Ever since we saw the first online photos of Henley Hotel we’ve been so excited to visit in person. And as amazing as the photos are – nothing beats actually walking through this amazing house. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself – let’s rewind back to the beginning.
The need for a mini-moon
James and I planned an epic trip around the bottom of the South Island with the kids. In a camper. Oh and we threw in a surprise wedding too! It was a big couple of weeks.
We’d always said that we wanted the kids with us when we got married and we really didn’t mind travelling around with them for a week after we got married.
But we also knew we wanted a little moment to escape, just the two of us and reflect on getting married and finally relax before heading back to our day jobs.
I guess you could call it a mini-moon. Apparently that’s a thing now. Yes, let’s call it that.
We’re a little in love with the Brook Serene Hotels in New Zealand – having stayed in and loved Hotel Montreal in Christchurch and Regent of Rotorua.
So when we found out that they were opening a brand new hotel in Cambridge in September it seemed like fate had intervened to create the perfect spot for a mini-moon. Okay – I promise that is absolutely the last time I will use that word!
Lifestyles of the rich and the famous
We’ve all had that passing thought right? What if I was rich and famous and lived in the grandest of luxury? What would it feel like to wander through life in a flurry of attendants and grandness?
Chances are though that you are a bit like us and most of the time you aren’t hanging out in luxury country manors.
But on those brief moments when you do get the chance you want it to be really special right? So special that you forget how much the room cost because actually, right in this moment it just doesn’t matter.
There are very few places that I feel genuinely make you feel that special. I can count them on one hand….
There’s Cibo (an old advertising haunt in Ponsonby) where they go out of their way to make you feel like the most interesting and dazzling person in the place.
There’s Smith and Caughey. With its amazing architecture, memories of my grandma and dazzling chandeliers that has always soothed my soul from my youngest student days.
And there’s Kirkaldie and Stains where the doorman used to open the door for you. Even when you clearly looked like a broke grad who had not a cent to spend.
And now I have one more to add to that list – Henley Hotel.
Country house is not going far enough – this is indeed a country manor. From the moment you pull up at the large gates you feel special. Like these gates won’t just open for anyone (which of course they won’t – you have to book!)
It’s a ride to savour down to the hotel, winding your way through the trees with not a glimpse of the hotel for the first few turns. We turn the final corner to find Henley Hotel in all its splendour, with a pond and fountain glinting in the sunlight. Behind them Brooke stands waiting to greet us and help us in with our bags.
Inside the wide expanse of the reception defies any photos you may see. Windows sweep up two stories and flood the space with light and the eclectic mix of furniture distinguishes Henley Hotel instantly from others of its ilk.
I glance to the curving stair case and already I’m picturing myself as Scarlett O’Hara dashing off to conquer the world. Except I was wearing my Allbirds and jeans instead of a corset and hooped skirt. Details, small details.
We got the tour through all of the rooms – the dining rooms, the pool, the bar and finally to our room.
James and I made our way down to the pool. We fell about the place laughing as I tried to replicate Taylor Swifts pose on the blow up flamingo (and no, we won’t be posting that picture) and then sat poolside and read our books and sipped wine.
After a while we headed up to our room where I laid on the bed editing photos and James did a bit more reading. A knock on the door came about 5pm. Did we care to go down to the bar for a complimentary drink and canapes? Did we ever!
A few drinks later and some great conversations with our great waiter and barman Martais and we headed through to the dining room for dinner.
Dinner was sensational – eye fillet for me and duck for James. Followed up by an exceptional Creme Brûlée. Oh and then when we arrived back up in our room little treats were laid out for us and the fire was on.
After that we were feeling pretty full so we decided to go and find the pond we’d heard so much about. James walked. I took a bike. Probably not the best idea after a few wines but I signed the waiver, donned my helmet and only fell off once.
Back in the room and – hang on wait a second – this is a mini-moon here… We’ll pick this up again in the morning…
A real country retreat
There’s something solidifying and grounding to wake up to the sound of bird song and cows mooing.
Of opening your thick curtains to see the sun peaking through the trees that reach well beyond the second story of the brick country house.
Of smelling the coffee as you head downstairs for a hearty breakfast in the dining room. A delicious mix of pastries, fruits and cereals plus amazing cooked breakfasts like pancakes and a big breakfast with everything included.
And then heading outside for a brisk walk or a bike ride through blossom edged paths to the pond.
It all adds up to make you feel like you’ve actually escaped the rat race.
And the very best thing – it’s less than 2 hours from the biggest rat race of them all, Auckland.
Glam, oh so glam – but not at the sacrifice of charm
I could scarcely contain my delight when I spotted rhinestones on the toilet brush holder (matching the soap dish).
There’s a giant horse in reception. Pink flamingo’s dotted around the pool. Union Jack’s on the back of seats. Magnificent chandeliers. The list goes on.
Could I get away with this at home I wondered? Absolutely not!
In any other place the quirky little touches throughout the Henley Hotel may look garish. But here – it just works, in the best possible way.
Maybe it’s the 2 story high light filled space, or the contrast of the grassy fields outside? Whatever it is everything in this space works to create something truly unique and memorable.
Henley Hotel only opened in September 2018 and it feels like there is not a spot in the hotel that hasn’t had a bit of magic waved over it. The paint gleams, there is not a speck of dust on the chandeliers or new light fittings. And yet, it still retains an old world charm.
The worst part of our stay – leaving…
So I left after a blissful 24 hours with a somewhat heavy heart that I was not in fact the newest permanent resident at Henley Hotel.
And yet, maybe it’s better this way. Knowing that there is a special spot just like this only 2 hours down the road. My little escape. A glimpse into a grand, welcoming world of an old world country manor.
In the area
And because leaving is so hard you may want to linger a little longer in the area..
We definitely recommend heading into Cambridge town to the Over the Moon cheese shop. It has some of the yummiest cheese we’ve ever had. And if you happen to be there on market day make sure you head down for that too…
High Tea at Zeelong Estate is definitely worth the short drive.
And after all that yummy food you may want to walk it all off at Te Koutu Park in Cambridge.
Or head on over to the Hamilton Gardens to explore.
Getting Lost would like to thank Henley Hotel for putting us up for the night. As always, the thoughts and views expressed in this article are our own.