Recently, we treated ourselves to a Central Otago Lodge accommodation at Olivers Lodge and Stables in Clyde. Only an hour’s drive from Queenstown, and away from the masses, we enjoyed a special level of comfort after riding the Central Otago Rail Trail.
The new owners of Olivers have totally refurbished the lodge and have added a high-end restaurant, cafe, bar and brewery plus a bakery where fresh bread is baked daily.
We chose the Stable room located in the courtyard. Spending good money on a converted stable may sound strange, but if it’s furnished in a luxurious rustic style with underfloor bathroom heating, who’s complaining? Believe me, after riding the Rail Trail all day, that super-king bed looked pretty darn good.
The stable rooms are located in the courtyard of Olivers and seemed quieter and more intimate. Our room was huge!
For a softer, plusher style, the lodge rooms are an excellent alternative to the stables and have a different type of wow factor.
We shared this beautiful big breakfast table with happy travellers all keen to get out onto the cycle trails. The camaraderie was great. This type of communal dining works only works if you’re prepared to converse with other seasoned travellers. And believe me, it has it’s rewards. Many years ago, we formed a lifetime friendship with a great couple we met here.
It’s not hard to produce home-made cereals and at a certain price level, you should expect it. Michael wolfed down homemade muesli and my gluten-free muesli was delicious. Don’t you just love it when people take a bit of trouble with presentation (yes, that fruit is all real).
Throughout our Southland journey, we were often served by French or German wait staff and their service was excellent. The Olivers restaurant was no exception.
Although the chefs seemed rather tense, this did not detract from their culinary skill. The lamb was excellent.
I think Olivers could best be summed up as a lifestyle experience in which the beautiful little historic town of Clyde should be proud. It’s a unique oasis unlike any other in New Zealand.
Most people staying in the historical town of Clyde have one thing on their minds – cycling the 4-day Central Otago Rail Trail. And most of us start Clyde and finish in Middlemarch.
For a satisfying ‘taster’ we did the one-day cycle ride from Auripo to Chatto Creek (30kms). We had the Autumn sun on our backs for the whole way. I have to say, Autumn is the ideal time to visit a lot of New Zealand regions. Central Otago is one of them – the colours are awesome.
Big thumbs up to the boys at Bike it Now in Clyde. Duncan and his team operate a fantastic bike hire service and leave nothing to chance. Pete, one of the team, drove us 50kms to Auripo. We stopped on the way to take photos. Built in 1886, this building is the oldest operating Post Office in New Zealand. And I call tell you, this region is full of heritage buildings like this.
Pete dropped us off at Auripo and arranged to collect us at Chatto Creek. With Michael leading the way, we set off at a blistering pace. The scenery of the Central Otago Rail Trail demanded constant attention and it was impossile to resist taking photos. You’ll really have to discipline yourself not to stop every 5 minutes.
March, April and May are perfect months for cycling the Central Otago Rail Trail. (Clyde can be very hot in the summer!) The bridges on the trail may be old, but they’re incredibly sturdy. Bit bumpy going over, but that’s half the fun.
There are a few tunnels to go through. Once you’re third of the way in to these tunnels, you’ll be pretty much plunged into total darkness. Cyclists on the Central Otago Rail Trail are advised to walk their bikes through the tunnels and to carry a torch. Luckily our bikes were equipped with torches. Problem solved.
At this stage of the journey, I was having an absolute blast. Even though I hadn’t biked for months, the seat was so comfy I didn’t notice. The pure oxygen gives you energy to spare. Meanwhile, try to look up once in a while. Your fellow companions can very quickly disappear over the horizon. They’re easy to find again – yet another stop to drink in the view.
These are times and places where travellers can seek out a quiet moment. The absence of people can be such a luxury. Makes you forget the advancing years.
The trails are wide and pretty easy but in a couple of parts the gradient does become steeper and slightly more challenging. Having forgotten the golden rule about hydrating, I became very thirsty. Keep hydrated folks. Take plenty of water with you. However there are a few cafe stops in sight if you get desperate. These are a great way to touch base with other like-minded cyclists.
Beautiful scones, muffins and slices are sold at the Stationside Cafe. You really have to rest stop here for a while. As I said, there is a great camaraderie with other cyclists, strongly represented by the fit 50+ generation. Here’s one of them.
Now fully revived after the cafe stop, I scoffed at the very idea of being originally offered an E-bike. These are very handy for the less fit and so easy to operate.
It’s not just scenery you see on the way. Farmers and their working dogs are out tending to their stock. This is such a great way to see the real New Zealand ‘heartland’.
Can you believe this? – a random apple tree growing on the trail. Back in the day, people would throw their apple cores out of the train as it was going through. Guess what, one took seed. Another refreshment stop. How good is my life getting!
One newly made apple core later, I was back on the bike and peddling furiously onward to Chatto Creek. This is a great place to have a sit-down lunch or simply relax with a well earned drink.
Duncan is right on time to collect us. It’s over too soon but on the upside we’ll be back for the full trail experience next year! In the short term, it’s back to Clyde for our 2-night stay at the unique Olivers Lodge, a destination in itself. More on that later.
From November to March, Te Anau & Milford Sound accommodation is heavily booked. But if you plan ahead, this is the ideal base for walking the Kepler Track and visiting Milford or Doubtful Sound.
We recently stayed in the Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Marakura motels. The motels are well equipped and have great views across Lake Te Anau, the South Island’s largest lake.
