If you’re planning a date with Cape, splurge on an unforgettable stay in the lap of luxury at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. Announcing your arrival at the main gate via intercom, the ten minute drive to the lodge through undulating farmland and bush is like a dream sequence in escapism from the daily grind.
Perched atop 6,000 rolling acres of pasture land, The Farm encompasses high country terrain before plunging 800 feet into the glittering Pacific Ocean. The cluster of lodge buildings which make up The Farm are a quintessential celebration of a New Zealand working farm. A fusion of stone and weathered timber, the buildings combine rustic materials with comfortable and contemporary furniture.
The Farm has 22 elegantly appointed suites and an ultra-lux four-bedroom owner’s cottage. (When Julian Roberston is in residence, he invites all of the lodge guests over to the cottage for cocktails.) Accommodated in one of the Premier Lodge Suites, which all sport a private balcony, I enjoyed the celestial views of the Pacific Ocean, the velvety green golf course, soul-rinsing farmland and the lodge’s man-made lake.
Gazing across this magnificent property, it became self-evident as to why it took Julian Robertson six years to fully develop it, before opening in 2007. Many guests simply come to the property to play golf on the Tom Doak-designed course, ranked by Golf Digest magazine as one of the world’s best.
Built on top of the cliffs and fingers that stretch out to the ocean, with steep ravines where balls can easily disappear out of sight for good, it is a challenging but fair course. The 15th hole, the Pirates Plank, is a long par 5,400 metres above the ocean. It’s a ravishing sight. Even if you’re not staying overnight, a day trip to Cape Kidnappers to check out the golf course is within range of many a Kiwi’s budget.
Back up at The Farm, the main lodge resembles a mighty barn, constructed of tumbled river stone and weathered wood, furnished with wagon wheels, tractor tyres and vintage farm implements, sheep photos, and uplifting art. The “farm chic” aesthetic is a winner. An old grain silo has been repurposed as decadently cozy lounge, or snug, with gorgeous window seats virtually all the way around.
My suite featured a gas fire, air conditioning, high-speed Wi-Fi, flat screen TV, DVD, CD player with iPod connection, walk-in wardrobe and a generously stocked complimentary mini-bar. Fresh fruit and home baking is delivered daily. Needless to stay, linens are suitably sumptuous and the bed was heavenly. Roman Gods would blush at the bathroom, spacious and luxurious with separate toilet and shower stalls, oversized bath tub and twin vanities.
The Farm and its sister luxury lodges in Julian Roberston’s portfolio, Kauri Cliffs and Matakauri Lodge, showcase their own range of toiletries, exclusively crafted by created by Evolu Skincare founder Kati Kasza, accentuating New Zealand citrus and manuka honey. The Farm’s culinary experience is second to none, under the command of head chef, James Honore, where seasonality and locally sourced fresh produce from the bountiful Hawke’s Bay is a highlight. It draws heavily on the property’s nine-bed vegetable garden, which you’re very welcome to visit.
I had the pleasure of dining with the Lodge Manager, Kris Shepherd, which was preceded with canapes and pre-prandial drinks, as the early evening sun streamed in. My stay was just before Christmas, so it was a joy to dine on my choice of exquisitely cooked turkey, which was artfully paired with New Zealand wine, thanks to the guidance of the on-hand sommelier. The dinner menu changes nightly and features the finest New Zealand lamb and beef as well as the best local produce and seafood. Be sure to survey the cavernous wine cellar, where roughly 90% of the cellars bottles are New Zealand wines.
As you’d expect from an award-winning luxury lodge, The Farm boasts an astonishing wealth of activities and facilities. There is a delightful heated infinity pool and sizzling Jacuzzi, while a poolside cabana with mini-bar is the pitch-perfect relaxation roost, in the heat of day. For extra-pampering, the spa sits atop the hillside above the main lodge, offering a variety of treatments including massage, reflexology, body wraps, facials, pedicures, manicures and hair care. Adult and children’s mountain bikes are available for guest use. You can take a horseback ride across sand dunes, tussock country, and golden sand beaches.
The stable will happily tailor a trip to your specifications. Fancy a spot of fishing? An experienced local guide with a four wheel drive vehicle will pick you up at the Lodge and take you to one of more than 20 different rivers or lakes to fish for trout. If you want a guided exploratory of the far-reaches of the property, the Can-Am ATC tour is extremely popular, as is the Kiwi Discovery Walk, which is a guided experience with a sanctuary’s guide. Another great temptation is the array of well signposted complimentary walking tracks, which lace together a slew of sights, from the vast lavender fields and wildflowers to old pa sites, rock formations, the bird aviary and gannet colony.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is an exceptional New Zealand experience, offering a range of seasonal packages and special events including the Food and Wine Series. For best-priced accommodation, the Hilltop Suites are more affordable. The Farm is also a breath-taking setting for weddings, which they have cultivated a head-turning reputation for.
It would be extremely poor form to pay a visit to Hawkes Bay, without sampling the drink of the gods and the ensuing history lesson about our viticultural industry. Over 75 vineyards are pinned to the pastoral folds of the region, kissing its fertile countryside and crinkled, tumbling hills. Hawkes Bay excels in the hospitality stakes with generous wine tastings – many of which are complimentary, across a staggering range of varieties.
Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris….it’s all here. In fact, unlike other New Zealand wine regions, Hawkes Bay doesn’t have a signature variety, although their full-bodied reds have given rise to the sobriquet, “Bordeaux of New Zealand.” While I was in town a couple of weeks ago, locals were raving about Clearview Estate’s Rosé called Blush. Dave from Gannet Safaris is a big fan. For a cheeky seasonal drink it’s very light and lovely.
Mission Estate is the nation’s oldest winery, initially established in 1851, by Marist missionary priests who planted the first vines, to produce alter wine. Housed in the sumptuously restored seminary building, La Grande Maison, where Marist Priests used to train, the Mission Restaurant is a discerning choice for a sun-drenched leisurely lunch or romantic dinner. Some of the priests were killed on-site during the 1931 quake.
Be sure to join one of the introductory history tours, which provides an enriching overview of this treasured winery. Church Road is another historic vineyard with a fantastic wine museum, cellar door tastings and popular winery tour. Trinity Hill, set in the acclaimed Gimblett Gravels area produces an exemplary range of varieties. They’re always experimenting and two of their new white varieties are Viognier and Arneis from northern Italy. The cellar is a popular venue for exhibitions of contemporary art and the attractive gardens are the perfect setting for a summer platter.
Finally, my gold star would have to go to Craggy Range, with its incredibly striking setting, wedged between the Tukituki River and mountain backdrop, at the foot of Te Mata Peak. The Terroir restaurant showcases Craggy’s top-flight range paired with flavourful dishes specialising in top local produce. www.hawkesbaynz.com