It’s difficult to categorise this ranch an hour and a half from Queenstown. Part working farm, part high-design retreat in New Zealand’s high country, Lake Hāwea Station’s draw seems to be its intersectionality between the rugged Kiwi farm culture visitors want and the sophisticated taste that defines the country’s luxury-lodge circuit. But scratch a little deeper to see that this 16,000-acre property’s true point of difference is its pioneering ethos in New Zealand’s approach to cultivation and sustainability. When owners Justine and Geoff Ross scooped up the place, in 2018, the land and its structures, including a pair of turn-of-the-century cabins used to house shepherds, needed nourishing. They set to work transforming the property, replanting 100,000 native trees to replicate how the land may have been when the Ngāi Tahu iwi, or tribe, of the South Island would migrate to this area to hunt in the pre-colonial era and gussying up the cabins with cool interiors, sprawling terraces, and comfy beds, all with knockout views of the lake, for travellers who may want to stop in to watch the shepherds round up the merino sheep or simply laze around the swimming pond with the free-roaming kune kune pigs.
Certain paddocks have been designated regenerative to help nurse the land back to health, and all energy is renewable – nearly unheard-of for a working farm. The Rosses’ goal is to achieve 10 times carbon positivity in 10 years and, in so doing, set a new standard for how farms can operate in a way that more effectively sustains the planet. Yet for its impressive goals and admirable work put into achieving them, Lake Hāwea Station is still, simply, one of the most impressive, can’t-believe-this-place-could-possibly-exist retreats you’ll ever be lucky enough to stay in. Waking up before the day starts from its centrepiece Lake House, an impossibly chic landscape villa with glass walls, and sipping coffee as the rising sun slowly reveals the still-as-glass lake, edged by the snow-dusted Southern Alps and jagged hills, is simple and extraordinary, the type of slowed-down experience that forces you to reflect on how incredible it is to have ended up here in this gloriously perfect pocket of the planet. Which is one of travel’s most precious gifts. From about £233. Erin Florio