The Manse was one of Hawke’s Bay’s original houses, built for the local vicar back in 1910 on the Maraekakaho sheep station. In the 1930s, Maraekakaho station was subdivided and sold, and the vicar’s house was moved by its new owners to its current site, an elevated position with magnificent views across the Heretaunga Plains.
The house is now a country-style retreat run by husband and wife dynamic duo Gary Grootelaar and Dietska Van Kessel – it’s the first New Zealand Qualmark-accredited 5-star boutique lodge. Louise from Tourism New Zealand and I stayed at The Manse for just one night of our Hawke’s Bay tour.
Gary and Dietska spent a year searching for the right property before finding The Manse. The house has been thoughtfully restored, providing modern facilities while retaining its grand old-fashioned character. The Manse is an understated but luxurious lodge in tranquil surroundings with the friendly, homely touches of a bread and breakfast.
My room was the River View Suite. I take great delight in walking into a well-appointed room such as this, discovering all the amenities and details that will make my stay pleasurable and comfortable. It’s a spacious suite with a super king-sized bed, walk-in wardrobe where Gary had placed my suitcase, and bathroom with double shower with underfloor heating and heated towel rail, fluffy bathrobe and slippers. There’s complimentary WiFi and Sky TV, and in-room climate control. The tiny bar fridge was stocked with soft drinks, bottled water and fresh milk, and there was a bowl of fruit, coffee and tea-making facilities, and a bag of gingerbread cookies. Despite being an old house, there were plenty of power points in the suite for my charging needs (iPhone, iPad, camera batteries). And have I mentioned how much I like chandeliers? It’s the sign I’m somewhere a bit special, away from home.
The Manse has two suites, catering to only a maximum of 4 guests at a time – strictly adults only. There are no other staff, only Gary and Dietska themselves, and they are happy to tailor your stay to suit your interests. Guests are free to relax and enjoy the pool, roam the grounds or choose from a range of activities including claybird shooting, 4-wheel driving, fly fishing, local winery tours and more. Gary provides private cooking courses on request, using fresh Hawke’s Bay produce. And of course, there’s the rest of Hawke’s Bay to explore as you wish.
Before dinner, Gary took Louise and I on a walk around the property. Gary raises cows and pigs for meat and gets freshly laid eggs each day from his chickens.
He’s an interesting bloke with lots of stories to share. At the Manse, Gary is resident chef, farmer and charming host, but he also has 35 years of golfing experience, including 20 years of international playing experience. If you’re into golf, Gary can take you to Hastings Golf Club or Cape Kidnappers for a game or personalised coaching.
In addition to the activities specifically arranged for guests staying at the Manse, Dietska also puts on afternoon teas with Marriage Frères teas, homemade scones, cakes and sandwiches, and Gary joins forces with Paul Greaney from The Village Butcher in Havelock North to run The Meat Master Class.
We sat down to an enormous platter with cheese, bread, oat crackers and other nibbles, including Gary’s own pickled onions. We sipped on glasses of The Manse Bucks Fizz and chatted with Gary as he prepared dinner, which turned out to be quite a feast.
Back in my room, I found a chocolate on my pillow and a hot water bottle tucked beneath the covers. It was a comfy bed and I was worn out from my day (which had included a bicycle ride) – sleep came easily that night.
I woke up bright and early and went for a walk before breakfast, enjoying the crisp, clean air.
The table was set with butter and jams, and on the kitchen counter, a selection of cereals, including Gary’s special muesli mix, stewed fruit, and fresh fruit salad. Dietska placed a basket of warm bread and pastries on the table, poured orange juice and made tea. Gary scrambled eggs he’d collected from the chook house that morning.
At The Manse, you can choose what time to have breakfast, and if you prefer to have breakfast in your room, on your veranda or by the pool, you just have to let Gary and Dietska know. If you’d like an even more leisurely start and have brunch instead, that’s fine too. We had a big day ahead of us – our final full day of exploring Hawke’s Bay – so no time for a sleep-in. Breakfast and pre-dinner drinks and canapés are included in the basic tariff, but you can choose to add 3 or 4 course dinners to your stay, savoury courses cooked by Gary, desserts by Dietska.
The Manse is a beautiful house on a gorgeous property, and Hawke’s Bay is simply stunning, but the most memorable part of staying at The Manse was Gary and Dietska’s generous hospitality, their personal touches and attention to detail. They made us feel wonderfully welcome, sharing their life and love for Hawke’s Bay, seeing to our every need and feeding us extremely well.
Although you have your own suite and ample opportunity to do your own thing, the intimacy of interaction and level of personal contact between guests and hosts that comes with this style of hospitality won’t appeal to everyone. But for those who embrace it, The Manse experience is luxurious, relaxed and easy-going, allowing you to do as little or as much as you feel like – a brilliant recipe for a fantastic retreat.
3519 State Highway 50 – it’s 30 minutes from Napier or 15 minutes from Hastings/Havelock North
Maraekakaho, Hawke’s Bay
Telephone: +64 6 874 9625
I travelled to Hawke’s Bay and stayed at The Manse as a guest of Tourism New Zealand.
Getting to Hawke’s Bay
I flew with Air New Zealand from Perth to Auckland, then flew via Mount Cook Airlines from Auckland to Napier in the Hawke’s Bay region. Mount Cook Airlines is one of three regional airlines that are part of Air New Zealand Link, connecting New Zealand’s regional centres and main international airports.
My Hawke’s Bay blog series
The posts so far:
- Welcome to Napier
- Pacifica Restaurant, Napier
- Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market, Hastings
- Te Mata Peak, Craggy Range and Terrôir Restaurant, Havelock North
- The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Part 1
- Elephant Hill, Te Awanga
- The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Part 2 – including the Kiwi Discovery Walk
- Cycling with Takaro Trails
- The Manse – this post
There are still more stories to come from the trip.
F.A.W.C! Summer Series 2013
The Food and Wine Classic, referred to as F.A.W.C! (pronounced ‘fawk’, rhymes with hawk), will see over 50 food and wine experiences held over 10 days in Hawke’s Bay. It kicks off with a launch party at Craggy Range Winery on 1 November and finishes with the Carnivore Carnival at the Hawke’s Bay Races on 10 November.
Find out more about F.A.W.C! – tickets on sale now.
The Manse has a special F.A.W.C! package for 2-night stays from 1 to 10 November 2013.