A hidden gem in North Otago, Oamaru is one of New Zealands best kept secrets. Wine, food and wildlife meets luxury heritage lodge

On a recent visit to the beautiful Otago region on New Zealand’s South Island headed for the pretty heritage township of Oamaru as we had heard so much about Pen-y-bryn Lodge and it’s charming hosts – ‘the Jameses’ – yes the owners are both named James. Originally from the East Coast of the USA, they have chosen to make Oamaru and Pen-y-bryn Lodge their permanent home.

This wonderful heritage homestead is just a 3-minute drive from the historic precinct of Oamaru and, as a Luxury New Zealand Lodge; it offers an exceptional service level, accommodation in charming rooms and wonderful cuisine.

It felt like we had stepped back in time, yet with all the modern updates expected by today’s traveller.  The entrance hall is majestic and the proportions of this lodge take you back to the past with magnificent pressed ceilings, leadlight windows and polished floors.

Our bedroom was charming, with hot water bottles to warm the ultra comfortable bed. They even provide an iPod/iPhone dock. The spacious  bathroom had underfloor heating and a luxurious deep tub to relax and unwine. Followed by delicious lodge baked biscuits to enjoy with a plunger coffee from our own Butler's Tray.

There is so much to do in this still to be explored region of New Zealand.

We had a really interesting morning visiting the historic precinct - the best preserved in New Zealand, with an amazing number of beautiful limestone buildings that evoke the town’s heyday in the late 19th Century and where you’re as likely to see someone pass by on a penny farthing bicycle as on a skateboard. Our special tour, organized by Pen-y-bryn Lodge, provided more about the town’s historic past and role in the development of modern day New Zealand.

It was such a clear day we decided to take a helicopter flight over this beautiful region – we actually boarded a helipad just a 2-minute drive from the lodge.  We soared over the township and over to the Waitaki Valley where we enjoyed tasting the wines at Pasquale's Cellar door and decided to have a light lunch here - we knew we were booked into Pen-y-bryn Lodge for a 4 course dinner in the evening.

The region is perfect for fishing or hunting too but we had no time for this.

At the end of the day we returned to the lodge to enjoy canapés and local wines, with a roaring log fire to warm us. We had time before our planned dinner at the lodge,  to visit the Blue Penguin Colony on the harbour foreshore. These charming birds make their nightly return from the sea to their land-based nests. As we arranged our visit from Pen-y-bryn we received a personalised certificate and exclusive access to the Colony’s real-time tracking system to gain instant data on our penguin’s whereabouts and breeding history – something to remember when we returned home.

Dinner in the magnificient dining room was something to remember with stunning food, fine wines and great conversation with fellow guests. 

We have decided we must return and include the famous Sunday Market, together with a lunch at Fleur’s Place  in nearby Moeraki.