Most of the accommodation options in Franz Josef are geared towards young, thrifty backpackers. Te Waonui Forest Retreat is certainly an exception to the rule; a five star hotel in the centre of this boutique tourist town.
The hotel is modern and sophisticated with indulgent facilities and an impressive restaurant for dinner. After travelling on a crowded bus I was relieved to arrive at this luxurious shelter for the night, a comforting contrast to my previous night’s stay at a basic hostel.
Guests are greeted by Maori members of staff in traditional dress and offered a glass of fresh Kiwi juice. My room was nearby to the main reception, but felt removed and quiet. There are only two room types available at Te Waonui, Twin or King, and either will cost you around £350 per night including dinner and breakfast for two. The rooms are very spacious with big windows offering views of the lush surrounding rainforest. The eco-friendly furniture and décor is all in soft shades of brown and green, which perfectly suits the setting.
The bathroom felt and looked brand new, with a powerful bath and separate shower and scented toiletries made especially for the hotel. After a long, wet walk through the hilly wilderness it was lovely to return to Te Waonui, and to relax in a hot bath then wrap up in a fluffy bathrobe.
Many of the visitors here have been on the road for a while and will appreciate the free laundry room, where you can wash and dry the contents of your suitcase before continuing on your journey. I also made use of the complimentary mountain bike hire, very useful for nearby treks and sightseeing. To get a glimpse of the glacier topped mountains I highly recommend cycling to the Glacier car park before walking through Franz Josef Valley.
There aren’t many food choices in town so guests will be pleased to have dinner included in the room rate. It was wonderfully hassle free to stay in for the evening and enjoy the fancy five-course degustation dinner from executive chef Andrew Hayward-Swain. Highlights of my meal included an immaculately presented beef carpaccio with beetroot, black truffle, Parmesan and poached quail egg, and a rich venison dish with pecorino and blackberries. With dinner I had a glass of the house Pinot Gris from Villa Maria in Marlborough.
After a deep and restful sleep I enjoyed breakfast in the dining room. A full array of continental treats was on offer, with a hot and cold buffet, good coffee, yoghurt & cereal pick and mix, homemade bagels and fresh orange juice. We were lucky to see some sun on our second day in Franz Josef, but if the skies aren’t looking fine head to the hotel Amaia spa for a soothing massage or facial. With rain 300 days a year in this part of the world, Te Waonui offers a blissfully warm and welcoming sanctuary for travellers to enjoy a little bit of luxury on their travels across New Zealand.
More information and book a room at Te Waonui here.
Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled around New Zealand with Kiwi Experience, find out information here.