Lorna Subritzky stays at Maruia River Retreat ... and you can too
BE IN TO WINA $4500 two-night getaway at Maruia River Retreat, Murchison
• Two nights' accommodation at Maruia River Retreat in a Luxe Villa (for up to 2 adults, no children)
• Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner at the Maruia River Retreat restaurant
• Up to $1,000 towards flights for two people to Nelson Airport from another New Zealand airport
• Transfers to and from Nelson Airport to Maruia River Retreat
• Complementary onsite activities: daily yoga classes and use of stoked nature hot tub & Finnish sauna
To be in to win, go to nzherald.co.nz/win and fill out the competition entry form. Competition closes at 5pm Monday, February 24. Specific terms and conditions apply.
Two hours' drive from Nelson (airport transfers via private car can be arranged), Maruia River Retreat takes its name from the stunning river valley it's nestled in. The 200ha estate comprises a pristine native beech forest, long-established gardens, walking trails and terraced paddocks. It's home to wild deer, goats, many native bird species and offers excellent fly fishing. A 20-minute drive and you'll be at the country's river rafting capital, Murchison. So you could describe this recently reopened property (and I have) as in the middle of nowhere - but in reality it lies at the heart of everything New Zealand is famous for.
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Style: Think boutique eco-lodge. There are just seven recently refurbished luxury villas which each house two guests, meaning a maximum of 14 guests at any one time. With the river running through the property, it's not suitable for children - an attractive policy for my husband and I, on rare date weekend away from the family.
Check-in experience: We're warmly greeted by one of the property's owners, Cristina, and our host Alicia. Both are qualified yoga instructors (classes are complimentary for all guests), and give us a guided tour of the main lodge which comprises a dining room, bar and relaxing lounge before showing us to our villa. We realise quickly that staff members here are like a family. They are also, without exception, happy souls, which speaks volumes about the retreat and its management.
Room: We're allocated one of the two master villas, furthest from the main lodge for maximum privacy. Beautifully decorated in a minimalist style, it features an Italian kitchenette; a spacious bedroom with plenty of storage and a cloud-like superking bed; a separate living area with dining table, comfortable lounge furniture; a heatpump for the perfect temperature year round (note: no TV); and a balcony that overlooks the river. Within five minutes of stepping inside I can feel the stress of the city ebbing away.
Bathroom: Large and luxurious with underfloor heating, heated towel rails and twin basins. The star is the spa jacuzzi bath with plenty of room for two. Robes are provided and the towels are big, white and fluffy. Because water comes from the river, and returns there too, shampoo is non-lathering and all products are environmentally friendly.
Available free of charge in the main lodge but not in the villas themselves; along with the lack of mobile coverage, it certainly assists with the digital detox process. My husband is a little miffed that I've booked us while a major cricket test is being played. However he discovers to his delight that by perching on his side of our bed, he can just reach the lodge Wi-Fi so manages to catch a fair bit of the action without leaving our room (don't tell management). A secondary option would have been to head to the communal media room/library which houses a big-screen TV.
Food: The drinking water is pure and as good as you'll find anywhere, and the food policy is locavore. As much produce as possible is grown on-site, and guests are encouraged to forage in the retreat's gardens for dinner ingredients or fresh eggs should they wish to cook for themselves in their own villas. We're feeling lazy though, so allow chef Tim to look after us throughout our stay.
Breakfast is a simple continental affair in the dining room, and for lunch the lodge thoughtfully provides brown bags stuffed with delicious sandwiches, chips, fruit and nuts so you can head out for the day, picnic in the extensive grounds or just relax at "home".
Dinner is a la carte: fresh vegetables, herbs and edible flowers come straight from the garden, with local cheeses and produce from nearby Nelson. There's also a wide selection of local juices, wines, craft beers, and spirits - drinks can be enjoyed in the dining room, bar, lodge or on the fabulous all-seasons deck that overlooks the river and mountains.
Wellness: Set slightly apart from the main lodge is the Wellness Centre, which houses a Finnish sauna, massage and spa room, as well as a yoga studio.
On our very first afternoon, masseuse Aline comes in from Nelson to give us a well-received massage each, and Cristina offers us a complimentary private yoga class.
Complimentary bush walks are offered, and even as seasoned hikers we learn a lot from our guide Jason, who helps us to drink straight from the mountain stream. Stunning Maruia Falls is a short distance away, while closer to home there's a hot tub placed right by the river.
Bottom line: A tonic for the soul and a treat for the senses. Retreat, and recharge.