Key Points:

The waistband of my trousers seems to have shrunk. I make a mental note to complain to the manufacturer as soon as I get home.

It must be a design fault - surely it can't have anything to do with the fact I've consumed a week's worth of calories in one sitting. The five-course meal, matched with Wairarapa wines, was so delicious I devoured it as though I had been living on rations all winter.

We're at Wharekauhau Country Estate, the luxury bolt-hole that sits high above rugged Palliser Bay.

It's gloriously remote: to get to the 2000ha working sheep station, you drive an hour north of Martinborough until it feels like you're going to drop off the edge of the planet. If, however, your surname is Hilton, or you've just collected your cheque from the Lotteries Commission, you can helicopter in from Wellington in a mere 12 minutes.

The weekend we visit, rain clouds are duelling and the wind is near gale force. But I'm having the time of my life.

We're shown to the appropriately named Storm Watch cottage - one of 12 cottages dotted around the lush grounds. The Shaker-style accommodation is pure rustic luxury: lots of cream and beige, a four-poster bed swathed in metres of fabric, a roaring fire and overstuffed sofas into which I immediately sink with a glass of red and a book.

The point of Wharekauhau is to de-stress: take off your watch, sleep, read, be pampered. I quickly discover how easy it is to do nothing, but hubby insists we go exploring so we hit the beach along the south Wairarapa coast. It's wild, windswept and very Wuthering Heights. It's also starting to rain, which means we don't make it as far as one of New Zealand's largest breeding colonies of protected fur seals.

Had the weather permitted, we could have gone horse riding, swimming, mountain biking or fishing, played tennis, golf or petanque, had a facial or massage, or learnt archery from guides trained by The Lord of the Rings instructor Jan Kozler. Guests can also get up close and personal with the farm's woolly inhabitants, lending a hand with sheep herding, shearing or grading wool.

But the rain is coming steadily and through it I can just hear the cottage bath tub (which is the size of a small car) and the basket full of bathing goodies, calling my name.

Much later, we tear ourselves away from our warm cocoon to return to the main lodge where cocktails and delicious nibbles are being served. The storm has prevented the arrival of an English couple, so we're the only guests tonight.

Our table is moved closer to the fire and we have the chef all to ourselves. Such is the reputation of the food here that diners arrive by helicopter from the capital almost daily just to eat - such as the party of 14 they're expecting for lunch tomorrow.

The next day I awake to an odd sound. It takes me a while to recognise it - it's silence. Who knew it was available in such long stretches? I hardly need feeding again, but nevertheless waddle to the lodge's country kitchen where breakfast - egg-white omelettes, pancakes, fruit, toast and cereal of every description - are a classy parting shot from this stylish haven.

The second oldest Romney stud in New Zealand, Wharekauhau opened its doors to visitors almost 30 years ago. You have to admire the owners' vision in building a luxury lodge in such a remote outpost known for its savage seas, howling gales and dramatic weather changes. But therein lies its attraction: the seclusion and the chance to experience nature's extremes.

Wharekauhau means "place of knowledge" and before the arrival of European settlers this is where Maori tohunga came to be initiated.

With cottage rates starting at $680 a night in low season and reaching more than $1000 in peak, you'll need a sturdy bank balance. But it's worth saving your pennies for. And despite its luxury, Wharekauhau isn't pretentious - the staff are some of the nicest folk I've come across in a long time. And it certainly earns you major bragging rights at the water cooler come Monday morning.

- Detours, HoS