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Reviewed 31 January 2018

Last week we arrived at Observation Rock Lodge expecting to experience everything the website and reviews had said, but being bitterly disappointed from the moment we arrived is an understatement.

The request to deposit the full CASH amount upfront into Annett's bank account from Australia (not just a deposit) should have made us suspicious, but not used to thinking that way, my husband thought the holiday sounds too good to be true, and it was!

A luxury stay does not normally entail, staying in an attic with no fly screens and yes we were woken with bugs crawling on us, no fans, no hanging space, no ensuite, but a bathroom across a curtain covered landing leading down the stairs to the main entry for all guests. Fitted with heated towel rails set to heat only at certain times, and only a shaving mirror too high to reach, plastic bags of cheap teabags and a dirty old kettle, cleaning products and caravan park soaps - there was no luxury there for $795 a night.
Our so-called deck fitted two narrow chairs abreast and we were told not to lean against the railing as it wasn't secured, as it was an eight meter drop below.

Our pillows were thin and hard, our top sheet on a double bed was for a single bed and in fact an empty doona cover so we were pulling it back and forth all night.
The complimentary towelling scuffs we were offered weren't new after being worn by various guests. Not once were we offered new ones in plastic wrap as in other overnight stays.

The evening meal was served at a table by a window where the sun set with no protection, screens or air conditioning. Guests were perspiring profusely and becoming sunburnt. The handwritten menus are in photos below - the salads were nothing like the photo on the website but actually red onion rings with olives which was classed as the second course of the 4 course gourmet meal. That was to share for 2. As per photo below we were already full from our first share course of runny dips and crackers.

Every night the dinner wines would arrive from the local bottle shop as no BYOG was the rule, so the Withers Hills Pinot Noir for our last night, we saw there the next morning for $15.99, whereas we were charged $53.00. Again we were told to bring cash to pay for wine from her choice of fine wines?

The garden is green and the views and birds like everywhere on Stewart island are lovely. Having selected the Lodging Deluxe option, an inclusion as specified on the website was “Exclusive outdoors Kiwi Hot Tub with a view/Bush Sauna with outlook into the Native Forest.” We didn't see a hot tub, and the unused looking sauna was covered in cobwebs!

Surely there is an Association in NZ tasked with auditing properties as well as their online reviews to ensure operators are not taking advantage of innocent tourists and in this case giving Stewart Island accommodation providers a bad name.

This is the first time in my 25 years of travelling that I have written a negative review, but to warn others, I feel it is our responsibility.

We were deceived into thinking we would enjoy 5 star accommodation but instead received 1 star accommodation at a 5 star price.

Room Tip: There are none
  • Stayed: January 2018, travelled as a couple
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
4  Thank stephenguest40
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Annett E, Inhaber at Observation Rock Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 5 February 2018

Hello Lynette and Peter G (whoever „stephenguest“ is who´s tripadvisor account you use).

I am sorry your stay on Stewart Island and Observation Rock Lodge did not meet your expectations.

For sure we prefer to spend our time on giving our guests a personal hosting and a good time, as well as improving the place even more – but as it seems some time needs to be put aside to reply to this review.

Here we go – there is a long and detailed one by Annett (my apologies to anyone who decides to read it all + consider English being my second language) and another more compact one by Phil.


You did not come to Observation Rock Lodge „last week“ but on the 09.01.2018.

I would wish you had expressed your „bitter disappointment“ the moment you arrived – but no, you would (just as an example) say you do not need hangers for the new room. I had offered it!
Everything was fully functional, and you were „very easy“ (your words). I should have thought twice about this when you later that day „asked“ me about the Dinner dress code which you expected to be in place at a luxurious Lodge.

Sorry, we are not the place for suits and gala robes. Our guests dress nicely and I hope they better use their luggage space for good outdoor equipment than chi-chi.
The island, and Observation Rock Lodge, is for discerning travellers, nature and bird lovers, individual seekers and finders of a special place – not for snobs, shopping and dinner jackets. If this review& reply clarifies this to others too it was worth the time.
I remember you Lynette being bitterly disappointed as well when you once went for a stroll and there was no taxi station when you did not feel like walking anymore.

