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Celebrating 10 Years & New Offerings With The Falls Retreat

The Falls Retreat offers perhaps one of the most memorable experiences along the Hauraki Rail Trail.  For almost a decade, this exceptional venue opposite the Owharoa Falls has offered visitors award winning dining and boutique accommodation options. Like many of our Official Partners they are a family-run business, and try to live and do business ethically using local and homegrown products. 

The renowned wood-fired gourmet pizzas and the Bistro have been a Must Do for foodies on their Rail Trail adventure, with a much anticipated opportunity to enjoy amazing food in a relaxed and informal environment. Those who've wanted to really indulge, and get away from the hustle and bustle, have stayed overnight in one of the quaint cottages.  


Photo Credit: Falls Retreat - Waterfall Cabin


With so much to see and do around the Gorge it's been the perfect place for a family weekend, a romantic getaway, or just a place to rest tired legs after cycling the trail.  The team have also enjoyed tailoring functions and weddings, and run regular cooking workshops and gardening courses designed to give top tips and lots of knowledge. 

Celebrating 10 years this year, owners Emma Walters and Brad King have decided to refocus on the core of why they started the business, and that is to create special experiences.  So whilst the Falls Retreat will change as we have come to know it, it's an exciting evolution, and a much anticipated next chapter of their journey. 

We caught up with Emma and Brad to hear more about what's driving the changes, and what visitors can look forward to when they next visit this magical hidden gem along the Trail.


Photo Credit: Falls Retreat - Owner Operators, Emma Walters and Brad King


How long have you resided at the Falls Retreat, and has the Bistro operated for the same time?

Our son was not quite one when we moved over from Melbourne.  He is now a teenager so that must be around 13 years!  The Bistro is celebrating it’s 10th Birthday this year.


Did you always intend to build a new home on the property?  Was this with a view to improving / extending the accommodation options for visitors?

The plan to build a new home has been on the radar for about 5 years.  Being located in the beautiful Karangahake Gorge meant we had to go through the process of applying for resource consent (as building is not a permitted activity), proving our plans would not impinge on the natural beauty and serenity of the area.  We also then discovered a historical water race dating back over 100 years on our original planned site.  This apparently used to ferry logs from Owharoa Falls to Waikino Battery in the gold mining days, and had since been covered over.  So a visit from an archaeologist and identifying where it ran was an interesting process.  It meant the house had to be re-sited to avoid building over the top of it, as it’s a protected feature.  Our previous home on the property, the Log Cabin, is now available for nightly rental and is a beautiful charming space.  There’s a queen bedroom downstairs and a mezzanine level (where the kids used to sleep).  Our teenage son was overdue his own room ☺ but we do miss its cozy, homely feel.


Photo Credit: Falls Retreat - Award Winning Dining Experiences


What changes will guests see and benefit from when they next stay at Falls Retreat?  Are similar changes being made to the dining options?

We are changing what we do in the Bistro.  We have grown so much we are now struggling to find enough staff, so we are redirecting slightly, and downsizing.  We will offer more dining “experiences” and selected events, rather than offer a lunch and dinner menu.  However, we were conscious we didn’t want this to impinge on the Falls Retreat experience for staying guests when the Bistro is not open.  We have therefore introduced an “in-house dining” menu, meaning they can still enjoy a two-course restaurant quality meal in the comfort of their own cottage.  Our chef delivers it to them “room service style”.  Our brand is all about delivering amazing food made from scratch, and using our organic produce, and this hasn’t changed!


Falls Retreat is renowned for its wood-fired pizzas and Bistro, will these remain in the new set up?

Our commitment to providing amazing food in a beautiful setting will remain, but our Bistro is closing for casual dining.  This means that we will no longer offer lunch and dinner menus five days per week, and will introduce a range of dining experiences where bookings will be essential.  We are planning on introducing The Social Pizza Night, where we will offer a sharing style menu focusing on our wood-fired pizzas.  The other option is to get together a group of 20 or more, as we will continue to offer our Grazing Menu for group bookings and functions.  This includes a selection of wood-fired pizzas and delicious salads using organic produce from our veggie gardens.  It’s a sharing style menu, and perfect for a casual style dining when bike riding!


Photo Credit: Falls Retreat - Gourmet Wood-Fired Pizza


What has driven the changes?

It’s about downsizing and redirecting, to be able to offer our customers more of an “experience”.  The Social Pizza Nights on selected Fridays will cater for those wanting a casual style of dining.  Whereas our Paddock to Plate Dining Experience on Saturday evenings is a 4-course degustation menu, and Sunday lunches will be a family style set menu.  So different experiences depending on when you come, meaning we will cater to a wide range of budgets and tastes.  We want to guarantee our food is made from scratch, and remains focused on our paddock to plate ethos.  We will also continue to cater for functions, group bookings and weddings.


Photo Credit: Falls Retreat - Specialising in Weddings, Functions & Parties


Will the venue close for a period whilst you undertake the work and improvements?

Yes, our Bistro is currently closed until Saturday 8th May, but our accommodation continues to run 7 days per week with the “in-house” dining options available for all our overnight guests.  This means they can still enjoy a 2-course restaurant quality meal in the comfort of their own cottage.  We include a continental breakfast as standard, and the option to upgrade to a cooked breakfast, which are also delivered to the cottages.


What are you looking forward to most from the new arrangement?

Offering more unique and personal experiences.  We are all about attention to detail, and wanting to make our guest experience more personal, and one they’ll remember.  It’s a chance to connect with nature, food, and each other, and we believe we have all the elements to offer this.  On a personal note, attaining the ever-elusive work/life balance remains a long term goal!


Throughout April the venue are offering a range of cooking and gardening workshops, and will be providing special in-house dining options to all of their overnight guests.  The Team re-launch on Saturday 8th May with their Paddock to Plate Dining Experience and a Mothers Day special lunch on Sunday 9th May.  Bookings are essential.  If you want to keep up to date with news and events, you can sign up to the newsletter here


Photo Credit: Falls Retreat - Paddock to Plate Ethos


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