There's a complex history to this 300-acre purely wild parcel (there are no shops, petrol stations, or anything else) sitting alongside Mt Aspiring National Park...
Paradise House was designed and built in 1883 by William Mason - New Zealand's first government architect and later Dunedin's first mayor (more history here)...The Paradise Charitable Trust was formed in 1998 to preserve and enhance the unique features of Paradise for all visitors, particularly children and families. The Trust aims to preserve the Paradise environment as one that encourages guests to experience a simpler and more contemplative way of life.
The only other structure you see driving into Paradise is this structure, called Arcadia, hard to miss and with a fraught history...
When Joseph Fenn’s fiancee was stolen away by his own father in the early 1900’s, he fled to of New Zealand to escape his pain, where he was once again to find himself unlucky in love. Fenn was a young wealthy Englishman, champion oarsman and Cambridge university graduate. Devastated and humiliated by his father’s actions, he left his friends and family behind.
He settled and isolated himself, ironically in a place called ‘Paradise’ – about an hour’s drive from Queenstown New Zealand. He arrived in New Zealand with enough money to buy land and live comfortably for the rest of his life. Though many letters arrived for him from England it is said that he never opened any of them. He bought a plot of land and lived in a small hut close to the Jordan River.
Just along the road from him was Paradise House – guest accommodation run by the Aitken family. Fenn reportedly fell in love with the Aitken’s daughter Isabella, nicknamed Poppy. When Poppy turned down the advances of her would-be suitor he reacted by building Arcadia – an incredible guest house built using local Red Beech timber. Fenn poured his money into the project, lavishly creating 12 bedrooms, a vast staircase, a library and smoking room, several lounge and dining rooms, tiled bathrooms, and oriental styled wallpapers. It was widely thought that Fenn had built Arcadia to show Poppy what she had missed out on. He never lived in it. Employing managers to run Arcadia, Fenn stayed in his humble cottage and became even more of a recluse. Dubbed ‘The Hermit of Paradise,’ all that remains of his cottage today is a broken chimney.
Note the free-standing chimneys below, formerly attached to one of the historic buildings.
Three years ago lightning struck a nearby power line and traveled to the end of the line, which served the Paradise Trust buildings. The caretaker drove to Glenorchy to let someone know power was out. An electrical engineer overheard her, looked at his watch, and said "two hours until the fire starts." As they frantically drove back, the line exploded into a devastating fire and the building went up in flames. All that remains are the chimneys.
We walked the 2.2k path in and around a fantastically tall forest and ravine, checking out the modest Paradise rental huts.
What would you do all day with no internet?
With views like these you can easily (or rather, we can easily!) see why.
Blub: pet cemetery
Now restored and used for gatherings.
If you'd like something a little fancier, you can rent the Annexe on airbnb (click through for more pix).
Once the original staff quarters for Paradise House, the Annexe is now considered one of our more luxurious options for staying at Paradise. It is located in close proximity to the Historic Miller House and with extensive renovations only recently completed it is fast becoming our most popular option for those people seeking extra comfort during their historic Paradise experience among the mountains.
The very last place before you reach the Southern Alps we offer 300 acres to roam and explore, with 360 degree magnificent mountain views. You simply will not know which way to look! Ideally placed alongside two National Parks you can chose to be as active or relaxed as you like. If you are searching for a place to get away from the madness of modern life and 'unplug' then look no further.
On to Kinloch, is it?
Crossing the Dart River.
Here's the full route, with lots of one-way bridges and both paved and gravel roads, a gorgeous drive (click here to view map if reading in email).
Built in 1868...Kinloch Lodge started as tavern for the sawmill workers nearby, and buildings were added to create a guest house as visitors to the area increased. Glacier Hotel had a great reputation despite Richard’s policy of shutting the bar at 10 o’clock and never selling a man enough to get him drunk. Business boomed when the rail from the South to Kingston was complete, changing focus to tourists arriving on the steamships. The Bryants pioneered eco tour guiding in the area, providing horses for guests and a supportive infrastructure. In the 1880s they had between 132-245 guests a year, with the Routeburn valley being the main draw (more here)...
Here's the snug bar and restaurant.
Routeburn Track, one of NZ's Great Walks, running from the top of lake near the lodge to Milford Sound. They run a shuttle to drop you off or pick you up, depending on your start point.
You can see the lake level is down. Our server told us this was because it hadn't rained in a couple months. Or is it something else?
According to Maori legend, Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu was formed by an evil giant who kidnapped a beautiful Maori maiden. Knocked down by the maiden’s rescuer, the giant now slumbers in the depths of the lake and his beating heart makes the lake rise and fall.
Heading back to Glenorchy in the setting sun, filled to near-bursting with the joy of it all.