At Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat, they have created a luxurious and secluded place where travellers can relax and rejuvenate in one of the most beautiful and peaceful locations in New Zealand.
Set in a forest wilderness overlooking the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki, the retreat is on the doorstep of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park in the beautiful and unique Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area.
From their rooms, guests can enjoy uninterrupted views up the lake to the Southern Alps and Aoraki Mt Cook. The night sky is just as spectacular: the retreat is inside the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.
The story begins in 2010 when the couple were operating their events management business in Wellington.
“We wanted to develop a more relaxed lifestyle. The criteria we used to evaluate our options were in hindsight pretty romantic – we were looking for mountains, a view over water and snowfall in winter,” Kaye says.
On their way back from tramping the Routeburn Track, they detoured through the Mackenzie Country to look at a piece of land beside Lake Pukaki.
They fell in love with the vast landscape and the land met their criteria, despite being covered in pine trees, with no roads, water or power.
It took 18 months to gain approval to build the Pukaki Homestead on the special site overlooking the lake. Designed by the Paardekoopers, it is passively thermal, optimising the architecture for heating and cooling the building.
Luke says they wanted to craft the Homestead themselves so it could be a part of them. “As well as constructing, painting and decorating, we also learnt how to tile, spending hours each night laying the very beautiful Winkelmann tiles (each pattern has 21 individual tiles) for three bathrooms. This was a great way to get to know each other.”
By November 2013 Kaye and Luke had moved into the Homestead and were ready to offer bed and breakfast accommodation.
The second stage of the project was the luxurious, private and secluded Ashley Mackenzie Villa and Private Spa, on a clifftop overlooking Lake Pukaki.
“In our own travels we like to have opportunities for physical relaxation and decided it was a priority to provide these opportunities for our guests. We developed the private Fantail Spa for relaxation, the tennis court and walking tracks for low-impact recreation,” Kaye says.
Filled with light and open to the lake and mountain views, Fantail Spa reflects the natural beauty of its surroundings.
Above, the heavens provide a show of their own in one of the darkest skies in the world. Guests can relax over New Zealand’s finest wines, or in a hot tub, while enjoying a superb – and unique – stargazing experience in the Retreat’s onsite observatory.
The more energetic can cycle through spectacular landscapes on the Alps 2 Ocean cycleway or fish for salmon with a local guide, then return to Kaye’s fresh and seasonal “garden to plate” cuisine, created from the best local produce.
Recognised by Tourism NZ as a Luxury Lodge, Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat joins an elite group of 30 properties throughout the country. Lodges in this category are “in a class of their own… utterly luxurious and offering an exclusive, unforgettable holiday experience.”