Words: VICKI RAVLICH-HORAN | Images supplied
Just over eight years ago I started to hear about this amazing restaurant in the Karangahake Gorge. No matter how I connived work trips or weekend jaunts I just never managed to get there. Then I heard they had accommodation and had the perfect solution. I sold the weekend away to my other half as a chance to try out the cycle trail, go on some nice walks, maybe visit the mining museum …
We enjoyed a fabulously relaxing weekend at Falls Retreat. We stayed in their gorgeous Rose Cottage, had an amazing meal at the Bistro accompanied by fabulous wines. I think there was even a few ports had. Ah, who cares? We weren’t driving anywhere. We simply stumbled across the drive to our bed. Then the next morning we were greeted with a wonderful basket of breakfast pickings.
If I’m honest, we did little else that weekend other than a short walk to the Owharoa Falls. What we did do was relax and enjoy the warm hospitality from owners Brad King and Emma Walters. We are not alone in being enchanted by the charm of Falls Retreat! Emma says their vision was always “to create a place that offers a great all-round experience — charming accommodation, a beautiful setting, warm hospitality and rustic, delicious food”.
This is done with personal touches like fresh flowers, handwritten notes and of course delicious food made from scratch and often from ingredients grown just a few metres away. Children and dogs are welcome and there is plenty of room for both to run around.
Since our visit, Brad and Emma have grown the business and won a variety of awards. They have also expanded their offering of experiences with regular gardening and cooking workshops. The Bistro too has grown and now hosts some very beautiful weddings and special occasions.
I no longer need to create an excuse to visit Falls as it’s often the highlight of any planned trip in that direction; the perfect halfway point for meeting friends or the reward for actually doing the rail trail. But perhaps it’s time to stay the night again and their Paddock to Plate dinner, held every Saturday night, might be the impetus needed.
Perfectly placed just a short distance from Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga yet, as Emma says, “you feel worlds away”. It seems, despite the lack of international tourists, the cabins are proving a popular choice with fellow Kiwis looking for a chance to get away.
So much so Brad and Emma have continued their expansion plans with a new cabin, the Log Cabin. Like the Rose and Waterfall cabins, the log cabin is unique. Emma says they are trying to create a home away from home vibe with each cabin which are rustic and quirky and all with their own style and personality.
The Log Cabin is “a little house in the woods” says Emma, one hundred percent log cabin with logs inside and out and stained-glass windows adding real rustic charm. There is a mezzanine floor, a cosy wood burner, plus an enclosed veranda to enjoy a little star gazing.
Need an Excuse?
Paddock to Plate Dinners – Enjoy a 4-course dinner carefully crafted by the Falls Retreat chefs using seasonal and local ingredients. $90pp (including a welcome drink).
Run by Falls Retreat’s resident gardener, Nicki Murray-Orr, who has a wealth of experience and knowledge in all things gardening. Each course is fun and offers an interactive workshop in the garden followed by an informal meal in the Bistro.
Full Day Gardening Workshops (The Full Monty!) – $125pp
Saturday 3 October, 7 November, 5 December
Edible Gardening for Beginners – $75pp (9.30am-12.30pm)
Saturday 10 October
The Educated Gardener – $75pp (9.30am-12.30pm)
Saturday 31 October
Brad’s personal, fun and informative masterclasses focus on cooking from scratch and using seasonal produce. These will be reintroduced in 2021 or private classes can be organised for groups of 8 or more.
Waterfall Cabin – This quaint little cabin is a nature lovers haven with a view overlooking Owharoa Falls. Measuring only 4m x 2m, it was designed with a ‘tiny house’ ethos in mind including the bed which is accessed via a ladder. Everything about it screams character, so if you are looking for a glamping style, natural retreat then this one’s for you.
Rose Cottage – Charming, country-style accommodation. The A-frame bedroom is upstairs, downstairs is a log fire and French doors open out on a patio making this the perfect spot all year round.
Log Cabin – Immerse yourselves in the woods with Falls Retreat’s latest accommodation offering. Perfect for a family wanting to explore the delights of the Karangahake Gorge.