New Zealand's stark, vast and beautiful Mackenzie Country is an ideal place for star gazing, and in fact, the region, is an international dark sky reserve. SkyScape feels like a million miles from anywhere with expansive views over the golden tussocks of the Mackenzie Basin to the Southern Alps, Two Thumbs Range and Mt John. Despite the solitude, the small township of Twizel is only a short drive away.
SkyScape is set on Omahau Hill, a 6000-acre high country station in the middle of New Zealand's South Island. The station, owned by Michael and Elaine Lindsay, covers spectacular hill country and semi-flat land and runs 1200 merino ewes and 150 beef cattle. SkyScape, which opened last year, is the brainchild of the Lindsay's daughter Bridget and husband Bevan who returned from teaching overseas to raise their two boys in rural New Zealand. Lying in the southwest corner of the expansive dark sky reserve, this cleverly designed retreat is hidden in the landscape with a partial grass roof making it almost invisible in the tussock laden hillside.
Made almost entirely of glass, SkyScape was designed by Ian Perry of iDesign in Oamaru. The solar powered, adults only retreat is off the grid, and designed to alleviate heat loss and stay snug and warm amid the extreme conditions of the Mackenzie country, where temperatures can plummet to a chilly minus 10 degrees Celsius. The king size bed rests at ground level so it gives you the feeling of lying on the ground viewing the stars. There's also a kitchenette and bathroom in the 30-square-metre space. The highlight is the two-metre-long stainless steel cedar bathtub in the outdoor sunken courtyard with water sourced from a nearby spring. There's also a retractable sun blind, board games, star chart and binoculars for celestial exploration.
Aside from breakfast (continental, inclusive in the room rate), you can book an evening meal (typically a platter made from local produce) and I highly recommend you do, as once you arrive at SkyScape, you'll have to be dragged out of there. BYO wine.
Take a farm tour with owner Bevan and his working dogs Tim, Fog and Ben to the property's highest point overlooking the snow-capped Ben Ohau Range. The 4WD tour gives guests the opportunity to watch the working dogs in action rounding up the sheep. Alternatively take an hour-long tour on foot, with a look through the wool shed, and a chance to feed grain to Marcus, the adorable Highland bull. If you're staying longer, hire some bikes and do a portion of the scenic Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail. SkyScape is an official A2O partner.
SkyScape is a wonderful experience even if the stars don't shine. A stay here allows you to experience life on a New Zealand sheep station in total comfort thanks to Bridget and Bevan who have literally thought of everything.
47 Ben Ohau Road, Ben Ohau, New Zealand. From $NZ550 a night. Phone +64 21 213 9684, see skyscape.co.nz
The alfresco bath with a glass of wine at sunset after which, hopefully, the dark sky will reveal itself.
I'm really struggling to find a negative here but if anything, all that glass means you sure wake up early in the morning.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Tourism New Zealand.