Room review: Glamping in the luxury geodesic domes of Lake Hāwea

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A cluster of geodesic domes adds luxury and indulgence to a classic Kiwi campground.

The place

Just a 15-minute drive from Wānaka, Lake Hāwea is surrounded by stunning mountains and popular for fishing, boating and summer water sports such as windsurfing and kite surfing. We visited in the depths of winter which is a questionable time to test a tent.

The camp's prime location by Lake Hāwea.

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The camp’s prime location by Lake Hāwea.

These aren’t just any old tents, though. These are the Cross Hill Domes, located at the Lakeside Camp. Nearby Hāwea Township is experiencing a massive suburban growth spurt thanks to Central Otago’s overflow, but you’d never know it once inside the gates of the holiday park.

Space

The camp is part of the Glen Dene and Mt Isthmus resort owned by the Burdon family since 1929. Covering 15 acres of lakeside reserve, the holiday park is a Kiwi classic with mature woodlands, secluded camping nooks and its adventure playground.

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The absence of light pollution results in an inky black night sky.

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The absence of light pollution results in an inky black night sky.

To meet the high end, the Burdons added six geodesic glamping domes earlier this year. A good distance from the huts and campsites, they nestle on the hillside just below the beautiful pavilion reserved for the exclusive use of the inhabitants of the dome.

Domes are the latest glamping offering at Camp, which includes bell and safari-style tents dotted around the grounds.

The domes nestle in attractive landscaping.

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The domes nestle in attractive landscaping.

Bedroom

Sarah and Richard Burdon discovered the domes abroad and imported them from the United States. Apparently the first of their kind in New Zealand, they combine sturdy construction with comfort and style. At 40 square meters with a hefty amount, they certainly don’t look much like a tent.

Spacious domes make room for romance.

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Spacious domes make room for romance.

Peering through the floor-to-ceiling (plastic) windows, the piece de resistance is the super king-size bed furnished with wool blankets and a Shrek-worthy sheepskin throw. Aft is a five-star bathroom, a spacious walk-in closet and a chic little kitchenette. As the cold night rolled in, we were delighted with the gas fire and heat pump.

Dome guests share use of the rustic lodge which sports a roaring fire, kitchen, living room and deck. It is an atmospheric place to congregate and enjoy the dinner and breakfast provided in the accommodation package. You can also relax in the lodge’s Whiskey room or pre-book a massage.

The atmospheric lodge shared by dome guests.

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The atmospheric lodge shared by dome guests.

The food

Continental breakfast is included and a three-course dinner can be added when booking. As you would expect on the farm, the menu is full paddock to plate and generously proportioned.

Dinner included charcuterie and cheese, rack of lamb and vegetables from the garden, followed by cinnamon-poached tamarillos. The Central Otago pinot noir went very well with him. A strengthening breakfast started with fresh fruit and muesli and ended with local bacon and eggs.

The domed bathrooms are an elegant surprise.

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The domed bathrooms are an elegant surprise.

The Burdons cooked and hosted which was a treat in itself. Long-time locals with deep connections to the land and people, they had stories to share and once again reminded us why ‘family owned and operated’ is New Zealand’s tourism superpower.

Get out of

The camp’s excellent printed map lists local activities, including plenty of walks and bike rides. The Burdons also arrange hunting, fishing and farm tours, and can arrange other trips such as helicopter crayfishing trips on the West Coast. Holy aioli! Who knew that was a thing?

From the camp, you can cycle to Wānaka via the stunning Hāwea River Track, which passes by the must-see Hāwea Wave. Allow 3-4 hours return to Wānaka.

Wood-fired hot tub goodness.

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Wood-fired hot tub goodness.

The climax

Richard fueled the hot tub with a wood fire during dinner. By the time our dessert had set, it had simmered slowly and the snow had started to fall. Yes, the snow. Falling like sparkling diamonds against the inky black sky as a voluminous moon moved in and out of the silver clouds. Even a frozen face couldn’t dampen my feeling of euphoria.

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Get out of the hot tub. Pretty much killed the euphoria of freezing to death.

The verdict

Cross Hill Domes is the dream scenario for camping fans looking to up the luxury factor, or beginners worried about sandflies, humidity or a dodgy bed. They offer the breathtaking scenery and the peaceful, natural atmosphere you seek for a camping holiday, combined with the romance of a canvas cocoon and the comfort of an upscale hotel room.

A good night to test the snow domes.

Sarah Bennett

A good night to test the snow domes.

Essential

The Cross Hill Domes start from $400 for two people for one night. The Stay, Explore, Enjoy rate is $750 for two people, including accommodation, breakfast and a three-course dinner with wine at Cross Hill Lodge. For more information see crosshill.co.nz

The writer was a guest of Cross Hill Lodge & Domes.

Stay safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Face coverings are mandatory on all flights and public transport. Proof of vaccination and vaccine exemption may be required at some locations under the traffic light system. Follow the instructions on covid19.govt.nz.


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