New Zealand’s tourism ratings agency, Qualmark, recently paid a visit to Oamaru’s Pen-y-bryn Lodge as part of its periodic inspection programme. Since opening under new owners James Glucksman and James Boussy in 2010, Pen-y-bryn has consistently been rated as a 5-star “Guest and Hosted” property, but after a revision of the ratings categories earlier this year, Qualmark has done away with the “guest and hosted” category and has replaced it with three new categories: “Bed and Breakfast”, “Boutique and Lodge” and “New Zealand Luxury Lodge”.
The requirements for being awarded the “New Zealand Luxury Lodge” are quite strict, and include being in a unique and distinctive property, having a range of iconic activities available for guests to participate in, and serving top-quality cuisine and wine. Also, the assessment process is more robust, requiring that a pair of assessors spend the night at the applicant lodge, enjoying a meal and a lodge activity and having a chance to really ‘delve into’ the experience that the lodge offers.
Since the new categories were instituted earlier in the year, only one other lodge has been awarded this new rating as a result of a Qualmark assessment visit (other lodges have won the rating by virtue of their membership in groups like Relais & Chateaux), so it was a particularly big honour for Pen-y-bryn to be only the second lodge in New Zealand to have won this distinction.
The assessors were especially impressed by the historic nature of the lodge (reportedly the largest single-storey wooden dwelling in Australasia, built in 1889) and by the owners’ relaxed style of hosting. The activity that they chose to participate in was one of the lodge’s cooking classes, joining several other guests to learn how to bake homemade croissants in the lodge’s kitchens, though they also visited the famed Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony for the evening penguin viewing. As guests of Pen-y-bryn, they enjoyed a special treat reserved for Pen-y-bryn’s visitors: their entry ticket includes a free penguin adoption, complete with ‘their’ penguin’s biographical information, photograph and a certificate worthy of framing.
After dining at the lodge, with a menu featuring local and lodge-grown ingredients and wines from the Waitaki region, the assessors were treated to a complimentary Chinese tea degustation in the lodge’s Billiards Room, sampling three rare varieties of tea that Pen-y-bryn imports direct from China. And the following morning, they feasted on a full breakfast featuring more lodge-made croissants and jam, along with local eggs and bacon.
Oamaru and the Waitaki District are very proud to be the home of New Zealand’s second home-grown “New Zealand Luxury Lodge”, and look forward to welcoming the guests who are sure to want to see for themselves what makes this beautiful lodge so very special.