Luxury Adventures are doing a series of interviews with some of our key suppliers looking at the different aspects of their lives and how these influence the experiences they offer. Aoturoa Luxury Villa is a privately owned luxury lodge, nestled on 50 acres of river flat in a valley near Wanaka.
Where does the name Aoturoa come from? It means “World of Light” which we thought appropriate given the clear skies and long summer twilight in Central Otago. We found one of our guests recently photographing the stars around midnight in awe of what he could see. (He was from an industrial city in South China).
Reading on your website both Jon and Lesley have lived overseas & travelled extensively, how has this helped you with running the lodge? We stayed in many styles of accommodation and of course, talked to other guests. The common denominator for success for any establishment was the absolute focus on guests wants and needs and treating them, as you would like to be treated oneself. Not just a meal ticket.
Where are most of your guests originating from? 95% international from Australia; UK/Europe; Asia and the USA.
What sets Aoturoa apart from other Wanaka accommodation? Initially the location, with 50 acres of alpine meadow and a mile of river boundary surrounded by mountains. Then the design and flow of the building (which some guests have likened to a French country manor style).
Any interesting stories from past guests? Well we have some quite eccentric guests including one couple who travel everywhere with pet toys & bring them to breakfast including wanting place settings for them!
You built Aoturoa in 2002. Why Wanaka and why build a lodge? We had lived in cities all our previous working careers, usually in houses sandwiched side by side with others. So we wanted some space around us. Admittedly 50 acres was a lot more than we needed but it was too special to walk away from. And Wanaka because some friends of ours bought a vineyard in the area and just RAVED about Central Otago. We also used to come here skiing when we were able to so that was another plus for the decision.
Aoturoa has a strong focus on the regions outstanding food & wine. Tell us more about this. Again, living overseas and having to endure overly processed food (e.g. irradiated tomatoes that look beautiful but taste like flour) our focus is on local produce, as fresh and natural as we can get it. As an example we had a group of golfers stay recently and our first course for dinner was a garden salad. Lesley told them that all the 18 ingredients came from our own gardens. Not only did they say it was delicious but spend the next 15 minutes trying to name all the 18 ingredients. As for the local wine, well the success of the Central Otago flagship “Pinot Noir” overseas speaks for itself and many of our guests undertake wine tasting tours while staying with us. When guests opt to have dinner with us we work out a menu with them that suits and match local wines with the food that’s chosen.
Tell us about the winemaker’s package you offer at Aoturoa lodge. Our friends Warwick & Jenny Hawker own and operate Pisa Range Estate, a small but successful vineyard near Cromwell. They are passionate about what they do and bring this passion to share with guests as they describe life on the vineyard along with a tasting of their wines (including rare library stock). We match their wines with our food to suit the occasion. There is also a tour of Pisa Range estate offered as part of this package.
What type of guests does Aoturoa tend to attract? People who are wanting to be a step removed from the hustle & bustle, often living in major cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Los Angeles or London. There doesn’t appear to any particular age group as we get a surprising number of young couples. Space to move, breath and relax seems to be a prime motivator.
Luxury Adventures have had a few families take the entire lodge, which is great, what makes the lodge and its grounds special for families? It’s the space to run, fly kites, ride bikes, kick balls, & explore the boundaries. For many children (and adults for that matter) seeing wild rabbits running around near the river is something they have never experienced before. We had a family stay recently who’s children built a “rabbit house” down near the river and they all trooped down each morning to see if the rabbits had occupied it!
There are some great walking and cycling trails around the Wanaka are close to Aoturoa, which would you recommend? The trails to Wanaka and Hawea start two kilometer’s from us and are spectacular. Within a year we expect that the trail will be extended past our property on its way to eventually going all the way to Lake Dunstan and on to Cromwell. One of guests recently commented that the trail from Wanaka to Luggate was like our own Cinqua Terre – but without the crowds.
What activities would you recommend in the Wanaka region for clients with 3 days to explore? Wine tasting with lunch at Mount Difficulty; Walking (especially the Rob Roy Glacier trail – the most popular in the area), Wanaka River Journeys (jet boat into the Aspiring National park); Lake cruise and Island Nature Walk with ECO Wanaka; Trout Fishing with one of the local fishing guides.
If guests are not dinning at the lodge, which local restaurants do you recommend? Wanaka now has 20 plus restaurants with a variety of cuisine such as Indian, Thai, Italian, French etc. Our favourites are: Francesca’s Italian Kitchen, The Landing, Relishes, Bistro Gentil and of course the nearby Luggate Hotel.
Other than Wanaka – what top 3 destinations do you recommend in New Zealand? Doubtful Sound, Franz Josef Glacier and Bay of Islands.
When you have any free time, what do you like to do? Mountain Bike the local trails, Ski at Treble Cone, Deep sea fishing (from Jackson’s Bay) Visit our daughter, granddaughter and son in law who are currently in the Cayman Islands.
Jon & Lesley Davies are owners of Aoturoa Luxury Villa, Wanaka
Kay Campbell is a luxury travel specialist at Luxury Adventures. Talk to us about planning your next visit to New Zealand, Australia or the South Pacific Islands.