Set in pastoral surroundings against the fluted cone of an ancient volcano, Otahuna Lodge is a beguiling Victorian mansion that offers its guests a unique sense of wonder and discovery. New Zealand’s largest private historic residence has been revitalised with luxury accommodation, glorious gardens and sophisticated cuisine.
In its patrician sense of calm, the grace and charm of its grounds and its refined yet personable service, Otahuna combines the romance of the past with the cosmopolitan pleasures of the present – the very best of both worlds. This is Otahuna Lodge. This is New Zealand at its finest.
Otahuna holds many treasures. Beyond the classic entrance hall, hidden amenities and fine dining are waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. Each guest of the luxury Lodge will feel delightfully cosseted by the service and charmed by the ambient sense of history, even as they are spoilt for choice by the range of activities available.
Otahuna was built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes, a high-profile pioneer of Canterbury, and his wife Jessie. Sir Heaton is remembered as a Victorian country gentleman and benefactor known for his enthusiasm for life and kindness towards others.
He was a long-term parliamentarian, a military officer, stockbreeder and keen horticulturist whose contributions are integral to the history of Canterbury. Otahuna would remain his home for more than 60 years until he passed away at the age of 95.
The name “Otahuna” is Maori and popularly translates as “little hill among the hills.” The homestead sits atop a small hill, between the rocky outcrops of the Banks Peninsula, providing commanding views of the gardens and across the plains to the Southern Alps.
Otahuna is Sir Heaton Rhodes’ greatest legacy, an enduring testament to his love for the finer things in life. The homestead is considered one of the best examples of unspoiled Queen Anne architecture in Australasia.
Praised for its irregular shape, romantic rooflines, extensive use of New Zealand timber, and elaborate architectural detail, Otahuna is now protected by a Category One listing from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
Influenced by the style and scale of noble English country estates, Otahuna Lodge entertains its guests in the refined tradition of Sir Heaton Rhodes.
Each of Otahuna’s seven suites is an enclave of refined comfort. Here, the classical ambience created by ornate fireplaces, carved inglenooks and flowers freshly picked from the Estate has been enhanced with luxurious fabrics and lavish bathrooms.
Sir Heaton Rhodes’ former bedroom is the nucleus of a grand, four-room Master Suite incorporating an octagonal study. The other Master Suite has a private, fourteen-metre verandah with views across the Canterbury Plains. A further five Suites have their own individual charms, each located within a unique area of the original homestead.
All of the Master Suites and Suites offer super-king beds, fine custom-made linens, deep soaking bathtubs with separate showers, original artworks and bath toiletries created exclusively for Otahuna Lodge.
Originally the master bedroom, the Rhodes Suite is actually a series of four rooms which embodies the gracious character of Sir Heaton and Jessie Rhodes. The palatial bedroom boasts a magnificent Victorian fireplace with inglenook seating and stained glass windows.
A separate octagonal sitting room situated in the turret is the perfect spot to read a book, work a jigsaw puzzle, enjoy a quiet candlelit dinner or simply gaze out to the gardens.
The ensuite bathroom is luxuriously appointed with a double shower and separate spa tub, ideal for soothing tired muscles at the close of an active day. Outside, the private balcony affords spectacular views across the Canterbury plains to the distant Southern Alps.
Epitomising the phrase “room with a view,” the Verandah Suite is the perfect base from which to start exploring Canterbury. Four doors open onto an enormous arched verandah, reserved exclusively for the suite.
Here, guests may quietly contemplate the birdsong from the gardens, or toast with a glass of champagne as the sun sets across the Canterbury Plains behind the Southern Alps. Indoors, guests can lose themselves in the crackle of a fire – either from a deep armchair in the bedroom or from the freestanding bathtub in the spacious ensuite bathroom.
The Botanical Suite is situated in the original Morning Room of the house, where tea was served to Jessie Rhodes and other fine Canterbury ladies every day at 11 o’clock sharp. A floor-to-ceiling mantle featuring gingerbread woodwork and a wood-burning fireplace anchors one corner of the room.
In another, an enormous bay window faces east to the gardens and receives bright sunlight through painted glass in the mornings. Located on the ground floor, the Botanical Suite offers its guests access to the gardens through a private exterior door ensuring that a leisurely stroll or a brisk walk is never more than a few steps away.
The Butler Suite comprises a series of rooms looking over the brick herb garden and the terracotta roof of the sunken game house – now a wine cellar – to the woodland beyond.
