Free as a bird

Photography Kathy Catton.

The expanse of the Mackenzie Country combined with the cosiness of the Skylark Cabin make for an idyllic weekend away.

There’s something distinct about this place, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It grabs you from the photos, for sure, but it’s something more than that – like a spell or a time warp. I haven’t quite figured it out.

What I have worked out is that this place is the perfect spot for a weekend retreat. Or maybe even a week, if you’ve got a novel to write, a broken heart to tend or a body to repair. Whatever the reason, this place captures your heart and feeds your soul.

The Skylark story

Seven kilometres outside of Twizel, around three and three quarter-hours’ drive from Christchurch, sits the Skylark Cabin. Gently nestled into the tussock grasslands at the foothills of the Ben Ohau range, this place has been described as a brave and bold tiny home. 

Architect Barry Connor worked with owners Garry and Liz to weave his magic in designing this 49-square-metre home, with the brief of creating a retreat for relaxation. Completed in 2021, it’s full of sharp pointy angles and is essentially set up as two offset open-plan spaces.

One contains the bedroom and bathroom, positioned to allow morning sun in both winter and summer, and the other holds the kitchen, entry and living areas.

This “folded” form takes inspiration from the local skylarks, who, with their angular, precise and purposeful acrobatics, also call this landscape home.

The circular skylight in the roof above the bed is also a feature that connects this place to the land. My partner and I watched the moon track across the night sky with a backdrop like a high-powered light show, thanks to the prized and protected Mackenzie Aoraki Dark Sky Reserve, showing off the Milky Way and surrounding galaxies in all their glory. 

It’s in those moments you appreciate the smallness of the Skylark Cabin for what it is – a place to come to retreat and rest before returning, rejuvenated, to the massive world around us.

If you want to explore the vastness further, there is the option to have a private astro tour. A guide comes to the cabin and sets up his telescope and takes you on a 90-minute guide of the visible stars. 

Magical days

Even when it rained on the first day of our stay, the place still held a charm.

The burnt orange window frames against the dark, rough-sawn timber exterior frame the views and provide the eye with unconventional views of the landscape, even when lying in bed, washing up or taking a shower.

You are amongst the elements yet safe and cocooned from the extremities. Views of The Black Hills, Backbone Peak and Ben Ohau are never more than a glimpse away.

Inside, you can’t help but feel held in this “cradle”: protected, safe and private. There’s a dinky stylish fireplace for the frosty mornings and rugs and throws to snuggle into. And if you’re missing the hustle and bustle of daily life, there is a TV with Netflix and cell phones are definitely in range. 

But be warned: there are no eateries or cafés nearby, so you’ll need to come well-stocked with food for your stay.

The essentials are provided, but make sure you pick up supplies in Twizel before you arrive.

There’s no shortage of places to wander and explore beyond Skylark Cabin. You can venture further afield to Mount Cook National Park and take in a scenic flight or do some tramping or heli-biking.

Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki are within an hour’s drive and offer fishing or kayaking options in the summer months.

You can drop in for a visit at the High Country Salmon farm, feed the fish and buy some fresh or smoked cuts. But I can guarantee you’ll be itching to come back to the cabin at the end of the day.

Moments of stillness

I couldn’t write this piece without mentioning the outside bath. Holding 450 litres of 44°C water, this is the ultimate way to relax.

Epsom salts, plush bathrobes and non-breakable wine glasses are all provided for guests, so it’s just a case of turning on the tap and slipping in.

Engulfed in heat and provided with protection against the harsh evening and nighttime temperatures, this is how to wrap yourself in kindness and rejuvenation.

And it’s in these moments of stillness that I really started to feel free. The nest has been built, the walls of this home are strong and beautiful, there is everything inside to feel safe and nurtured.

Then there’s the inspiration of the surrounding natural beauty to allow you to feel strong and courageous and fly the nest and enter the world again.

Your heart will return full after a trip to the Skylark Cabin. Available on AirBnB as a luxury accommodation, you are only a few steps away from total relaxation.

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