During a lovely summer week in February, my husband Lee and I were lucky enough to stay at Lake Ohau Quarters as we rode the entire Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. As travel writers and avid mountain bikers, we were keen to see if the trail lived up to the hype, and therefore delighted to be invited on a six-person tour organised by the trail’s Trust.
It took just a few hours on the trail to realise that the A2O was something special. We started near the shore of Lake Tekapo, its surreal blue waters back-dropped by epic mountain ranges, then followed the mesmerising lines of hydro-canals across the open tussock-land of the Mackenzie Country. In the following days we would see Aoraki/Mount Cook – New Zealand’s highest peak – as well as vast river deltas, mountain ranges of varying form and hue, fascinating hydro dams, sweet rural towns, strange rock formations, and the farms and vineyards of the lush Waitaki Valley, plus much more beside. The six-day ride proved one of the most memorable we’ve ever experienced.
A variety of accommodation provided welcome rest and refreshment at the end of each day, all in atmospheric surrounds. We stayed in characterful Kiwi motels; an enclave of cute, rustic huts clustered in a cottage garden; and a classic weatherboard bungalow in the graceful grounds of a former boarding school. Lake Ohau Quarters, however, was a serious contender for the grand prize.
The Quarters are located at the end of Section 3 of the A20 – a particularly scenic leg starting in Twizel and taking in hydro-canals, country roads and mountain scenery, with a slice of interesting history on the side. Towards the end of the day, having skirted the shore of scenic Lake Ohau and pit-stopped for a cold beer at Lake Ohau Lodge – 15 minutes’ ride shy of the Quarters – we pedaled onward hoping for a soothing shower, a decent meal and a comfortable bed.
What greeted us, however, was a spectacular lodge in all its alpine glory: we had certainly not expected such beautiful accommodation.
Bikes parked and bags ditched, the six of us immediately collapsed on to beanbags scattered on the lush, green lawn overlooking the lake. Bliss! As wine o’clock passed into suppertime, we adjourned indoors where the cooking team got busy in the kitchen while the lazybones hit the sofas or lingered around the huge picture windows taking in the stupendous mountain and lake views.
The surroundings are nothing short of magnificent, and there were moments where I felt almost overwhelmed by the beauty and grandeur of it all. Sure, Lee and I had stayed overnight in the Lake Ohau area several years prior, but our damp tent in the DOC campsite felt a world away from this level of comfort and style. And yet the price tag makes it affordable for groups riding the A2O. We immediately started thinking about who we could bring back with us next time – and how we could make that stay last several days, because one night is definitely not enough.