It is common practice to pay the full amount for a Lodge booking in advance, and of course (see website) we have a cancellation and refund policy, (that you might find quite generous, compared to some Lodges of New Zealand). If guests want to pay in portions of deposits, that is fine too but means spending extra fees on the banks.

If your husband thought this holiday sounds „too good to be true“ this might have been due to the fact that you were able to book a luxurious boutique Lodge with just 3 rooms and personal hosting, owner-operated. Private chef, amazing spacious gardens and panoramic views right from the bed, plus private decks etc pp for a price of NZ$780 (not „795“) per night per night/ room/ couple, and this even included Dinner, a Scenic & Historic guided Tour of the island with Phil, and a guided Garden Tour (New Zealand Trees/ Ferns/ Birds). Feel free to compare that with other Lodges of New Zealand which you claim to be used to – where you will find prices the multiple of this – but per person! Not including Gst. Not including any activities or tours. These places on the mainland are purpose-built and have a whole-year-round season, 20 to 30 identical rooms, big numbers of staff, golf and gym facilities … a resort and completely different story.

The „attic“ is our new room with the top views of the island and the utmost privacy. Tasteful decorated, classy, arty and charming. It offers good space for luggage. The bed is facing the most spectacular panoramic view and the sunsets, stars and southern lights (if an Aurora is happening) are the best on the island. The bathroom has a spacious shower as well as a luxurious bath tub and views out to the sea and down on the birds as you are on top.
Our new “starlight room“, carefully designed and lovingly put in place.

Of course the windows have a fly screen (second, extra thin transparent curtain), I am surprised you did not use it. Sorry about being woken „with bugs crawling on you“.
Fans we fortunately do not need to deal with as there are two windows and the door to the balcony and Stewart Island´s fresh air.

Lots of hanging space there – always happy to take on good advice.

The bathroom not being ensuite – your opinion.
The stairs are the private entry to the upstairs, a thick curtain covers the view in the new spacious Lobby if you wish - and we even might consider closing it all in. Thank you for your input, will ask other guests opinion too.

Heated towel rail settings which make them go twice a day for few hours at suitable times is common. Or do you want to cook the towels 24/7in the most unsustainable way?

The mirror tilts – am sorry you did not do that. The bathroom will have another big mirror too.

There is a tea making facility downstairs with a good range of quality teas. To make it more comfortable for the upstairs, there is a small extra kettle, not „old and dirty“ but new and clean, it was just purchased and you being the second ones to use it at all. Plus a selection of the same teas but in small zip bags to keep them fresh and dry – this was improvised and will give more thought to it.

The deck is much bigger than you describe it – what a pity you did not take some photographs of this one, as well as the room, the birds visiting and the panoramic views!
The balustrading is absolutely safe and professionally done. It needs an extra corner support which for the glass company will get back with better design (the company had finished it just before Christmas and there was no way of getting them back that quickly) Apologies for this. Your claim of „it wasn´t secured“ is a lie.

The bed has 6 pillows on it, big thick ones, smaller thick ones, and smaller thin ones. I learned from well traveled customers how much they appreciate the choice of different pillows. The Designer bed is between Queen&King size with a futon and the additional choice of another flash 5cm soft pad. We found most guests prefer a firm bed but this one can be either that or soft as well.
With all your problems re bed, slippers, bedding etc. I would have been more than happy to help – and I asked you every day if you needed something? No. What you forgot to mention, I did your laundry, complimentary.

The evening meal is served at the Dinner table in the Lounge with lovely views to the sea, the gardens, and the sunset. Stewart Island´s only dining with a sunset view. Stewart Island´s Maori name is Rakiura -Land of the Glowing Skies. There are windows to open, a good airing, and a transparent sunscreen curtain.

The Dinner was: Home-made Aiolis and Crackers to start with, Tomatos with feta cheese, olive oil and balsamico, red onion and herbs – we are fortunate to have a wonderful supply of fresh organic produce from own vegetable gardens and glass house. Followed by our beautiful Blue Cod and so on. I have never served olives! No idea where you take that from.

