0

Canterbury, New Zealand

Day 1

Our day began at sunrise, driving along the coast to eventually make it to our destination of Kaikoura. The landscape is as diverse as it is magnificent. Snow capped mountains can be spotted in the distance, those same mountains then dive into expansive blue ocean, which is home to native, soulful wildlife. Right by the seaside is a parked caravan, which unassumingly is our lunch destination. Kaikoura Seafood BBQ is run by a husband and wife duo; while she is stoking up the BBQ, he is a mere 100 metres away catching all the fresh seafood for the day. Queues of people await the tender Cray Fish, Scallops, Whitebait Fritters and Grilled Fish. It's quite the experience enjoying this beautiful meal by the ocean. The low-key nature adds to the charm, don't forget to scrape and stack your plate when you leave.

Canterbury New Zealand

Kaikoura

A short drive along the coast takes us to one of New Zealand's most precious natural wonders. There are few things left in this world, which have not been subject to commercialisation and cost. So please, tread lightly and never touch a thing. A little walk up the Ohau stream takes you to a natural waterfall, beaming with colour and grace. The real magic is when you look a little closer and see that swimming under the falls are pods of baby seals dancing in the waves. If you take a seat by the stream, the seals will waddle right up to you. This sacred place acts as a safe house for the baby seals during the winter, their mothers lead them up to the magical waterfall where they are kept out of harms way.

Canterbury New Zealand

Hapuku Lodge

As the day rolls into night, we make our way to the retreat. Seven noble tree houses poke through the canopy upon arrival, sitting about 30 feet above ground. There is a real country-house grandeur about this place. Everything is big and spacious, handcrafted with thick, local wood. Ethical practice is at the heart and soul of the business, allowing this luxury retreat to double as a venison farm; you can see the deer running freely from your tree house window. The rooms have unhindered views over the property, with glimpses of the ocean. Being in the thick of nature creates an ambience like no other, complete with animal sounds gently blowing through the speakers. Sinking into the king size bed, under the heavy silk sheets creates a relaxation like no other.

Canterbury New Zealand

Luckily we didn't have to go far for dinner, as one of the owners is an acclaimed chef, setting up her restaurant within the property. A very personable experience as husband and wife duo run the show; while she's in the open-plan kitchen preparing the intimate dinners, he is greeting guests, taking care to connect with everyone who is staying. It would be wrong not try the venison dish, especially when they breed the beautiful animals themselves. We weren't disappointed as we experienced the succulent textures complimented by firey potatoes and fresh root vegetables. We tasted the Cray Fish, as they're caught locally and a Kaikoura specialty. With no room left for dessert, we ate it anyway. Chocolate pudding never tasted so good.

Canterbury New Zealand

Day 2

Waking up in the tree house, listening to the fire crackle and the sweet sound of nature was as gentle as it was satisfying. We made our way down to the restaurant for breakfast, normally I wouldn't have much to comment on a standard hotel breakfast, but I must say, this was the most delicious homemade granola I'd ever tasted. The crunchy nuts and oats were subtly sweetened with maple syrup and accompanied by fresh yogurt.
Before we left this magical retreat, we hung around in the kitchen for a cooking class by owner and chef. This elaborate space, with its' wooden bench top and high ceilings was the perfect place to eagerly watch on. A beautiful fresh batch of Paua was the star of the dish, this local protein is found in the sea in stunning opal shells. When cracking one open, it is important to be gentle; once the Paua is extracted, you must use a mallet to tenderise until very soft. The Paua was then sliced into fine strips, battered and crumbed in a sesame seed mix, deep fried until crispy; served with a fresh and creamy wasabi mayonnaise.

Nin's Bin

As midday greets us, it's time to leave this beautiful place; on our way out of Kaikoura we have one more stop to make. Kaikoura is a Maori phrase, meaning Eat Crayfish (Kai = Eat, Koura = Crayfish), and where better to do this than Nin's Bin. Nin's Bin has been serving the freshest seafood since the 1970's. The menu is simple and direct, with only two options – crayfish or mussels. This iconic stopover won't disappoint, nor will the view.

Canterbury New Zealand

Black Estate Winery

By late afternoon we arrive in the Waipara Valley, reaching our next destination - The Black Estate Winery. This is a family owned business with a whole lot of soul; it all starts with winemaker Nicolas, who is married to the business operator Penelope. Penelope's sister Jo also works in the business as the sales director; and it is Penelope and Jo's parents who started the business from the ground up. All the wines are crafted by hand, drawing emphasis on their natural ethos. We sat in the dining room, which is encased with floor-to-ceiling windows, letting the warm afternoon sun soak in. Looking out on the well-kept estate was the perfect backdrop for the array of share plates we were about to tuck into. We enjoyed a delicate tasting of the intricate wine list; the white wines have rich oaky notes, while the red wines are beautifully complex, with spicy undertones. We watch herds of sheep slowly move through the paddock, while we hear stories of how the wine is extracted by foot, in deep wooden barrels. Each wine is biodynamic, something which is important to the business.

Canterbury New Zealand

As the night begins to take shape, we make our way back to Christchurch to have one last night at The Hotel Montreal.

The Editorialist © 2017