Let me take you to a special place. We're all stuck at home at the moment, some with takeaways, some without.
So grab a flat white (or, grumble, instant coffee for those of us still at level four) and come with me to an extraordinary slice of Aotearoa. I'm taking you to the best hot tub in the country.
Many people get to Mackenzie Country via Fairlie. This unassuming little country town sits on State Highway 8, linking Timaru with Lake Pukaki. But it really should be called State Pieway 1, because the Fairlie Bakehouse makes mind-blowing pies. Their pork belly apple pie with cracking is worth the trip itself.
After a pie stop, continue weaving higher into the Canterbury hinterland, passing Lake Tekapo, until you reach Lake Pukaki.
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There, up a grand weaving driveway, you'll find Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat. I notice a charred tree, and it brings a flashback.
Covid-19 is so all-consuming, it's easy to forget the other hardships the country has faced since the pandemic began. About a year ago, a devastating fire swept through the area burning 3500 hectares and destroying some buildings. The Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat was almost one of them. Their premier room is the Ashley Mackenzie Villa, and flames licked the side of it. If Covid wasn't bad enough, almost having the retreat burn down was a significant second blow.
Today, though, the property is returning to its pristine best.
The main villa sits on the edge of a hill overlooking Lake Pukaki, with floor to ceiling views of Aoraki/Mt Cook from the Tuscan-style lounge and bedroom. The retreat is the brainchild of Luke and Kaye Paardekooper, who live onsite and crafted their dream escape over many years.
Step outside, and you soon discover the suite gets even better. There is an extensive spa wing featuring a sauna, gym and massage room – all for you! Then, you spot the pièce de résistance. At the edge of the hill, overlooking the lake and mountains is New Zealand's most spectacular hot tub. Here, you can soak up a magnificent sunset before returning to your villa for a chef-prepared three-course meal. For us, it featured the best lamb we've ever eaten. The meals include vegetables, herbs and berries from the retreat's garden.
After dusk, the scenery turns skyward. The region is part of an International Dark Sky Reserve, and guests can head to an underground wine cellar to begin their star journey sampling a local drop.
You're then ushered into another room with an enormous telescope. At the flick of a button, the roof lifts away to reveal the Universe. Luke will guide you through the stars, with the telescope capable of seeing the rings on Saturn and bands of Jupiter.
Before Covid-19, tourists would come from all over the world to sample this majestic place. Today, it's just open to Kiwis who want a once in a lifetime experience closer to home. Aside from the luxury lodge, and spectacular scenery, this retreat delivers a dreamy departure from the cares of the world. And right now, we could all do with a bit of that.
Getting there: The retreat is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Christchurch or two-and-a-half from Queenstown.
Staying there: A night at Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat in the Ashley Mackenzie Villa starts at $1795 per night including a three-course dinner and breakfast. The smaller villas, without lake views, start from $1295 a night. See: mtcookretreat.nz
Staying safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. For the latest travel rules, see: covid19.govt.nz.
The author's trip was supported by Mackenzie Tourism. See: mackenzienz.com