Hotel review: Ruapehu’s Nightsky Cottage for family holidays or romantic getaways

Room Check
Dawn Picken enjoys a mother-daughter stay at Nightsky Cottage in the Ruapehu Region

Location:A 10-minute drive from Ohakune, tucked into the bush of Horopito.

Style: Modern, sustainable eco-cottage set in a hectare of native mānuka and ancient beech trees.

Price: From $630 per night, though the website currently offers $50 off per night with a two-night minimum stay.

Perfect for: Couples who like seclusion with style, or small families seeking a more upmarket experience when visiting Ruapehu.

First impressions: I was grateful the owner, Carel, showed us how to reach the property. It feels remote the first time, but gets progressively easier to find. Carel pointed out his favourite spots around the cottage, including two perfectly positioned Adirondack chairs nestled among mānuka and beech trees. On a clear day, you can sit in an open space and marvel at the sunset over Mount Ruapehu. We stood under the tree canopy, watching pīwakawaka flit from branch to branch. Access to the cottage is via a boardwalk. A code gets you in through the bright orange door.

Enormous windows offer views from every corner, and skylights harness sunbeams by day, stars and moonbeams by night. A wood-burning fire, which Carel graciously started for our first evening, keeps the 90sq m of this abode cosy. A large deck and table enable outdoor lounging or dining. Sustainable materials and practices are evident throughout the cottage – you’re hard-pressed to find single-use plastics, most packaging is recycled and food scraps are composted. All cleaning materials and bathroom amenities are made from natural New Zealand ingredients.

Rooms: The two spacious identical bedrooms have heaters and electric blankets and feature king-sized beds with soft linens. Fans of extra firm mattresses will be super-stoked. Each bedroom overlooks native bush.

In the kitchen, we found an espresso machine, coffee, six kinds of tea – one made with horopito – plus a bespoke horopito chocolate bar. Its namesake ingredient gives the chocolate a slightly spicy, peppery taste. Mānuka honey, local sourdough bread, muesli and fresh Anzac bikkies rounded out the pantry offerings. The mini-fridge was stocked with local eggs, fresh milk and yoghurt. No one is going hungry here. A microwave, hob and oven ensure anything you serve can be piping hot.

Bathroom: One of Night Sky’s brightest stars is the bathroom. It includes two side-by-side freestanding baths with trays where you can place a candle and a beverage. It overlooks the bush, but thanks to its location, is totally private. My 17-year-old daughter and I travelled with friends, so everyone brought togs to enjoy tandem soaks. A walk-in shower, double vanities and gorgeous pōhutukawa print wallpaper round out this generous space. New Zealand-made natural soaps, oils, bath bombs and lotion add to the luxurious experience. The cucumber mint hand cream smells and feels fresh and clean.

Facilities: Free Wi-Fi, games, a washing machine, dryer and barbecue make the cottage truly self-contained. Parking is 50 metres from the front door, and the boardwalk is lit at night.

Food and drink: Once you’ve had your fill of the kitchen’s offerings, take the short drive to Ohakune for an Italian feast at Osteria; hamburgers, fried chicken and baked goods at the Blind Finch or seriously good coffee and toasted sandwiches at Thorn. There’s also a host of international options including pizza, Asian, Mexican and Turkish food.

In the neighbourhood: You can’t miss the sprawling car yard at Horopito Motor Wreckers, site of the 1981 Kiwi film, Smash Palace. Stop to gawk at rusting vintage cars and grab a photo. The Old Coach Road trail starts nearby, winding about 15km through the Tongariro National Forest. You can walk or mountainbike through native bush while discovering New Zealand’s rail heritage. Also in the area, the 7.5m tall Ohakune carrot and bush walks including the Waitonga Falls track with Tongariro National Park’s highest waterfall. Turoa ski area is about 20 minutes away and Whakapapa about 45 minutes by car. Pipiriki, home of Whanganui River Adventures, is a 45-minute drive. The National Army Museum in Waiouru is just half an hour away.

Accessibility: The boardwalk is easy to navigate and the cottage sits on one level. Access between indoors and outdoors is seamless. The corridor between the bedrooms and bathroom is wide.

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