-sized bed, sitting area, and basic refreshments, including an interesting range of teas to be served in delicate china teacups.
In the main lodge, rooms have private bathrooms with tiled floors, showers and wooden cabinetry. The Elizabeth Room also has a bath.
In the annex, bathrooms have underfloor heating, a separate shower and bath, and soaps and shampoos formulated especially for the lodge. The towels are huge and fluffy, the bath is deep and wide, and there are bath salts at the ready.
Food & drink: Served in a sun-soaked dining room with original stain-glass windows, Italian chandelier and enormous carved fireplace, breakfast is included in your stay, and it's an extravagant affair. There are breakfast preserves, poached fruits, thick skyr yoghurt, homemade bircher muesli and granolas. A fruit salad, and homemade croissants and a divinely sharp marmalade. We are left too full to try the cooked options (which include anything you'd like to order - the kitchen will make what the guests request). Choose a window seat to dine in the early sunshine.
Dinner is also available in the dining room and the lodge is a member of both the Slow Food Movement and the Chaine des Rotisseurs (an international association of gastronomy). Produce is sourced locally (much of it from their own garden). Expect fine dining, so dress for the occasion.
Guests can wander the gardens, enjoy the library, have a pre-dinner drink in one of the shared spaces or workout in the small home gym, which has basic equipment. Wi-Fi is included.
In the neighbourhood: Ōamaru is easy to get around in a few days. Pen-y-Bryn is just a short drive to the town's famous Victorian Precinct, as well as the Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony, Steampunk HQ and several craft breweries.
Family friendly: Child-friendly but guests must be considerate of other visitors and bring only children who are ready for the lodge experience. Those who are child-free may be seated separately for meals.
Accessibility: The Victoria Room is 100 per cent accessible, as are all the guest facilities in the main lodge building.
Contact: Pen-y-bryn Lodge, 41 Towey St Ōamaru penybryn.co.nz
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