During the brief planning phase of our tour, Janet mentioned that she dreamed of finding a villa on a small Greek island and taking a few days off the bike and simply being. Doing whatever we fancied or nothing at all. Sleeping in late, soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the solitude of island life.

We did not make it to the Greek islands we decided to take in South Island of New Zealand instead. Last week we found ourselves with a few extra days to play and contemplated what to do. We could take the ferry over to the North Island and check out Wellington – that was one idea. “Or” Janet said with that twinkle in her eye suggesting an adventure brewing in her brain, “we could find a villa on the water in the Marlborough Sound and pretend we are in the Greek islands”.  Spending no longer than 10 minutes in exploratory phase on the internet, Janet identified the Hopewell Backpackers Lodge on the Kenepuru Sound as a reasonably priced option for our villa retreat.  With only the information provided on the internet, we booked four nights and crossed our fingers that the Hopewell Lodge would meet our needs for a mini break from our tour.

We opted to ride to the water taxi pick up spot in Te Mahia the hard way – or the fun way. We took the Queen Charlotte Track from Anakiwa to Mistletoe Bay where we camped in a lovely spot for the night.  The next morning we “popped” over the ridge, our shortest day on the bikes – at 2.5 km, half of which was a 160m gravel road climb.  After a very civilized (and expensive) pot of tea at the Te Mahia Resort, we were met by our water taxi with captain Mike behind the wheel and the chef from the Raehiti lodge (a kilometer down from Hopewell) along for the ride and helping out.

We loaded our gear and bikes onto the water taxi and were whisked across the bay on a glorious afternoon.  We love being on the water – and the prospect of a couple days rest and relaxation made the ride that much more enjoyable.

We arrived at the Hopewell boat dock after a quick 10 minute journey across the tranquil sound. Mike deftly tied up the boat and led us up the stairs and we immediately knew we had arrived in our paradise.  The first sights from the boat dock were the open air spa overlooking the sound (open 24 hours and free to use) and the hammocks gently swinging in the breeze just begging you to sit, sink in and relax.

We were greeted by Cathy, a friend of Hopewell who chips in and helps to manage the lodge when needed, yummy fresh baked oatmeal cookies and a pot of tea (Lynley, Mike’s wife, was away for the week).  After a nice chat with Mike and Cathy, we were given the grand tour and shown to our room. Hopewell is listed as a backpackers lodge, which, in some respects fits well. For example, there is a community kitchen and a few shared rooms with bunk beds. There are several single or double rooms that also share the communal bathrooms and toilet.  But that is where the commonalities with a traditional backpackers ends!

The rooms are neat with lush linens, towels are provided. The kitchen is well stocked with everything you need to make simple dishes to gourmet preparations. The lounge area has comfortable, clean couches.  There is plenty of outside seating for dining or relaxing in the sun.  You do have to provide your own food- they do not service meals with a couple of exceptions.

Lynley and Mike (the owners) will make pizza on request.  Yummy homemade dough with a variety of topping choices.  They will also make and sell loaves of homemade bread. They do have a small selection of drinks you can purchase.  And, the best part, every second or so evening they put on a green shell mussel dinner.  What a treat.

Mike, dressed in his green water-proof pants and white gum boots,  collects the mussels fresh that day. They are steamed no more than an hour after harvest (doesn’t get much fresher than that) and served on a long, newspaper covered table.  Three dipping sauces, garlic butter, Thai curry and hot chilli, are provided along with homemade, fresh from the oven, focaccia bread.  All guests are invited to join in the mussel fun – what an enjoyable evening. We had two opportunities for the mussel dinners – long after all the mussels have been consumed and the tables cleaned we all stayed and chatted, sipping a beverages of our choice – a great way to spend an evening with new friends.

In addition to relaxing – we did sleep-in everyday – we went for our first official New Zealand tramp on the Hopewell Track. A lovely hike up into the hills behind the lodge with views across the bay. We spent the second day kayaking out to the Amokura ship wreck. We meandered along the shore on our return kayak and were lucky to see three juvenile shags hoping along the rocks waiting for food from mom or dad.  On our last day we tried our luck with fishing – but not catching. We took out one of the lodge’s aluminum row boats and learned very quickly which side is our strong side as we spun in circles.  The water was glass but the fish were not biting.

We very much enjoyed our time at Hopewell Backpackers Lodge and highly recommend it to anyone on any budget as there are options for all. If you do go, please say hi to Mike, Lynley and Cathy for us and enjoy the mussels.

Hopewell Lodge can be reached by car, water taxi, boat or float plane. From Picton or Havelock, follow Queen Charlotte Drive to Linkwater, turn north and follow the road approximately 45 km to the head of Kenepuru Sound. At the intersection, turn left and follow to the end of the road, about 25 km further. The road is partly sealed and partly unsealed but the unsealed section is good for any passenger vehicle.

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