Retreating and getting close to nature

Photos: Alexandra Hannagan
Photos: Alexandra Hannagan

A long weekend was begging to stay local and try something new and that is exactly what Alex Hannagan experienced when she stayed at Hereweka Garden Retreat, on Otago Peninsula.

Mr Google Map man tells us to turn as we come into Portobello which leads us to a place called Hoopers Inlet. We then weave our way up a remote, unsealed drive that takes us deep into a valley of native forest, the last remaining on the peninsula.

We arrive at an opening and there in front of us is our self-contained sanctuary. With the supreme Harbour Cone above us and our surroundings made up of a 1.6ha garden, with bush and water views, our natural setting happily makes us flick the relaxation switch.

We are greeted warmly by our hosts Anna and Peter who kindly drop off our beautifully presented organic breakfast hamper all sourced right here at Hereweka. The bread has been freshly made, the eggs are from their own hens, the honey from local beehives and the preserves are all made by Anna. I love the look of the kasundi that I am oh-so-looking-forward to trying with the bread and some cheese. We start the eco-approved fire, pour some wine and unwind to the harmonious sound of birds singing away happily as the evening slowly descends upon us.

After the best sleep, we wake energised and watch a gorgeous sunrise over Hoopers Inlet. We have the advantage of doing this from the comfort of our own bed. The bedroom in the retreat is located upstairs, giving the feeling we are in a treehouse that is part of the natural habitat and has always belonged.

This feeling is reiterated even more when I enjoy my morning shower, which is unlike any shower I have had before. The floor-to-ceiling glass door opens right on to the deck that allows you to privately enjoy your shower in nature. Fantails dance in around the surrounding trees, saying good morning. They are so close the encounter is magical.

We decide to go for our morning walk and knowing we have an abundance of neat routes to choose from, we opt for sea, sun and sand and take the short drive to Allans Beach.

When we arrive we are in awe of the remote coastline. It is low tide so we walk briskly down by the sea, watching from afar the abundance of Hooker’s sea lions, individually and in families cumbersomely moving out of the water to dry sand, their ultimate goal to lounge in the sun for a lazy Sunday snooze. These guys have the right idea.

We are a rather peckish after the fresh air and exercise so decide to support local and have lunch at the Portobello pub that opens promptly at noon. The beer-battered blue cod and chips with salad go down a treat as we bask in the sun (well sort of), enjoying the change in scenery and watching the world go by.

We head back to Hereweka Retreat to relax and sit outside on our deck to simply take in our zen-like environment.

We are transfixed as a plethora of tuis play and sing and dive into the bird bath just in front of us. Then from above and out of nowhere we hear the whirring of a bird’s wings and witness a wood pigeon acrobatically posing statue-like in mid-air, wings spread, not moving at all, then flying off into the distance. This was one of those moments that we both turned to one another and said "Did you just see that?"

If you wish to lose yourself for a couple of days, unplug and get close to nature, Hereweka Garden Retreat is the perfect answer. You will leave feeling re-energised and ready to conquer the world.



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