On our Southern journey, Fiordland Lodge stood out as slightly different from the rest. With 10 rooms and two separate self-contained log cabins it is slightly bigger than a traditional lodge and operates more in the style of a boutique hotel with a reception desk and restaurant.
Fiordland Lodge definitely still had the warmth and welcome of a lodge, as we were greeted by Fiordland Lodge manager Andy Cunningham and food beverage host Monique who looked after us for the duration of our stay and took care of everything from our dinner choices to our packed lunches on day trips.
When we checked in there was a bit of a stir as the boy has the same name as a very famous Southlander. Richard Henry created the world’s first island sanctuary for birds on Resolution Island and is most well-known for his work with the Kakapo.
The owners had left a book for us on Fiordland History with pages on Richard Henry marked for us (another one of those fabulous ‘only in a lodge’ touches). We were also put into the Richard Henry room which had photos of the namesake on the walls.
The Lodge itself is fairly outstanding to look at – made in a log wood style and set with floor to sky (yes, nearly the sky) glass across the entire front. While being large and impressive the log wood style makes it feel incredibly cosy and comfortable.
The lodge is famous with hunters and fishers looking for a bit of luxury and this is reflected in some of the design with features such as a chandelier made from giant iron fishing lures.
Its position on the hill above the South Fiord of Lake Te Anau keeps it hidden away from the main road yet takes full advantage of the stunning lake views.
At dinner one night (another absolutely delicious affair) we had front row seats as a storm rolled through from one side of the lake to the other and for the grand finale the clouds split open to reveal clear skies and a double rainbow.
As the storm finished there was an expectant pause in the air as we all wondered whether we should applaud or not.
Fiordland Lodge has the largest fire place I have ever seen, which the boy was completely smitten with. It is enormous at 11 metres high and made completely of river stone. Many a photo was taken in front of said fireplace with the boy posing with his pre-dinner whiskey looking thoughtfully off into the distance.
The lodge although feeling beautifully remote, is only 10 minutes out of the township of Te Anau which is definitely worth exploring.
The must visit place is the award winning Fiordland Cinema. Architecturally designed the cinema not only looks great it has daily screenings of ‘Ata Whenua – Shadowland’ – a cinematic swooping delight of stunning Southland scenery. Best enjoyed with one of the cinemas cheese boards and a wine.
On day two of our stay the lodge owners Ron and Robynne had organised for us to go on a Real Journey’s cruise. Having completed the Milford Track the previous year I felt I had covered Milford Sound so we chose the Doubtful Sound day cruise.
The cruise starts with a boat ride across Lake Manapouri. You then board a coach that takes you over the Wilmot Pass with various photo stops along the way. No need to worry about other traffic getting in the way – the 22km road is one of New Zealand’s most remote and was specifically built to provide heavy equipment when they were building the Manapouri Power Station. These days it is only the odd power station car and Real Journeys coaches that use it.
Off the coach and onto the Patea Explorer. The boat weaves its way through the Sounds taking in fabulous waterfalls and on our visit both bottle nosed dolphins and fur seals.
However the highlight for the boy had to be what was at the other end of the trip – back on the bus and over the pass we were driven down a 2km underground spiral to access the heart of the Manapouri Power Station. A huge engineering feat, it is like Dr. Evil’s lair down there with enormous turbines throughout the machine hall.
Returning from our day on the Sounds we had one more night of fabulous lake scenery, fire-place whisky posing and a divine meal before heading off to our next stop on our lodge journey – Tiri Tiri Lodge in Wanaka.
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