You’ll be well away from the campers and backpackers and don’t let the close proximity to the road put you off. By 6.00 pm, the traffic is scarce until the following morning. In one day, the lake can change from total mirror calm to choppy seas. Watching the sun go down is one of the day’s highlights.
….before enjoying a great sleep in a comfy bed.
For a differently priced level of accommodation and comfort in Te Anau, we enjoyed a 3-night stay at Dock Bay Lodge, a beautiful rural and boutique experience, just 6 kms out of Te Anau.
The feeling that we’d walked into something special, started at the front door.
And continued inside.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were shown to one of the lodge’s 5 suites, the elegant ‘Luxmore’ suite. We loved the high stud and the calming cream & gold interiors.
Its was so easy to relax from our private balcony – seriously, how good is this view!
Milford Sound Lodge
Milford Sound has limited accommodation and is geared towards the backpacker market, but Milford Sound Lodge has built upmarket chalets for visitors requiring a different comfort level, including underfloor heating and a super-king bed.
Views from the chalet are spectacular, making it hard to work while travelling.
A few of the chalets are close to the backpackers ablution block, but if you can ignore the occasional whooping-it-up of young adventurers, you’ll get an an extremely close-up encounter with nature.
Even in bad weather, Milford Sound takes on a powerful ethereal beauty, unique to anywhere in the world. But that’s just my opinion, dear traveller. Best you come here and judge for yourself.
You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy the upscale Millbrook luxury Golf Resort Queenstown. We spent 4 days at this 500-acre property, only 10 minutes from Central Queenstown. The approach to Millbrook set the scene for what was to be a sensational birthday celebration.
This resort is like a small town but the sense you get is one of space and beauty. No matter where you walk, the mountain backdrop and pristine greens are visually stunning.
The accommodation sits in a horseshoe formation around the greens.
From the many accommodation options on offer, we chose one of the semi-attached, 2-level cottages. No matter where in the resort you want to go, reception staff will arrange for an enclosed vehicle to collect then drop you off again at your accommodation.
This is where my sister plonked herself for the rest of the afternoon. With views like this, I can’t say I blamed her.
The Millbrook Spa is of world standard and one of the very few in New Zealand deserving of description. Out of respect for the privacy of other guests, I didn’t take photos, so here is one from supplied by Millbrook:
Out of all the spa experiences I’ve had, both here and overseas, this would rate as the best! The whole process was seamless. I had booked the Pure Indulgence Facial. The staff were living advertisements of their profession – glowing with good health and utterly gorgeous. They worked in discrete silence and with the lilting sound of water and flutes we floated into bliss.
Millhouse Restaurant – Millbrook Resort
There are 3 restaurants at Millbrook, not counting the clubhouse. On the previous night, we’d eaten at the Hole-in-One cafe and enjoyed the freshness of the food. Tonight we dined at The Millhouse, their top tier restaurant. It was great to have some of my family celebrate with me. Say “cheese” guys’.
Of course there is a very good reason for the smiles and here are two of them: 1) the deconstructed sticky date pudding….
….(2) this absolutely scrumptious Chocolate & Raspberry Assiette (Alaska Bomb, Pavlova, Mousse & Compote).
Best Birthday ever!
View other travel blogs on the Queenstown region:
Driving the scenic route Christchurch to Queenstown means first passing through Darfield then veering off on SH77 towards Rakaia Gorge. Just before reaching the gorge, there’s a steep and winding stretch of road, where at the upper most corner, lies a magnificent valley.
There’s a great lookout point a few kms after the bridge and a good place to stop to stretch the legs.
We stopped at the pretty little town of Geraldine, home to Barkers Jams, cheeses, icecream and coffee. In the summer season, Geraldine has a festive atmosphere and is a popular tourist stop.
We resumed driving towards Burkes Pass via the beautiful agricultural area known as Fairlie. Plenty of sheep grazing here and healthy pastures.
After Burkes Pass we reached the ‘jewel’ of the Mackenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo. The beautiful Lake Tekapo has an unusual turquoise-green water resulting from ‘rock flour’ from the glaciers. These fine pieces of sediment mix with the sunlight to create the lake’s unique colour.
We had a great coffee and lunch at Run 76 – bacon & tomato quiche, vegetable frittata and gluten-free options – quality home-baking.
The iconic Church of the Good Shepherd is a very busy place nowadays. Everyone wants a photo opportunity and you may have to jostle for your space! It was all a bit too much for Michael who bundled us up in the car and continues to Lake Pukaki a bit further along. I still manage to get this shot of the Good Shepherd Church before leaving.
Lake Pukaki really is an awesome sight in the true sense of the word! Remember what I said about the colour of the water, well this photo pretty much sums it up.
At Lake Pukaki there is the Mt Cook Alpine Salmon outlet. Its handy to know you can buy salmon before travelling on to Omarama. The small township of Omarama lies at the southern end of the MacKenzie Basin and another good place to stop. The Lindis Pass has a special arid look and always makes a great photo.
The Crown Range is the highest public road in New Zealand. If you’re travelling this road between May and September, you’ll need to carry chains. At 1121 metres, its not for the fainthearted, especially if you have chatterboxes in the car. For the views alone, it’s so worth it.
After slowly descending down to Queenstown to the Millbrook Resort which is 18.7kms out of Queenstown, we arrived to 500 acres of the most breathtaking grounds of reds, golds and greens. This is a great place to celebrate a birthday!