When you think of a secluded New Zealand getaway, maybe you picture wandering a remote stretch of beach, gazing at a striking mountain range, or being surrounded by greenery.

Find all this and more at Wharekauhau Country Estate, a ruggedly luxurious hideaway less than two hours’ drive from Wellington airport (or 10-minute helicopter ride, if that’s your style).

Wharekauhau – pronounced “fah-reh-co-ho” – translates to “place of knowledge” in te reo Māori. The 1840s homestead is on over 3000 acres of farmland overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Palliser Bay. If you swam south from there, you wouldn’t hit anything before you reached Antarctica. From certain vantage points, it feels like you’re at the edge of the world – and then you can pull the curtains closed on your four-poster bed and forget about the world for a while.

It’s owned by American businessman and vintner Bill Foley of Foley Entertainment Group and has hosted many famous guests, including Prince William, Princess Kate and Prince George who stayed at Wharekauhau during their 2014 royal tour.

Arrive at the main lodge via a winding drive over Remutaka Hill from Wellington, down a country road and along a gravel driveway. It really is secluded. The farmhouse theme takes centrestage with several Red Band gumboots (a Kiwi icon) lining the entryway – including the sweetest teeny kids’ pairs. The Virginia Fisher-designed lodge is spacious and elegant while still feeling cosy and welcoming.

From every window on one side of the building, you can look out over the sloping lawn and wetlands to the ocean beyond.

Meals are served at this lodge, too. Eat in the light-filled conservatory, overlooking the back garden by the country-style kitchen, or the formal dining room. You can also have a private dining experience in one of the various lounge areas, and sometimes groups helicopter in for an intimate lunch.

You’ll sleep in one of 16 cottages lining a path within 150 metres of the main lodge. Each 70-square-metre suite sleeps up to three with one bathroom. For larger families, the suites can be connected by unlocking a side door for easy access. Decked out in cream and warm beige tones, the super-king-sized four-poster bed, heated floors and tastefully strewn rugs combine for a cocooning effect.

If you really want to do as Will and Kate did, you can book to stay in Foley Villa – a three-bedroom house 10 minutes’ walk away from the main lodge. It has a hefty price tag – but is certainly spectacular with its own pool, private chef and dedicated helicopter landing area.

As for activities, it might be tempting to never leave your cottage, but Wharekauhau is about more than where you lay your head. Book in for one of the many available activities such as ATV quad biking or clay shooting. If exploring wine variatals is more your thing, you can book a vineyard tour in the nearby Martinborough winemaking region, and if you’re after a massage, facial or manicure, book into Wharekauhau’s Hauora Spa.

Food-wise, executive chef Norka Mella Munoz oversees a seasonal farm-to-table menu that uses many ingredients grown on the land surrounding the lodge. There’s even a chief forager – Jack Fredrickson – who harvests produce every two days. In-house sommelier Adrien Champigny and restaurant manager Nicholas Simonucci curate wine matches from the 5000-bottle cellar. You won’t go hungry – or thirsty.

Some resorts or lodges you visit to stay contentedly in one place. You could do that happily at Wharekauhau, you’d be missing an important chunk of what makes it so memorable and unique. If you’re looking for an adventurous luxury getaway with character, you’ll find it here.

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Updated: February 16th, 2024

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