The bedroom, separate full sitting room, and two bathrooms feature classic depictions of the evocative Canterbury landscape as well as Otahuna’s historic past. The decorative scheme reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts period features dark wood, original fireplace tiles and classic furniture. The butler never had it so good!
So named for the tradition of the game at Otahuna, the Polo Suite occupies a sunny position at the front of the house overlooking a courtyard on one side and the Great Lawn on the other. Heaton played regularly on the lawn, which had to be mown by horses wearing special leather shoes.
The classic leathers, houndstooth fabrics and oak furniture of the suite provide the perfect inspiration to plan one’s own horseback adventures from the comfort of a deep, freestanding bathtub. Or to relax by one of the suite’s two fireplaces with a good book from the Otahuna Library.
The cuisine celebrates the best of seasonal New Zealand produce, with an emphasis on fresh Otahuna estate-grown offerings. Dinner is a four-course chef’s degustation menu which changes daily, making use of the fresh produce sourced from the property’s own potager garden and orchard.
Honest, uncluttered flavours, the finest local ingredients and elegantly restrained presentation are the hallmarks of the Otahuna table. Should this pique one’s taste buds, many culinary experiences may be pursued on the property including cooking classes and seasonal mushroom foraging. Private tours of local, artisanal food providers are arranged upon request.
At dinner, guests dine communally in the opulent formal dining room – ornate original wallpaper, a roaring fire and sparkling candlesticks exemplify the gracious living of the Victorian era. Alternatively, they may retreat to a private table for two in the sunken wine cellar, the intimate library, the drawing room turret, or a location of their choosing.
The old game house – where game and fowl were hung to dry – now houses Otahuna Lodge’s wine cellar. Set into a hillside, the cellar maintains ideal temperature and humidity for the careful maturation of New Zealand wines.
Otahuna Lodge offers a different flight of complementary wine pairings with each dinner, emphasising Canterbury and New Zealand wines. Should guests wish to celebrate with a particular vintage, a list is always available.
Culinary excellence is a cornerstone of the Otahuna experience. A hands-on cooking lesson with Executive Chef Jimmy McIntyre provides an enjoyable overview of the philosophies behind the Lodge’s celebrated food and wine programme as profiled in Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveller, and The Financial Times.
Classes are typically reserved only for resident guests of the Lodge. They provide an introduction to planning menus and offer a special chance to learn first-hand cooking techniques in our kitchens before tasting the delicious results for yourselves. Classes are available in one-hour or three-hour formats.
One hour north of Otahuna Lodge lies the Waipara wine district, New Zealand’s hottest wine region and home to some excellent boutique vineyards. Waipara translates from the Maori language as “muddy water” due to the braided rivers that carry glacial silt from the mountains to the sea.
Waipara vineyards are perhaps best known for excellent Pinot Noirs—often sought after for their rich notes of licorice caused by the high amount of limestone in the soil. Zingy Rieslings are also popular in Waipara, with many winning national awards.
Cellar doors are open for tasting at Greystone Wines/Muddy Water, Pegasus Bay, The Boneline Wines, Torlesse Wines and a range of others including Black Estate which also boasts one of New Zealand’s finest winery restaurants.
Nearer to the Lodge a visit to Tussock Hill combined with a hike in Christchurch’s stunning Port Hills makes for a delightful–and delicious–excursion.
Otahuna offers many beautiful sites for wedding ceremonies throughout its 30 acres of original gardens, including the Great Lawn beside the property’s lake or under the century-old oaks of the formal Dutch Garden.
Alternatively, the rich detail, open fires and elaborate stained glass of the Lodge’s Entry Hall and Drawing Room provide an elegant ambience for indoor ceremonies.
The Ballroom is ideally situated to host reception dinners, providing historic charm with its original wood panelling, 7-metre vaulted ceiling, large bay window overlooking the gardens and French doors opening directly onto the Lodge’s verandah.
The Ballroom can accommodate a maximum of 64 guests for a seated dinner and can also accommodate a band for dancing after dinner. Our experienced team will personalise your requirements and tailor-make an experience alongside the best local suppliers to create an unforgettable wedding day.
Wedding couples consult personally with Executive Chef Jimmy McIntyre to design their own wedding menu, with cuisine drawing upon the seasonal bounty of Otahuna’s vast potager gardens.
Otahuna offers an ideal setting for small conferences, product launches and board meetings. Larger groups of 64 people are accommodated in the wood-panelled Ballroom while smaller groups may prefer the Lodge’s Dining Room or an array of indoor and outdoor breakout locations.
