Perched on a clifftop overlooking the still blue waters of Lake Pukaki and with Aoraki Mt Cook out on the horizon, the Ashley Mackenzie Villa of Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat is the perfect place for some serious down time. Despite the owners, Luke and Kaye Paardekooper, residing in the Pukaki Homestead a mere 350 metres away, the Ashley Mackenzie Villa feels utterly secluded.
The European style farmhouse accommodates up to 4 people, with two large double bedrooms connected by a spacious open plan drawing room, complete with open fireplace. Just outside of the villa, not only do you have the option to dine alfresco, you also have access to the Fanfail spa: a small workout room, a massage room (you have to book in for a massage in advance to secure the masseuse as they don’t work on site), a sauna and an outdoor hot tub (which was absolutely divine when it is so cold outside) strategically placed to make the most of the picturesque view.
Breakfast provisions were home grown or locally produced and included eggs, bacon, sausage, home-made muesli (possibly one of the best mueslis I have ever had) and jams. You have the option to have Luke and Kaye to come cook for you. Upon arrival, Kaye had baked us a delicious fruit cake which made for a great snack on our outing the next day (more on that later). Dinner included a 3 course home-cooked meal at the villa brought down by the hosts. The salmon is highly recommended. Alternatively, you could choose to dine out which we chose to do on our second night (although had we had known that the food at the retreat was going to be that good, we would have probably chosen the lazy option and dined in for the second night). Kaye recommended nearby Shawty’s located in the town of Twizel. A cosy, casual restaurant/bar, it didn’t disappoint (highly recommend the rack of lamb). Both breakfast and dinner are included in the stay at the villa.
For those that want a truly relaxing break, there’s no need to leave the villa whatsoever (bear in mind that there is no TV – they take relaxation very seriously here). But for those seeking a little adventure then Mt Cook is just a stone’s throw away. Well around a 45 minute scenic drive to be precise. The Hooker Valley track is around 10km return and takes 3-4 hours to complete. The track crosses three suspension bridges over the Hooker River before reaching a lookout above Hooker Lake for a close view of Mount Cook and the Hooker Glacier. On the day of our trek the weather was absolutely perfect. Despite the temperature being in single digits, the sun was out in all its glory so walking under the sunshine felt lovely and warm.
I would highly recommend visiting the Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat if you’re visiting the South Island particularly if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Its the ultimate location for some much needed r&r accompanied with some of the most majestic views in New Zealand.