Hotel review

Hotel Review: Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef Village, West Coast

To travel

The exterior of the Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef. Photo / Thomas Rees

Pierre Andre checks into Rainforest, a welcoming retreat in the village of Franz Josef.

Site: Nestled in native forest on the edge of the glacial town of Westland, Franz Josef. From Hokitika, it’s a few hours drive south.

Style: A self-contained tree house style apartment surrounded by a majestic rainforest. The resort itself can accommodate up to 300 people, but in the Covid economy the numbers are much smaller.

Price: From $250 per night depending on offers. Dorms can be booked for as low as $40 per bed, and budget accommodation is around $100. The website offers a lot of choices.

Perfect for: Couples wanting a comfortable stay in a beautiful location, families looking for a base in an adventure town, or Kiwis on a southern roadie wanting to park the mobile home for a few days or more.

First impressions: My hut, called Ngaio, sits on 2m high poles, which means the standard of living seems tucked away in the lush bush. The deck at the front is surrounded by forest and protects the cabin from its neighbours. It’s fresh and clean.
Looking up, I can see the forest of Westland Tai Poutini National Park covering the steep sides of a range that starts just 100 meters away. There is a sharp edge in the air. Perhaps it comes from Franz Josef himself, the glacier flowing in a nearby valley that is for now out of sight but never far from mind. A small table with two chairs sits on the deck, a nice place for a cup of tea. There is an earthy sense of bushiness and the foliage is moist to the touch.

A villa at the Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef.  Photo / Thomas Rees
A villa at the Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef. Photo / Thomas Rees

Rooms: The 40m² space is generous as I fly solo. The king bed is adorned with pillows, while a single spare remains. There is a comfortable sofa facing the large double glazed sliding door. Heavy curtains to insulate the cabin from the cold night air. Stargazing windows are placed above the door. They can be covered by blinds but it is better to leave them open to the night sky. The exterior cladding is reproduced on the rear interior wall, which reinforces the idea of ​​a forest cabin. A bush green panel with dim lighting sits behind the main bed.

A generous wardrobe is built into the wall leading to the bathroom. It contains an ironing board, plenty of space for hangers and shelves. The kitchen unit is equipped with an espresso machine and milk warmer, toaster, microwave and fridge with bottled milk. A heat pump keeps the interior warm. A wall-mounted TV, which has a few cable channels, can be swiveled out for viewing from the bed, but the real action in this spectacular part of the country is outside. Wi-Fi comes with the package and when a fiber issue in town interrupted service, a manager was on hand to fix the connection. Some of the larger huts have hot tubs, warm and cheerful luxury in a cold southern destination.

Bathroom: The winner here is the heated floor which buzzes around 23C. The walk-in shower has two heads – a large head unit and a smaller lower hand shower. It’s a nice place to clean up and a hard place to leave. Forest and Bird soaps and gels are mounted in the glass shower and on a board next to the sink. A heated rail keeps towels warm and there is a ceiling speaker if you need it.

Facilities: The resort has a bar and restaurant with an impressive range of gins, a pool table and roaring log fires. Along with gourmet pizzas, the kitchen produces savory dishes including ribs and beef cheek stew. You can get a firm massage on the spot or jump into a soothing sauna.

Accessibility: My deluxe cabin had stairs but a number of other units have wheelchair ramps. Several of the deluxe units are on the forest floor for easy access and include accessible bedrooms.

Friendly and family: Children can explore the retreat on winding tracks through the bush. An area of ​​the resort called the holiday park has a playground and barbecue area. The holiday park has a TV room with a large Sky TV screen and free Wi-Fi.

Durability: This New Zealand-owned and operated company takes its environmental obligations seriously. He embraced the Tiaki Promise of the tourism industry, emphasizing sustainability, and created a grand resort that blends seamlessly and lightly into a particular landscape. They’ve used recycled wood along its walkways, encouraged guests to reuse their towels, built well-insulated accommodations, and stocked its bathrooms with Forest & Bird Botanicals.

Globally: The staff is friendly and helpful, and the resort strives to provide stress-free stays. You won’t notice it, but there is a hidden holiday park for motorhomes, units for family groups, bikes for hire and little bush walks to explore.


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