Additionally, with its 30 acres providing complete privacy Otahuna regularly welcomes groups of up to 16 people for overnight retreats. The Lodge’s distinctive facilities and renowned kitchens ensure the most memorable of occasions.
Massage & Fitness
After a busy day exploring Canterbury, guests might indulge in a relaxing massage. Therapists provide a range of treatments, styles and pressures to accommodate a wide variety of preferences. Guests can enjoy a 60- or 90-minute massage in the Woodland Massage Studio.
The heated Otahuna swimming pool is open from November through March. Meanwhile the outdoor spa pool is available for use throughout the year. Hybrid bicycles are also available to explore local country roads.
The spectacular 125-year old grounds of Otahuna were laid out and cultivated under the direction of A. E. Lowe who trained at Kew Gardens, London. Wide vistas over lawn and lake contrast beautifully with intimate walks which wind through both outdoor garden rooms and heavily wooded areas.
During the first half of the 20th century, Otahuna became nationally famous for its fields of daffodils – the largest in New Zealand at the time. Surplus bulbs were donated to the city of Christchurch forming the nucleus of the daffodil gardens in Hagley Park. Today, millions of bulbs still bloom resplendent every September, welcoming guests to the property.
Heaton Rhodes was a passionate horticulturist, serving as president of the Canterbury Horticultural Society for more than 50 years. His gardeners bred their own varieties of prize-winning daffodils, and Heaton and Jessie would often help them pollinate the flowers by hand.
At the end of a path passing between 6 majestic Chusan palms lies the entrance to the Dutch Garden. The term ‘Dutch Garden’ began to appear in England around the turn of the twentieth century to describe a geometric parterre which was filled with densely planted, colourful flowers often enclosed by clipped Buxus hedges or low walls.
The Dutch garden was renovated in 2007 with the removal of more than 40 trees and restoration of 6 Buxus-lined gravel lanes which radiate from a central circle.
Sunlight filters through the canopy of exotic trees planted many years ago which include original oaks, a Feijoa and a weeping Cherry, which in spring drapes its white blossom over a carpet of vibrant blue Ajuga. Elsewhere, a Madron tree from North America with feathery red bark stands sentinel over drifts of flowering shrubs.
The many fragrances of the Dutch Garden are sure to revive the senses: lavender, pine, daphne, viburnum, lemonwood, mock orange blossom and boxwood among others. All the while the bellbird and endangered wood pigeon provide a soundtrack for exploration.
For those who find relaxation in competitive pursuits, croquet, petanque and kubb are available on our sun-dappled games lawn where a cocktail or refreshing beverage is never far away.
Lawn & Lake
Quite British in design, Otahuna’s great lawn has served as the site of glorious garden parties, polo matches and even a royal visit. At the top of the lawn, hidden paths wind in and out of camellia beds and open out to a great expanse gently sloping down to the ornamental lake.
Majestic oaks, cedars, wattles and poplars fringe the grass. The lake itself is crossed by three wooden bridges linking the daffodil field on one side to the forest on the other. In the late afternoon, it is not uncommon to find a guest here, with a glass of New Zealand wine in one hand and a croquet mallet in the other, ready to engage in some friendly competition.
The potager-style vegetable garden holds a prime position in a sunny stone-walled enclosure which was originally the domain of the estate’s stallions.
Here, a huge range of seasonal vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts and mushrooms – including exotic and rare heritage varietals – is grown organically for the table. Guests can even accompany the chef to select vegetables for their own evening meal.
Apples, pears, quince, and other fruit abound in Otahuna’s orchard which includes many trees from the Edwardian era. Recently restored and redeveloped are two of the estate’s original outbuildings, the Melon Shed and the Apple Store.
The Melon Shed is a Victorian glasshouse devoted to the growth of tropical fruits such as tahitian and finger limes and cucumbers that grow up to a metre in length. On the other side of the orchard, guests are invited to explore the Apple Store, a root cellar which today provides the perfect climate to support a diverse array of mushrooms.
Pine bark trails and flagstone paths wend their way through rambling woodlands which shelter fantails, bellbirds, wood pigeons and other birds throughout the seasons. These woods formed the basis of Otahuna’s rhododendron gardens, and many old specimens now exhibit their showy blooms at canopy height.
Among the trees, one might stumble upon historic remnants such as moss covered steps leading to the original frog pond, or a hidden settee where Heaton would sit in the afternoon and watch the musterers herd sheep on the hill.
