Dunedin’s hidden forest retreat is utterly divine
Paradise is waking up in the only remaining valley of native forest at a Dunedin retreat in New Zealand.
Above all, there is something just so special about being able to relax in nature that’s accessible.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life when you’re in a city. It’s hard to remember to step away to, well, breathe. Speaking as one who finds herself on the edge of Christchurch, I’ve found I’ve had to make a point of getting away from the ease and convenience of city life as often as I can. Stepping out to nature helps me reset.
As the world expands and nature shrinks, it’s never been more critical to find and preserve pockets of green wherever we can. Certainly, one of the best parts of my travel life is getting to meet people who have actively made a difference in protecting the environment, especially right around their homes.
Conservation doesn’t need to be a looming abstract concept. Even just planting native trees in your backyard can make a real difference.
The Hereweka Garden Retreat is one of those hidden gems that makes you want to curl up and stay awhile.
Hidden away on the stunning Otago Peninsula, surrounded by forest, bush and water views, you’ll find a boutique and beautiful cabin designed to blend in with the surrounding nature. Overlooking the iconic Hoopers Inlet, the Hereweka Garden Retreat is the summation of decades of work of Peter and Anna in preserving the native bush here and crafting a garden that’s out of this world.
After over a decade of planting and replanting along 12 acres on this Dunedin retreat, the native birds have returned. I fell asleep listening to tui and bellbirds calling in utter bliss. How lucky we are to have places like this
It was a drizzly day when I made my way out from Lyttelton to Dunedin in my new zippy red Alfa Romeo from Euromarque. Giulio and I invested in this rare gem last year, and BOY, it’s fun to road trip in! Zoom zoom! Your girl’s a grown-up now!
Cruising down the coastline, I had the time of my life on one of my first trips since lockdown in New Zealand.
The hillsides were a shade of green that seemed unreal; the blue of the water was magical. Every so often, as the sun peeked through, a rainbow would appear. I’ve never seen more rainbows than around the Otago coastline of Dunedin. I like to think of myself as one of those rare people who prefer to visit places in the rain.
Call me weird, but there’s something so soothing about the sound of raindrops dripping from the trees and the dampness to the air. It feels fresh, clean, and full of nostalgia.
Hereweka means “snaring of the weka” in Māori. Weka are a cheeky native woodhen in New Zealand, bopping around and generally being curious. And well, we all know what “snaring” means, and one can likely safely assume that there was once an abundance of weka around these parts, and they were delicious.
While the weka are long gone from this valley, the native birds are back. Thanks to the incredibly hard work of the family, their garden is alive with native birds once again. You’ll see and hear the beautiful song of the bellbirds, as well as riflemen and, of course, fantails. After 18 years of planting trees, the tuis and kererū returned.
As soon as I stepped out of my car, I felt as if I slipped back into Gondwanaland. Usually, this feeling is reserved only for national parks and eco-sanctuaries around New Zealand.
My soul breathed a sigh of relief as I stepped inside the Hereweka Garden Retreat for the first time. This Dunedin retreat is good for the soul.
You guys know how much I love a good hideaway. An introvert at heart combined with a lifelong love of travel means I’m always searching for a home where I can nest. I take a great deal of inspiration from cozy places like this. The work that just a small group of people can positively do on the land motivates me so much. Perhaps in a few years, instead of a new car, you’ll be seeing a home from me instead! Fingers crossed!
Additionally, this retreat oozes both hominess and coziness in abundance. From the soft, warm lighting to the thoughtful touches to the views overlooking the gardens, it couldn’t be more memorable.
You have guessed correctly if you believe I didn’t leave this place the whole time I was there!
With a focus on organic gardening and sustainable living, Hereweka has become a beacon of change for those looking to regenerate and build a sustainable model for their home.
Much of the native forest on the Otago peninsula was cleared for farming two hundred years ago, a common narrative here in New Zealand. Luckily, a little corner was preserved right on the property. These include 70 ancient rimu trees, which you can see from the balcony on the nearby ridge.
Meanwhile, going above and beyond, Peter and Anna have protected the land covenants and building walking tracks to allow people to wander the land. Wandering around it, you get a real sense that the garden itself is alive and thriving.
Furthermore, the garden itself features an abundance of plants and food that thrives in the little microclimate of the valley, such as flowering cherries, magnolias, maples, and rhododendrons. Bursting with edibles, they also grow everything from figs, mulberries, citrus, tamarillos, and feijoas, as well as apples, pears, plums, and berries.
This Dunedin retreat packs a punch, with so much thoughtfulness and care put into it. It means a lot to me when you can see and feel the story of a place you visit.
As a final touch to the most powerful story of responsible touches, from insulating with wool to using recycled materials. There is even a composting toilet with the most epic views, I might add!
Furthermore, all of the food is organic or grown in the garden, and trust me. You can taste the difference.
Just 30 minutes from the city center of Dunedin, Hereweka is a magical escape that’s worth basing yourself at next time you head down to Otago.
Typically booked out far in advance by overseas travelers, the garden retreat has plenty of space for us locals too. Now just wondering when I can go back?
In short, Hereweka left its mark on my heart, leaving me inspired and full of joy.
Do you have a favorite Dunedin retreat? Where do you go to recharge? Share!