The Marlborough Lodge is a traveller: it has moved from place to place, and from the spiritual to the secular. Built in 1901, this handsome timber building first served as a Catholic convent in Blenheim, in the Marlborough region of New Zealand's South Island. Today, it is the latest addition to New Zealand's network of luxury lodges. In between, it was sold by the Catholic Church and cut into five pieces to be trucked to a paddock in nearby Rapaura and re-assembled as a bed and breakfast. That was in 1994. Now it has changed again, with the interior refashioned into 10 contemporary suites – a perfect base for exploring Marlborough's famous wineries and the beautiful Marlborough Sounds.
The lodge sits in a private park shaded by mature trees and bright with established gardens tended by full-time gardeners (and maybe a manicurist for the meticulously neat lawns). Our balcony looks across beds of plump white roses and banks of lavender to a pond and a free-flowing stream. You could happily lose yourself in the grounds and not return until it is time for pre-dinner drinks and freshly made canapes in the "Great Room" where the lodge's obliging manager, Peter White, plays host.
We're in "the chapel", a generous space under a vaulted ceiling. It is a recreation of the original chapel which – for reasons now forgotten – was left behind when the building was moved. Pale grey walls and white joinery provide the backdrop for successfully eclectic decor, including large red armchairs, red lacquered cabinets as bedside tables and original stained glass windows. The white marble bathroom features a free-standing bath wide enough and deep enough for a family of the local fur seals.
Chef Sam Webb offers stylish, modern cooking that respects natural flavours and textures. Sam honed his skills in kitchens from Melbourne to Moscow, but he is a local – and that is how he likes his raw material. Flavourful linguine comes with Cloudy Bay clams one night and Marlborough Sounds green-lipped mussels the next. Seafood is a highlight of the three-course evening menus, with delicate starters such as carpaccio of Cook Strait octopus and kingfish crudo followed by mains such as smoky flavoured ora king salmon from the Marlborough Sounds and Whitianga hapuka on barley risotto infused with crayfish sauce.
Stepping out may well be in a pair of hiking boots as you prepare to walk the famed Queen Charlotte Track with glorious views over the Queen Charlotte Sound. If not hiking – or biking, kayaking, fishing, sailing or other outdoorsy stuff – you will be tasting the region's famous sauvignon blanc (and elegant pinot noir and fruity pinot gris) at any number of the region's 150 wineries. The lodge can organise private tours.
You will feel like guests in a beautiful country house, as relaxed as it is luxurious, with service attentive to even the smallest things such as daily fresh-cut flowers on the table at breakfast and petit fours by your bedside at night.
The lodge offers dinner, bed and breakfast from $NZ1200 a double a night for a Lodge Room in low season to $NZ2000 for a Premium Suite in high season. See themarlboroughlodge.co.nz
Five out of five
TRIPADVISTOR TRAVELLER RATING
Five out of five
Greg Lenthen was a guest of the Marlborough Lodge
The truly spectacular Queen Charlotte Sound and surrounding waterways. I'll never again be quite so boastful about the beauty of Sydney Harbour.
The three-hour wait (flying Air New Zealand) in Wellington (going) and Auckland (returning) for the short connecting flights to and from Blenheim. Take a book.