Once home to American country singer Shania Twain, it’s no surprise that this extraordinary stone-and-timber homestead set on 136,000 acres near the ski town of Wānaka in New Zealand’s South Island is completely and utterly private. Now owned by Twain’s ex-husband music producer Mutt Lange, Mahu Whenua (literally meaning “healing the land”) is the country’s largest private conservation project. Expect show-stopping views of rugged mountains, deep valleys and mist swirling around snow-covered peaks. The lodge itself feels like a grand country home because it was one. You can have a cup of coffee and a freshly-baked cookie in what was Twain’s kitchen (now used for display only) enjoying the kind of attentive personal service you’d expect if you were a superstar.
Just 70 kilometres from Queenstown, Wānaka has all of the natural advantages of its more well-known neighbour but a much slower pace. The town has a shimmering alpine lake, glaciers and waterfalls but you don’t need to go far off the beaten track to find them. Grab a seat at the buzzy strip of bars along the waterfront and enjoy 180-degree views of the world-heritage Mount Aspiring National Park. If you’re visiting in winter there are two ski-fields nearby (Cardrona is suitable for families while Treble Cone is best for advanced skiiers) while in summer it’s all about boating on the lake or hurtling down mountain trails on a bike.
Five suites in the main lodge (all named after New Zealand birds and creatures) have expansive lake and mountain views while the remaining three cottage-style suites look out across a thickly-forested valley.
The décor is rustic but homely – white washed walls, tartan and striped furnishings and plush blankets that invite guests to curl up with a book.
Food and drink
Whether you’re having nibbles fireside with other guests – or dining on your own in a private corner of the main lodge – the food that is served here is designed to showcase the best New Zealand ingredients. The menu changes daily but you might expect sautéed whitebait or cocoa-dusted venison served with expertly-matched local wines.
For business travellers
While there is no dedicated business centre, if you have the misfortune of working while at Mahu Whenua some rooms have desks and staff will happily arrange a quiet area for you if necessary. Despite the remote location the wifi is extremely reliable and apart from birdsong it is exceptionally quiet.
For wellness travellers
Who needs a gym when you have some of the most dramatic scenery in New Zealand on your doorstep? Grab one of the lodge’s e-bikes, go heli-hiking or book a private pilates or yoga instructor for an outdoor session with a view of Mt Aspiring National Park and Lake Wānaka.
The fab factor
With its copper bath and huge walk-in shower with views out across Lake Wānaka, the stand-out is undoubtedly the master Tui room.