Borders closed? No worries
BROOK SABIN The writer’s trip was supported by Destination Marlborough.
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I’ve often flown over the Marlborough Sounds, high above in a jet, and wondered what secret spots lie below. After all, the elaborate maze of sunken valleys makes up around 20 per cent of New Zealand’s coastline. I recently began to try and find out a little more of what I was missing by exploring the region for a few days, and stumbled across one of its hidden gems. It’s called Hopewell Lodge, and it’s a paradise that you can experience for less than $200 a night. Not long ago, before Covid-19 hit, this was a place mainly enjoyed by overseas tourists. If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that Kiwis have much more of an appetite to discover what foreign tourists would travel all over the world to experience. And this is one such place. The lodge is in a place called Double Bay, in the Kenepuru Sound, and getting there is an adventure. The access road was severely damaged in a storm last July, and a repair job (that could cost up to $90 million) is under way. In the meantime, while the road is closed, the local council is subsidising water taxis and flights – including for those wanting to stay at the lodge. The most affordable way is a water taxi from Havelock, which will have you transported to an untouched paradise in just 20 minutes. On arrival, hosts Mike and Lynley Clegg, alongside their dog Tui, will greet you at the wharf followed by a sit down with biscuits, tea and coffee to learn what kind of holiday you’re after. If you want to be left alone, there’s a waterfront hot tub to enjoy, alongside hammocks in the bush and a private bay to swim in. If you’re after something a little more action-packed, there’s no shortage of options. The lodge is connected to the Queen Charlotte Track, with lots of day walks to choose from. You can pack a picnic and head out for a kayak adventure, try stand up paddleboarding, go fishing, sailing, take a glowworm tour, and even play golf. The nine-hole Nopera Golf Course is nearby. A hotel room with an ensuite is $175 a night – you’d struggle to get a basic hotel room in Auckland for that. But what’s even more remarkable is the hospitality – Mike and Lynley love chatting to each guest as if they’re a long-lost friend. Many of us travel to feel removed from our everyday lives; that’s why overseas trips were such an attraction. Hopewell delivers that without needing to leave the country – a pretty precious experience when the borders remain closed.