New Zealand 2018: Twizel, South Island

View from Matuka Lodge

From Christchurch, we drove to Twizel, a good three-and-a-half-hour drive, but a scenic one. The town of Twizel sprang up in 1968 to house construction workers employed by the Upper Waitaki hydroelectric project.

During our 2014 visit we had bypassed Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo, which are in the Twizel area, as we were en route to Aoraki/Mount Cook to stay at the Hermitage Hotel. We simply hadn’t set aside enough time to visit the lakes, and after one look at them with their pristine, vibrant turquoise waters, I was disappointed by the oversight, so on this trip they were number one on my must-see list.

We had booked a stay at the Lakestone Lodge on Lake Pukaki, but a few months after David reserved the room, we were informed that the lodge would be closed for a remodel. We thought this odd, as it was the high season for tourism. Whether they indeed were closed for remodeling—we heard rumors to the contrary—their referral, Matuka Lodge, turned out to be a wonderful second choice. The rumors? A film crew was in town and they had booked the entire Lakestone Lodge.

Matuka Lodge is owned by Jo and Peter, our gracious hosts. The weekend we stayed it was Jo’s birthday and they had elected not to book additional guests, which meant we had the entire lodge to ourselves. Pure bliss. The rooms overlook a large duck pond, but the crowning glory in this vista is the beauty of the Southern Alps.

After the long drive from Christchurch to the Matuka Lodge, I wondered where David found the energy to unpack, change clothes, and drive another hour to the Hermitage Hotel for dinner. We had eaten in the Panorama Room on our last visit, and the experience had been memorable. We hoped for a repeat experience, even though we were told the Panorama Room was closed for remodeling but had a new location inside the hotel.

Aoraki/Mount Cook on the drive to the Hermitage

Their temporary location was a disappointment: noisy and nothing like our quiet dining experience back in 2014. Besides the lack of ambience in the current location and the meal itself—good but not excellent as we had previous enjoyed— all of the smaller tables backed onto a large party of raucous tourists. All forty-five of them.

The only exceptional part of the evening? Our table faced Mount Cook, and the view was indeed spectacular. When the sun set over the summit, more than half of the forty-five noisy guests rushed to the windows to snap photographs, jostling the diners at the smaller tables and gushing loudly about the view. Hopefully, the remodel will be done soon and the Panorama Room will return to its original location inside the Hermitage.

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