When looking for somewhere special to stay, there’s often nothing more reassuring than a review from an experienced traveller. We received this review from a client who stayed at Split Apple Retreat as part of a tour of the South Island arranged by Fine Travel.
Client Review of Split Apple Retreat
Thank you for arranging our visit to the Split Apple Retreat. When we planned the trip, we expected to stay in a luxury lodge and have a few days to ourselves, enjoying the scenery and solitude. Prior to arriving, we had not researched the property or read the reviews because we trusted your judgement. You know the standard we expect and you have a good understanding of our interests.
Read More in the Fine Travel Blog: Tips for Booking a New Zealand Luxury Lodge
For those of us who are not too familiar with the area, The Retreat is closer to Kaiteriteri than the town of Motueka (at the top of the South Island). I say ‘Retreat’ because there is also a Split Apple Lodge sign posted along the way. We turned up their driveway and felt there was something amiss as the place was shuttered and did not look at all like a luxury retreat. Just keep driving past this place.
On arriving we were greeted by the General Manager Jj Luck. I had spoken to Jj by phone a little earlier when the GPS had decided to have a day off and sent us back to using the old-fashioned method of map and a phone call. Jj was extremely helpful and provided an excellent, personalized GPS service. She was waiting by the entrance of the house to warmly greet us, along with the little blue penguins who had taken up residence in the garden.
Because Split Apple is like staying in someone’s beautiful home, there is no reception area per se. Jj works in a room close to the entrance and is very accessible when you need her.
While our bags were being taken to our room, one of our Hosts, Lee Nelson, took us for a tour of the house and the Asian artwork tastefully placed in every room. The superb collection he and his wife (and co-owner) Pen, have accumulated adds to the ambiance and interest of the place.
Being shown to our room was a ‘wow’ moment. Was this the Shangri-La of New Zealand? The view was both stunning and peaceful. If we did nothing but sit in bed, or on the private porch outside the bedroom, lost in the sight of the magnificent bay and Abel Tasman National Park, I think we would have come away with our expectations exceeded. However, Lee, Pen and Jj had other ideas.
Pen is originally from Thailand. Her entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and attention to clients’ nutritional needs and tastes, created a unique atmosphere in her kitchen and in the Retreat. Without us even realizing it, she had determined our preferences for food, activities and how adventurous we were. Every day she surprised and challenged us with new foods and preparations that were world class. Pen’s selection of dishes is based on the fresh food she can acquire each day and tailored to our individual tastes and preferences. The avocados that she picked from her trees in Takaka were delicious. Certainly, a big difference from the sometimes, tasteless supermarket avocados.
Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rate and lunch is available for an additional cost. We did not sample the lunches because after having a very satisfying breakfast, we did not feel the need for more food.
Seating arrangements are very flexible. If you would like to sit by yourselves, just tell Pen or Jj and they will select a perfect spot for your meal. If you decide to join other guests for a meal, you can do that as well. We sat outside occasionally for breakfast and inside for dinner given the time of year we were there.
Lee was proud to show us his superb wine collection. We trusted him each night to select the perfect wine to compliment Pen’s creative menu. The cost of the wine is additional, and Lee will explain the wines and prices when you sit down for your meal.
Having sampled several exceptional Pinot Noirs during our recent trip to Blenheim and Queenstown, we did not think we would find higher quality wines anywhere else. However, Lee introduced us to exceptional Pinot Noirs. Each wine he selected was a New Zealand wine, perfectly aged and at just the right temperature. Lee was knowledgeable about the winemaker and the vineyard which gave us a better understanding of what New Zealand wineries have to offer. Theses were not long lectures but short explanations as we discussed the wines and the meal.
Assisting Pen and Lee at breakfast and dinner was Paige. It really is a joy to meet a young adult who is genuinely happy and efficient. Paige shared her insight and experiences having lived in the area all her life. Her style perfectly complemented that of Pan and Lee.
Our first full day at the Retreat was to be a walking tour of the Abel Tasman National Park with a knowledgeable and experienced professional guide, Zane Kennedy, owner/operator of Wine, Art and Wilderness Tours. However, anticipating a challenge with inclement weather, Jj had already contacted Zane and planned to move the tour to a day that had perfect weather. I was reminded of the books I had read over the years on delivering ‘unanticipated service and value’ to customers. Jj certainly is a great example of doing just that. Her local knowledge and connections made it extremely easy to craft each day to suit us, and the weather.
On the one day that it was misty and a little wet, Jj organized for Spa treatments in their well-appointed Spa area, complete with a selection of different saunas. The therapist, Samaya was the best my husband and I have experienced. Lee, Pen and Jj certainly know how to pick the best when it comes to staff and service providers.
Lee kindly invited us to meet with his gardener, Paul, who works on both their properties. Paul is truly knowledgeable about the plants and landscape. He has cleverly planned the gardens to give a natural yet practical look. The birds approve, with both properties attracting a variety of native birds. Just listening to the birds, the sea and the occasional rustle of the leaves was special. Very calming.
All too soon, our three days were over and…. we were not ready to leave! We had just begun to unwind, and the Split Apple Retreat had so much more to offer. Thankfully, Jj was able to accommodate an extension because Covid had impacted their bookings and their overseas guests were unable to come to New Zealand. This certainly provided a unique opportunity for us because under normal circumstances, the three rooms in the Retreat would have been fully booked.
Learning about this situation, I decided to let my New Zealand friends, who would normally seek a luxury experience overseas, know that the Split Apple Retreat is every bit as good as any place I have found overseas. You do not have to fight jet lag, have the added cost of the international airfares or concern yourselves about random illness. If your clients would like to experience Split Apple Retreat, then I would encourage people in New Zealand now to do so before the borders open again. This is a small Retreat that delivers quality, personalized service; something that is very sought after as evidenced by their long list of loyal guests who keep returning to experience something incredibly special.
Jj reminded me to let her know what we want to do when we visit again and she can provide a daily plan for our consideration, explain the price and then make all the arrangements. Effortless.
Having secured the extra days at the Split Apple Retreat we took advantage of a few of the wellness activities available, in our case, yoga and meditation. Lee introduced me to meditation and the Retreat’s media room provided a quiet and comfortable environment.
Marion, a French native working in New Zealand, guided us through a perfect yoga practice in a room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the peaceful bay. I began to regret not taking advantage of this earlier and made a note that next time I stay at the Split Apple Retreat, this will be a daily practice. Yoga and Spa services and charges are listed in the book in your room.
Having previously worked in the medical profession, Lee, a retired Doctor, explained his interest in health wellness and shared their latest venture, building a yoga and wellness retreat in the Golden Bay area. Given my experience with the quality and service at Split Apple Retreat, I have no doubt that the yoga and wellness center will be worth a visit in the future. Lee has a wealth of experience that guests can take advantage of. One service worth considering is a Health and Wellness assessment for an additional cost. However, meditation guidance is free.
In summary, I would not hesitate to recommend the Split Apple Retreat to your clients who would enjoy the unique beauty of this country; exceptional service, a world-class culinary experience, a wellness program tailored to each person and the peace and tranquility that this exceptional team have created.