You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the best vistas at The Lindis – from the billions of brilliant stars that puncture the clear night skies above, to the magical mist that rises from the trout-filled Ahuriri River below.
Both are worthy of standing ovations at New Zealand’s newest luxury boutique lodge, which is nestled in the South Island’s remote Ahuriri Valley amid the kind of grand terrain that makes you swoon – day or night.
A two-and-a-half-hour drive from Queenstown, it’s an adventure just getting there.
Traversing some of the country’s most dramatic scenery, we head through the Lindis Pass – which is surrounded by stark tussock-covered peaks and deep gorges.
A short-lived gold rush to the Lindis River opened up the area in the 1860s.
Anticipation builds as we arrive at the striking front gate, press the buzzer and follow the two-kilometre road to the lodge.
Soon a sweeping, whimsical roof appears, resembling the shape of a manta ray.
But it’s not until we see the building, encased in a hardwood shell and nestled into the valley below, that we fully appreciate the design.
The lodge seems to hover gently over the hills of the Huxley Range, and fits in so well with the landscape that it’s almost invisible from a distance.
“That’s what the owners and designer wanted – a building that blends into its surrounds and doesn’t look out of place in this beautiful scenery,” says William Hudson, the general manager of The Lindis Group.
At one with nature
Natural materials star throughout the lodge, which was designed by Christopher Kelly – founding principal of Wellington’s Architectural Workshop.
It took two years to build, at a cost of about NZ$15 million.
Located on 2,428 hectares on Ben Avon Station and surrounded on three sides by the 49,000-hectare Ahuriri Conservation Park, it boasts beech forests, wetlands and tussock grasslands.
Sheep and cattle from a nearby farm can often be seen, as well as wild tahr goats climbing impossibly steep slopes.
Complete with snow-dusted, saw-edged mountains framing the horizon, The Lindis has five chic suites named after neighbouring properties.
It is well-deserving of the buzz it’s attracted since its opening in November last year.
It doesn’t take long to fall under the spell of lodge life – which starts with cocktails and canapés beside the bluestone fireplace in the Great Hall, with its lamella vaulted ceiling.
Fellow guests include a family from San Francisco who is blown away by the scenery, and a couple from Mexico who have fallen in love with New Zealand lodges.
Striking circular lights give a soft glow to the lounge area, where natural materials such as spotted-gum timber and stone have been used to create a beautiful ambience.
Artworks from New Zealand and beyond grace the walls, and a birch plywood bench by Oleg Soroko – who is famously nature-inspired – commands attention in the space.
There’s a bar, billiard room and games lounge, but it’s the landscape that takes centre stage and seems to change shades at every glance.
Head chef Cesare Stella – who moved from Italy decades ago and had a restaurant, The Italians, in Kerikeri – spoils guests with his innovative menus, which feature local produce and offerings from his much-loved vegetable garden.
“I tend to put an Italian spin on dishes using the best New Zealand produce,” he says.
“I like to serve food that is recognisable on the plate with an emphasis on flavour, texture and taste. I like to create flavours that cause your tastebuds to pay attention.”
Sous-chef Liam Tito-Salive is also on hand to bring this vision to life. For dinner we enjoy an entrée of carpaccio alla parmigiana – thinly sliced beef sirloin with lemon, olive oil and Italian parmesan flakes – or a mushroom trifolati with brandy, lemon and garlic from the garden.
For main course, it’s Te Mana lamb loin on wild chicory with anchovies, walnuts, garden-grown herbs and Romanesco broccoli; or crispy-skin Aoraki alpine salmon with lemon, basil and white wine, served with estate-grown fennel, wilted kale and roast kumara. Such a decision.
Sweet finale highlights include a delicious passionfruit parfait with caramelised white chocolate and a spiced tuile; and wild thyme honey panna cotta with tuile and alpine strawberries.
Plus there’s also local cheeses and handmade chutney to sample.
Dinner is paired with New Zealand wines, and the service is attentive and personalised.
The wine list is impressive, with some of the best drops from nearby vineyards, and a range of carefully selected international options.
For breakfast there’s homemade charcuterie, seasonal fruit and local cheeses to choose from – but if you feel like indulging, opt for the Big Lindis Breakfast, with handmade pork and fennel sausage, roasted mushroom and tomato, bacon and eggs, or the fluffy pancake served with lemon and pistachios.
For lunch, Cesare’s incredible homemade pasta with fresh tomato and basil exceeds expectations and is simply “bellissima”.
Activities available at the lodge include horseriding, mountain hiking, and fly fishing in the Ahuriri River – which is ranked in the world’s top five fly-fishing locations.
You can also try electric biking, gliding, and heli-skiing in winter.
We stride out to the nearest pond, where we spot trout and plenty of birdlife on the perfect autumn day, then return to enjoy our sprawling suite – which is named Ben Avon.
Luxury meets comfort
Ben Avon is gorgeously understated, with lovely earth-toned décor, timber floors, and every imaginable comfort.
The amazing king-size bed is ideally positioned to capture stunning vistas from the floor-to-ceiling windows – whether it’s that rising morning mist or starry night skies.
There’s a rain shower, and a bath with a view beside the fireplace.
The sitting area has comfy chairs, and there’s also a huge television and a mini bar with a treats box filled with nuts, Minties and jet plane lollies that awaken childhood memories.
After dinner, I can’t resist one last look at those night skies.
There’s zero light pollution out here, and the Milky Way – along with other stars, comets, planets and galaxies – takes centre stage in a spectacular light show.
A little note on my pillow reads, ‘A well spent day brings happy sleep’ – something that certainly rings true in this high-country wilderness, where the exceptional luxury lodge matches the grandeur of the landscape.
The writer was a guest of The Lindis Group and was supported by Tourism New Zealand.