Turning off from State Highway 1 onto the inland road just north of Culverden, you immediately start to appreciate the freedom and tranquilly this part of the Hurunui is famous for. It’s peacefully quiet travelling past rolling hillsides and rural settlements, all while being treated to an ever-growing gorgeous mountainous backdrop through the windscreen. It’s a view I don’t think you could ever get tired of, and one which gets even more awe inspiring the closer you draw near.
This is Mt Lyford country, tucked away along the spectacular Alpine Pacific Touring Route, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d travelled through a portal to Colorado or small-town Switzerland.
Home to dozens of charming log chalets – all beautifully constructed to blend in with the surrounding native bush, it’s a picturesque part of the country any time of year. However being an alpine settlement it’s no surprise Mt Lyford village is particularly enchanting in winter, where you’ll be heading for the hot tub with a mulled wine in hand as soon as you settle into this white wonderland.
Within the lower reaches of the village you’ll find Mt Lyford Holiday Home’s charming eco-lodges, each designed to leave a minimal footprint, offer maximum comfort, and emphasise some of the most stunning views and night skies in the world.
Mt Lyford Holiday Homes is run by Claudine and Ross Barnes. Friendly and welcoming hosts who are passionate about sustainable living, have a love of the outdoors, and love sharing it with visitors.
Claudine says this is where guests can truly escape from the hustle and bustle and ease into what the locals call ‘mountain time’.
“Our visitors adore the peace and quiet. There’s no rushing around here, you can’t help but relax. It’s getting harder and harder to really get away from the busyness of life. You absolutely get that here, and people really love it.”
The larger eco-lodge offerings, Kowhai and Kanuka, are both newly built 3-bedroom lodges situated on a substantial 5-hectare section. Both offering unparalleled privacy and views.
Each was constructed by Ross with accentuating wood features and a focus on the scenery, with huge north facing windows to capture the full beauty of the mountain range. Perfect for snuggling up, soaking in the splendour, and letting that mountain time tick away.
Each lodge is also fitted out with a cosy log fire, private sunny deck, and a wood fired hot tub on the patio. Keeping you wrapped in a toasty embrace while the frozen environment sparkles outside.
For those seeking the balance between complete escapism while still keeping a few of the comforts of home, the Harakeke Huts are the perfect compromise.
Taking advantage of the ‘glamping’ trend, these huts are dome shaped and exquisitely crafted ‘pods’ made from sustainable New Zealand Pine.
The huts offer breath-taking views and unparalleled access to nature, while still providing lighting and heating, and a central pod which contains a kitchen, TV lounge, and bathroom and shower.
The biggest attraction for anyone staying here is the uninterrupted vista, native New Zealand bush, and amazing night skies. A dazzling experience well worth sitting out for while toasting marshmallows on the brazier.
Claudine never gets tired of hearing from delighted guests who witness it.
“The night skies are as good as anywhere, there’s no light pollution here so you get the full illuminating experience, it’s incredibly breath-taking, and our visitors are always in awe.
As well as perfectly suited accommodation, the surrounding area is a recreational playground. Mt Lyford skifield is literally on your doorstep, offering toboggan slopes for younger children, beginners slopes for learners, and superb backcountry skiing for the expert. There’s also an ice-skating rink, mountain biking trails, nature walks, and fishing nearby.
The next time you’re dreaming of escaping the crowds into a blissfully private alpine retreat, you don’t need a plane ticket. Just a spare 90-minutes to make the drive from Christchurch.