It's a bitterly cold and blustery afternoon as we reach Te Nikau Retreat. A walk along Waikanae Beach, 10 minutes drive from Te Nikau, has numbed us senseless and I pray to the gods of accommodation that our digs will be warm.
Through the window of the chalet-like lodge we see owners Elizabeth and Bryan Couchman stoking the fire. There’s a basket of chopped wood inside, another on standby on the porch, and a heat pump in action to thaw tingling fingers. Oh, yes, snug city.
The retreat is deeply ensconced in the bush and looks out over a kindly stream, while the constant birdsong is the soundtrack for our 24-hour escape here. It’s a five-minute drive to the downtown metropolis of Waikanae, but we feel deeply remote and deliciously far away from the bright lights of the city.
My husband and 4-year-old daughter immediately check out the entertainment system. They seem intent on soaking up the roaring fire and not moving an inch.
But I’m thinking, ‘‘C’mon you guys, we’re in the bush. We should be embracing nature, discovering our surrounds, not watching the DVD selection’’.
I win this little battle of wills and a few minutes later we’re right beside the Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve for a bushwalk of about 2 kilometres. The undulating terrain takes us along a crescent track through nikau-rich bush, across streams and back to what we’re already calling home.
There are a few options for dinner.
If you need the night off, Simon Wislang, a local, award-winning chef, will come and cook your dinner in the rather generously equipped kitchen of the retreat. He can also arrange a menu tailored to your own tastes to be delivered to the door.
It is tempting but we decide to do our own thing, including roasting marshmallows over the open fire (even though our young one declares that she prefers them ‘‘raw’’).
For the next morning, a continental breakfast is provided, including croissants from the local bakery.
Once our little girl has hit the hay, we check out the spa on the deck that is surrounded by bush and strategically located lights.
The retreat has three bedrooms, the master sitting on a mezzanine floor looking down on to the expansive living area.
This place has romantic getaway written all over it, with the personal chef, the spa, the open fire ... but it is also a great spot for a girls’ weekend away.
It’s a place to come and be away from the madding crowds, but still only around an hour’s drive from Wellington.
Any time of the year is a good time to come here, but winter seemed just right with the log fire and the spa.
And it’s equally good for a short break, or use the comprehensively kitted-out house as a base to explore the wider Kapiti coast and surrounds.
Bess Manson and her family were guests of Te Nikau Retreat.
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