If the warm breezes of a Canterbury summer occasionally feel enervating, a refreshing dip in the swimming pool is the right tonic for a weary constitution. After dark, from a position in the outdoor jacuzzi, the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere seem just beyond arms’ reach.
Welcome to Canterbury! New Zealand’s largest and most diverse province boasts an amazing array of experiences to incite your own personal sense of exploration.
Whether you wish to sail in an extinct volcanic harbour, take in the panoramas from one of the world’s greatest train journeys or charter a helicopter from Otahuna’s Great Lawn into the jaw-dropping scenery of the Southern Alps, there are numerous options to help you become immersed in the sights, sounds and flavours of the amazing place we call home.
Originally settled by French immigrants, Akaroa is a picturesque seaside town that has retained many of its 19th century public buildings and cottages. The one-hour drive from Otahuna’s gates takes guests over the crater rim of an extinct volcano, with stunning views of the harbour and the patchwork of farms and forests below.
For the active guest, Akaroa offers the opportunity to swim with the world’s rarest and smallest dolphins, the Hector’s Dolphins. Other excursions might include forest and hillside walks, a two-hour harbour cruise or an excursion to sea caves via kayak.
Within the village guests can enjoy charming shops and restaurants as well as the “Giant’s Garden” – a horticultural and artistic statement bedecked in mosaic tiles and sculpture.
Amongst the eastern bays of the peninsula, guests can discover Fisherman’s Bay Garden – a unique, painter’s garden which explores colour and texture through combinations of native plants, perennials and grasses.
Embark on one of the world’s greatest train journeys, the TranzAlpine, which traverses the South Island’s majestic landscapes. Your guide will collect you from Otahuna at 8:00 AM and drive you to nearby Rolleston Station.
You will then experience the most scenic part of the rail journey as the train climbs into the heart of the Southern Alps, winding its way along the bright blue Waimakariri River and through dramatic alpine valleys before arriving at Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Here, your guide will meet you for a hike in moss-laden forests teeming with glacial streams and waterfalls, followed by a café lunch or picnic. You might even meet a kea, the world’s only alpine parrot.
On your return via road to Otahuna, you may wish to stop at the monolithic limestone outcroppings of Castle Hill, one of the primary film locations from “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
Canterbury’s rivers provide excellent chances for both the novice and expert fly-fisherman to test their skills. Guests benefit from the knowledge of a local guide who will choose a location to ensure the best chances of making a successful catch.
Brown and rainbow trout can be caught in both the high country as well as lowland streams from October through April. It is also possible during these months to catch Chinook salmon.
Guides provide licenses, tackle equipment, waders, instruction and transport in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Access to remote mountain streams via helicopter provides an alternative option.
Excellent golfing is available throughout the region from the nearby nine-hole country course at Tai Tapu to the internationally acclaimed resort courses at Terrace Downs and Clearwater.
Christchurch Golf Club
Canterbury’s historic golfing destination, the Christchurch Golf Club, has a proud history that dates back to 1873 making it the fifth oldest club outside the United Kingdom. The club has held numerous New Zealand Open and Amateur, Men’s and Women’s Championships.
The course is renowned world-wide as a challenging championship course of the highest quality which offers a fair test of golf for both club and professional golfers. Travel Time from Otahuna Lodge: 35 Minutes
Clearwater Golf Course
This par 72 course has hosted the New Zealand PGA Championship and multiple international tournaments. Designed by John Darby in consultation with New Zealand golfing legend, Sir Bob Charles, the course combines elements of links golf inspired by the great Scottish courses with parkland golf more reminiscent of Florida.
Playable year-round, the course meanders around a succession of spring-fed lakes and trout-filled streams. Travel Time from Otahuna Lodge: 35 Minutes
Terrace Downs is rated as one of the top courses in New Zealand. Based at the foothills of the Southern Alps, there are very few scenic alpine courses like it. The course offers a unique mixture of parklands and links style with views of the Rakaia Gorge and nearby mountain ranges.
At par 72, the course is challenging. However, a choice of four tees on each hole ensures the course caters for a range of golfing abilities. Travel Time from Otahuna Lodge: 75 Minutes
Tai Tapu Golf Club
Less than 2 kilometres from the front gates of Otahuna lies the friendly Tai Tapu Club course. The course is only 9 holes but offers differing tee positions for guests wishing to play 18 holes (par 70). Travel Time from Otahuna Lodge: 5 Minutes
A scenic flight by helicopter is the ultimate way to see the natural beauty of New Zealand. The convenience of these tours is unsurpassed as helicopters depart and land directly from the Lodge’s Great Lawn. Otahuna Lodge has developed the following exclusive helicopter itineraries for guests:
Best of Canterbury
An amazing half-day introduction to many of the highlights of a stay in Canterbury. Depart from Otahuna and fly over dramatic Lyttelton Harbour and up the coast of the Pacific Ocean before landing in the Waipara wine region at Pegasus Bay or Black Estate wineries.
