Bethany Reitsma checks into Arete Village, Horowhenua
Location: A 15-minute drive from Levin, Horowhenua in the foothills of the Tararua Ranges. Arete Village is part of the Makahika Outdoor Pursuit Centre run by Sally and John Duxfield.
Style: Individual glamping-style huts/whare with a main wharenui/homestead and communal lounge and dining area.
Perfect for: A couples' getaway to reconnect and refresh.
First impressions: After a warm welcome, we wandered down ponga-lined paths to the luxury huts scattered throughout the bush. Each had a stunning view of the forest, solar lighting and heating and all the comforts you'd expect to find in a good hotel, from comfy robes to chocolate and still water. We enjoyed drinks and a cheese platter outside the main wharenui in luxurious hanging cane chairs.
Rooms: The individual huts had their own hanging chairs on a small front porch. Inside, there was a comfortable queen bed with a mosquito net and curtains opening to a view of native forest. The lighting was all battery or solar-powered, from fairy lights to standing lamps. An umbrella and a torch for the walk back and forth from the main wharenui were nice touches. The birdsong was pretty loud in the morning but it made a nice change from traffic noise.
Bathroom: In a separate hut, there was a composting toilet and a gas-heated shower. A bamboo toothbrush, natural soaps, hand sanitiser and shampoos were all provided, the latter in full-size, multiple-use containers.
Food and drink: The hosts use local produce and cook on site. We sat down to enjoy dinner with them – a hearty risotto made with chicken, lime, pumpkin and courgette and served with sauvignon blanc. Dessert was a decadent brownie and fresh berries. Breakfast the next day was coffee, orange juice, gourmet muesli and yoghurt followed by Spanish eggs with bacon, tomato and toasted ciabatta. Dietary requirements are catered for.
Facilities: There's no internet and very patchy cell service, and no electric plugs in the rooms as it's meant to be a switched-off getaway. If you arrive in your own car there's space to park at the entrance before being driven down to the village. Arete also offers a wedding experience with the option of including catering - it would be the ideal place for a couple of nature lovers who want a small outdoor wedding experience.
In the neighbourhood: For the adventurous, high ropes and a zip line are available as part of the wider Outdoor Pursuit Centre if you feel like a challenge. Otherwise, there are endless native bushwalks, but the main drawcard here is the peace and quiet. The small town of Levin is only 15 minutes away.
Family friendly: The village is more suited to couples, friends or parents wanting a child-free weekend, but the hosts are happy to organise childcare.
Accessibility: It's not easily wheelchair accessible, as there are no disabled bathrooms and there are steps up to both the huts and to the main homestead.
Sustainability: Composting toilet, no single-use toiletries, solar lighting and heating.