This is an extract from an interview done with our founder that talks in part to the creation and development of Waimarino:
You’re a kiwi but have lived in Australia for the last 20 years, what brought you back?
My family all still live here so I was coming back regularly for visits. As time went by I started to see New Zealand differently, started to see those mountains I use to look past. I guess you could say I now see New Zealand through a different lens. When you live here you can forget how lucky you are to be in such a stunning environment. It might also be part of getting a bit older, you just appreciate things more.
You’ve had tourism business before but not recently so what made you return to tourism?
It was about 3 years ago and I was staying in a cool lodge in Byron Bay in Australia called The Atlantic. I found myself enjoying it more than most other accommodation I’ve stayed in and when I looked at why I realised it was due to connection. When we’re young and travel as backpackers it’s all about connection, who you meet and the time shared. As we get older and seek out beautiful accommodation it often comes at the sacrifice of connection. Most hotels have no atmosphere, sterile lobbies, and no warmth to their design. The Atlantic was a group of old houses that had been renovated and the rooms were where you stayed but the kitchen and dining areas remained. It’s these areas you might bump into another traveler, share a story from your day’s outings, that sort of thing. I met an interesting architect and we ended up going on an early morning surf trip together to find some waves. In the evenings the lodge opened a bottle of wine and set an outdoor fire. It was so simple yet so often not done at hotels and resorts.
You’ve got two projects on the go, the new hotel in central Wanaka and this stunning location in Queenstown, they appear quite different?
They are I guess but there are also a lot of similarities, both places have areas of connection. The Wanaka building has been designed around a courtyard which has two outdoor fires, a petanque pit, and a pizza oven. The idea behind this was that guests treat this space like it's their backyard. We roll pizza dough and put it out for guests in the evening. There’s no charge for this we just want to get people out of their rooms and give them an experience. They can pick herbs from the garden, take some of the smoked trout or cured meats we have, and make themselves a pizza. It’s really simple but it's tactile and I think that’s really important.
And here at Waimarino?
I love the fact we have some stunning luxury lodges that show off New Zealand. That said the design and fit-out of most of these are quite old school and I love contemporary modern design. When I came across this property I thought there was a chance to do something really special, more contemporary I guess.
Will it have the same courtyard type experiences as Wanaka?
The size of this property opens up even greater opportunities, we are establishing a large vegetable garden here along with a small orchard. This will allow us to not only give guests incredibly fresh produce, we actually want them to come and spend time in the garden and understand why the food is so special. The premium villa guests even have the option of creating their own meal in the villa as those villas have pretty amazing kitchens.
Can guests just help themselves to the garden?
I guess but we try and guide them a little, we give them a small menu to choose from, the chef then meets with them takes them around the garden and our stores then takes them through a recipe suggestions. Again just getting hands-on.
I’ve heard you're also building a micro-distillery here?
Yeah, just something small, it's driven by that tactile element. I find so many trips we do we often just observe or are guided. I like to take part so much like the garden we will produce our own gin and vodka.
I read somewhere guests get to make their own gin?
That's correct we invite guests to spend time with our distiller, to learn the process or making artisan spirits then the guests can infuse their spirit with herbs from our garden, they can then take that bottle with them or we can send it off to a friend as a special gift.
The two lodges seem like a massive undertaking, you’ve got other business interests so why take on this extra work?
To be honest it doesn’t feel like work. I've sold out of my other business now so this is my passion. We had a day the other day where all the team got together to do some planning, an agency hosted it to get an understanding of our brand, what we stood for that sort of thing, what came out of it was I just love hosting people and I guess they are right, I love nothing more than hosting a dinner party so I guess these projects are just dinner parties on steroids ;>)