Here, a wine tasting will be offered before a delightful lunch of the very best New Zealand fare. In the afternoon you will fly into the breath-taking scenery of the snow-capped Southern Alps for a mountaintop landing with staggering views west toward the South Island’s Main Divide and east across the Canterbury Plains to the Banks Peninsula.
Kaikoura Whale Watch
Departing Otahuna, the helicopter tracks directly over Christchurch and up the coast of the South Island to the seaside town of Kaikoura. Transfer is then offered to the Kaikoura Whale Watch helicopter for a 40-minute whale watch.
Guests will enjoy an unsurpassed opportunity to view mighty sperm whales, Dusky dolphins and New Zealand fur seals from the air. The return flight provides the ability to stop for lunch at Pegasus Bay Winery or Black Estate.
Mt Cook Spectacular
This “only in New Zealand” helicopter adventure offers an incredible opportunity to visit the nation’s tallest peak: Aoraki Mt Cook at 3,754m (12,316ft), and to see the South Island’s diverse landscapes and to visit an iconic highcountry farm.
From Otahuna, guests fly across the chequerboard Canterbury Plains and into rolling hills followed by the alpine tussocks of the remote Mackenzie Country. As you approach Mt Cook National Park you will be greeted with exceptional views of glacial lakes before seeing the mountain itself.
In the park you have the option to enjoy a gourmet picnic hamper or lunch at The Hermitage Hotel with a guided walk around this treasured wilderness area. In the afternoon plan to fly along the Main Divide, the spine of New Zealand’s spectacular Southern Alps, before landing at a New Zealand sheep station.
There, you will meet the farm’s owners and have an overview of life in Canterbury’s back country before returning to Otahuna’s grounds. This is truly a Canterbury adventure without equal.
Heli – Skiing
Canterbury’s Southern Alps offer arguably the best variety of back country, helicopter-accessed terrain available in New Zealand. Within 25 minutes from the Lodge you can be skiing or snowboarding on over 1,000 square kilometres of mountains and hundreds of named runs beyond the headwaters of the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers.
The terrain is remote and spectacular, with many glaciated runs exceeding 1,000 vertical metres from which you can even gaze at views of both the Pacific Ocean in the East and the Tasman Sea in the West. Single and multi-day heli-skiing adventures can be arranged based upon guests’ ability and specific interests.
Hiking & Biking
Canterbury’s diverse landscape offers an array of trails for walking and biking. The Lodge offers the complimentary use of 4 bicycles for exploring the immediate area with many guests enjoying the easy 6-kilometre loop in the Otahuna Valley. The quiet country roads are perfect for cycling and visits can be made to a local Tai Tapu café or the Longueville Art Gallery.
More adventurous guests might join a cycling guide along the summit road taking in spectacular views over Christchurch city and the nearby coastline. Or, they may wish to visit the new Christchurch Adventure Park, the largest downhill mountain bike park in the Southern hemisphere.
The local area offers a great selection of walking opportunities for every level of fitness. Some of our favourites include:
This steep track with a 300m climb re-traces the steps of Christchurch’s first European settlers. It starts from volcanic Lyttelton Harbour before summiting the Port Hills and descending into the Heathcote Valley at the base of the Christchurch Gondola. 1.5 hours one way or 3 hours return.
Leaving from the surfing beach at Taylor’s Mistake, this coastal walkway offers spectacular views of the city, New Brighton Beach, estuaries and the Southern Alps. This track climbs to Godley Head with its historic World War II military buildings overlooking the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour. 3 hours return.
Hinewai Reserve boasts sweeping views and some of the best walking opportunities on the Banks Peninsula, including almost 12 kilometres of well-marked tracks. The 1000 hectare reserve offers wonderful old-growth bush as well as vast swathes of regenerating native bush under the stewardship of New Zealand’s leading botanist. 1 hour to half-day walks.
Orton Bradley Park is a charming out-of-town destination, spanning 653 hectares from the shores of Lyttelton Harbour to Mt Herbert, the highest peak (919m) on the Banks Peninsula. There is a wide array of short walks and longer tramps alongside a working farm park and numerous historic buildings. 45 minute to full-day walks.