A couple of weeks ago my wife and I took up an invitation to return to a guesthouse that sits on the edge of a forest some people say is the healthiest in all of New Zealand. Maungatautari is the name of a mountain in Waikato that most North Islanders would’ve driven past without probably realising the significance of.
Namely, the fact that the forest that sits atop Maungatautari was never milled. More than that, that forest has for some years been protected by a continuous 47-kilometre long fence. Inside that fence is 3,400 hectares (34 square-kilometres) of pest-free native New Zealand rainforest. The combination of a fence + dense, primeval bush creates a wonderfully Jurassic Park-like feel.
Members of the public can choose to either hike right across the mountain, normally done from north to south and about 6-hours of thigh-busting good times in the process. Or you can visit what’s called Sanctuary Mountain which is a smaller fenced-off part of the mountain that offers less strenuous walks.
Either way, you’ll be treated to rich birdsong and the revelation that the Waikato region is so much more than farmland. As for that guesthouse, Out In The Styx is a lovely family-run property on the southern slopes of Maungatautari in the village of Pukeatua. Located halfway between Te Awamutu in the west and Putaruru in the east, Out In The Styx is very much out in the sticks. And that’s a good thing.
The guesthouse has 10 ensuite rooms and three bunk rooms with enough beds for 30 people. It is homely and unpretentious and sitting in that fern-ringed spa pool after a day’s bush walking, the unblemished night sky above, Out In The Styx feels removed from the rest of the world.
While the themed accommodation is very comfortable (there are rooms with African, Japanese and Maori themes), the main attraction – after Maungatautari itself – would have to be the food. Owners Lance and Mary insist on providing four-course dinners for their guests and having had a total of four dinners there in the past six months, believe the hype. And if you haven’t heard the hype, it’s nothing short of Out In The Styx doing the best meals in all of the Waikato.
Click here to check out some sample menus, but whether it’s quiches you never knew could be so good or celery soup that redefines your ideas both of celery and soup, Out In The Styx is a remarkable dining experience. Couple that with the stunning views of the mountain and you can see why they get so many repeat visitors.
Repeat visitors such as myself. I’d stayed in September last year, combining the trip with an e-biking adventure of the recently established Waikato River Trails. Click here to read my New Zealand Herald article about why e-biking the Waikato River is so beautiful and so much fun. The trails are just over 100-kilometres long in total and you can start from close to Out In The Styx.
Both Glyn from Waikato River Trails and Lance from Out In The Styx insisted I had to come back and show my wife (she’d been unable to join me in September) and last month we made good the promise. Doing our best to burn off the two nights of four-course dinners, we explored Sanctuary Mountain on foot and did a chunk of the river trails on brand new, $4000 e-bikes. My wife could see why I’d raved about that September trip so much. Waikato is close to Auckland, but so often underrated.
Before you check out my favourite photos from this latest trip, may the seed be planted that Out In The Styx is now up for sale. If you reckon a life in the country could beckon, then don’t hesitate to contact Lance and Mary. You’ll have some cooking skills to live up to though!