The Shearer’s Quarters at Middlehurst High Country Station, located in the Awatere Valley of Marlborough. Photo / provided
Elisabeth Easther finds rural bliss at Middlehurst Railway Station in the Awatere Valley.
In a word: This is the rural paradise you’ve always dreamed of. Spectacular rural views with elegant architecture, a working farm with exceptional hosts and fabulous cuisine.
Location: In the upper Awatere Valley, between Kaikōura and Hanmer, in the district of Marlborough.
Style: 16,000ha of high-end resort in high-end countries. These epic lodgings are called the shearers’ quarters, but they’re actually luxurious.
Perfect for: Cycling holidays, hunting, painters and photographers or decadent relaxation in nature.
First impressions: After cycling 55km, mostly uphill, to reach Middlehurst, my relief on arrival was palpable. As I pedaled over the cattle stop and up the last small hill, even though I was tired I could still tell that this was a cut above your average farm stay. George the dog offered a wag-tastic welcome, along with bright human Joy, who learned her hospitable skills on luxury yachts and when she showed us to our room, I couldn’t have been happier.
Rooms: There is a combination of single, double and triple rooms, some with shared bathroom and two double rooms with bathroom. The beds were like big enclosures of snow-white sheets and once I had washed the road I lay down and it was like sinking into a firm cloud. The sliding glass door offered a floor-to-ceiling view of the sunny, autumn-toned high country. I especially liked how our names were spelled out in scrabble pieces on the door.
Bathroom: So flash, shower, toilet and vanity, fluffy white towels and toiletries that not only smelled great but also offered that rare thing in the toiletries provided, they were better than anything I use at home. Elemis products dispensed from wall-mounted zero-waste receptacles with lime and lotus flower body wash, separate shampoo and conditioner in the shower, and matching moisturizer by the sink. The hand wash was an equally delicious and aromatic organic sage and black currant.
You can help yourself to drinks, including quality local wines and beers, as well as groovy soft drinks and all-day tea and coffee from Longhi’s machine. The attention to detail is second to none with Chef Emma also hailing from the superyacht scene. Carol the cow provides milk, 17 chooks provide eggs but don’t get too crazy on the pre-dinner cheese platters as you’ll need space for the superb feast of roast lamb and vegetables. Ooh and did someone mention breakfast? An incredible buffet of salmon and avocado and grilled tomatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon, fruits and cereals. Everything you could hope for. I’m surprised to have left.
Confession: The first night I went to dinner in my pajamas because I was moderately tired from cycling, but it’s the kind of place where no one cares if you’re wearing night clothes at the table, although of course you can you dress for dinner. too.
Facilities: Wi-Fi, bicycle parking, helicopter parking, you can even come by plane if you feel like it because there is a small airstrip a few paddocks away. There are also plenty of games, magazines and books and, exciting news, a hot tub will soon be installed.
Fun fact: The giant dining table is made from boards salvaged from the historic cob cottage that was destroyed in the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake.
In the neighborhood: The sheep, cows, chooks, grass, dogs, horses, lovely people and the 4×4 tour of the gathering hut is definitely worth doing. Or take a mountain bike ride along farm trails and riverbeds.
Friendly and family: Kids would go wild here, play in nature or learn the stories of the resort and the wonders of merino wool.
Accessibility: Wooden ramps allow wheelchair access to the quarters, and there is a handicapped bathroom. Rooms can also be configured to allow a carer to share if needed.
Sustainability: With a strong focus on environmental concerns, all toiletries are refillable so no plastic waste, food scraps go in the trash and resort owners Susan and Willie and their family have a keen sense of stewardship of the land.
Final Thoughts: Don’t stay just one night. Spend at least a few days to savor all that Middlehurst has to offer and, if it’s in your wheelhouse, arrive by bike.
Take away food : Sue and Willy’s daughters, Sophie and Lucy, have started an online lamb business, if you want a taste of the countryside in town.
For more travel inspiration, visit newzealand.com/nz.
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