The ultimate wellbeing retreat to rest and unwind

Rain or shine, Maruia River Retreat is the perfect place to relax and recharge.

There’s something deeply rejuvenating about being near water and forest, and at Maruia River Retreat you can bathe in both.

Located on the edge of 500 acres of native beech forest peppered with podocarps and 11km of easy walking trails, it’s the perfect place for forest bathing. Or you can relax in the riverside forest jacuzzi.

Pure drinking water comes from the surrounding mountains and cascades through the forest in a series of pretty waterfalls before meeting the Maruia River. And as a guest there is nothing better than scooping this water into your hands and having a drink, or wandering through the bush with on-site guide Jason McDonald who will point out things that are easy for the untrained eye to miss, like honeydew on bark, beech seedlings and native fuchsia blooms, And if you’re lucky the local resident robin might even join the party.

Mariua River Retreat is a 20-minute drive from Murchison, New Zealand’s river rafting capital. And while on hot summer days it is glorious, it is equally beautiful when it rains too. Its valley location on route to Lewis Pass makes it a high rainfall area but that doesn’t detract from the magic, and it’s the reason why it’s so lush and green. Maruia, interestingly means ‘shelter’ and it’s a place where you can hunker down with a good book and listen to the rain from the comfort of your luxury villa, which has everything you need including underfloor heating, spa bath and private river/bush view.

It is a place of deep rest and rejuvenation where you can relax and disconnect from everyday busy and reconnect with yourself.

Opening the veranda door of our villa welcomed the sounds of a bubbling creek tumbling past nearby. Just being here is deeply meditative. You can just sit, or lie back on the sofa, and enjoy the view, or close your eyes and listen to the water dancing over the stones as it flows to join Maruia River washing away worries and stresses as it goes.

There’s also no Wi-Fi in the rooms (though there is in the main lodge) so you can’t be tempted to look at your phone. It’s a place where you can just ‘be’.

Maruia, a former fly fishing lodge, reopened its doors in August 2019 after a six-year hiatus and has been thoughtfully refurbished and rejuvenated by husband and wife team Lasse and Cristina Holopainen, who are both experienced yoga instructors, and prior to purchasing Mariua owned glamping eco retreat Easy Adventures in the Philippines.

They know how to create a luxury experience for guests, as well as the amazing benefits of yoga, which is why complimentary yoga classes are offered as part of the package. The Wellness Centre also has a Finnish sauna, and massage and treatment rooms.

Maruia River also has some of the best trout fishing in the area, so you can try your hand at learning to cast, which is wonderfully meditative as you recast again, and again, and again.

As Cristina explains, “It’s relaxed luxury where you don’t feel like you have to do anything but activities are available to you, if you want them.”

Maruia River Retreat is also committed to sustainable tourism and everything from shampoos to insect repellent is kind to the environment. Lasse also worked with renewable energy in the Philippines and is working to get the lodge off-grid and hopes one day to be able to supply power to the local community.

The lodge staff are one big family, and each multi-skilled. Alicia Ambauen, the lovely host, is also a yoga instructor. Sister Aline, an incredible massage therapist. Tommy Hodgson driver, part-time host and professional rafter. Tommy’s mum, Suzie, has been looking after the gardens at Maruia for 20 years and does all the floral arrangements.

The edible garden is open to guests to forage for dinner ingredients, and fresh eggs from the hens, if they want to cook for themselves in their villa. Or you can choose to enjoy the fine local cuisine created by in-house chef Tim Hodges (who has come from the busy kitchen at Awaroa Lodge, Abel Tasmin National Park). The pastoral dishes made from fresh, local ingredients delight with flavour and presentation. Fresh vegetables, herbs and edible flowers come straight from the garden and local cheeses and produce from nearby Nelson, not to mention local wines, craft beers, Little Biddy gin cocktails and sodas including Nelson’s award-winning Chia Sisters.

Menu faves for us were the smoked duck ravioli with mushroom, lemon and thyme butter topped with a freshly picked nasturtium bloom; goat’s cheese souffle with tamarind chutney and silverbeet; Ora King Salmon with wasabi potato gratin and sour cream foam; Jungle curry with crisply tofu and garden veg; panacotta with fresh rhubarb; and the local cheeses. And chef Tim will prepare an incredible packed lunch for you, if you want to go for a picnic or eat in your villa.

There’s also nothing quite like starting the day with fresh scrambled eggs with chopped chives served with homemade bread.

You’ll leave feeling healthier and wealthier, as well as part of the family.

To find out more about the Maruia River Retreat click HERE.

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