Might have to do with the wine – as you had several bottles and maybe mixed it up. Our wines are sourced from a classy boutique wine society which allows access to specialty wines of great quality. Due to the high demand and being early January we ran out of Pinot Noir, so Phil got some from the store what was an exception at all, and we charged not $53 but much less for it. It was a stunning Pinot Gris you paid the $53 for.

We decided against Credit Cards at the stage as we are dealing with small numbers of exclusive guests and rather invest in improvements and sustainability than in bank fees or increasing charges. The deposits are easy paid by online banking or TransferWise and other options. Most small businesses on the island, within the short season, take cash payments for the various payments of small amounts (as our extras on site) and bank it at the end of summer.

We had a hot January – and you did not express any interest for the Hot Tub, which of course is there. There is no single cobweb IN the bush sauna, all nice and clean. The outside – being in the bush/ Native forest, gets a brush before use, and in between. My apologies for not having it all brushed in the heat of January´s most busy days when nobody had expressed an interest in having a sauna.

I am amazed what effort you went to with your photographs, being „innocent tourists“. Everybody knows you can produce appaling photography if you try really hard, and you did. You even would remove the fresh flowers of the window sill, and compose a sad look. Apart from this they are misleading on a big scale. Your window photograph (named“ No screens in bedroom. Sandfly and mosquito´s live here“) shows the BATHroom window (which gets a extra screen curtain anyway), not a bedroom window at all! I would have appreciated you putting the same attention to your pockets when you left here and forgot to return the clever little torch from Germany we keep available for our guests to use.

Pictures of the new bedroom, it´s panorama window etc.,will be featured on the website soon.
Thanks to any readers for your patience – With kind regards from Stewart Island, Annett

Disappointed by review.
- photos taken to deliberately present images that support her viper-like comments
- stunning views, wonderful food, excellent hosting – please read reviews of ANY and ALL other guests
- malicious attack from pompous guest with an extremely high opinion of herself
- found one thing to be unhappy about, then set about imagining all and sundry to be unacceptable for herself, like a spiteful little child
- refer discerning readers/ travelers to ALL our other reviews
- hope she got home safely to her self-spouted „wealthy“ suburb in Perth (yes, she told me twice), and stays there permanently to the relief of all!

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 January 2018

My partner and I stayed in Observation Rock Lodge for 5 nights, 3 in the cottage room and 2 in the regular room with an en-suite bathroom. Both rooms were cozy and well laid-out, with even the smaller cottage room fitting the two of us just fine. The beds were wonderful to sleep in and the peace and quiet of the location meant we had some great, restful nights between our busy days. The restrooms were well-appointed and despite a recent moderate drought (hopefully ending this week) Observation Rock Lodge's rainwater storage supplies proved more than able to accommodate our needs.

From being picked up by Phil at the start of our trip to our last day's morning kayak trip (again with Phil) the stay was wonderful, with Annett and Phil proving excellent hosts. They were always available to help with even small queries.

We were lucky enough to be able to experience Annett's 3-course dinners on 3 separate nights, and each one was divine. The in-house breakfast was flexible in timing, tasty and a solid start to the day. She was also happy to chat about life on Stewart Island and help us plan what to do during our stay.

Phil's island and garden tours were fun and informative, and his kayak trips are also not to be missed. Phil was also happy to drop us off at the ferry on our way out and helped out some other guests by picking them up in his van at the end of a long day's walk.

If we ever make it back to Stewart Island we will certainly be booking into Observation Rock Lodge again, and we cannot recommend it highly enough.

Room Tip: Cottage room is a bit smaller than the others and gets a bit warmer during the day but is an excellent budget choice.
  • Stayed: January 2018, travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Service
Thank Markus_Jury
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 January 2018

We were able to stay 2 nights at Observation Rock. We had the best sleep there so far on our month long trip through South Island. Annette fixed a delicious lamb dinner our first night and yummy cold and hot breakfast the next day. Annette sat with us and helped us figure out how we wanted to spend our time and gave us all the information we would need. She even gave us a flashlight for a late night walk to see the Penguins coming home. Phil gave us a thorough and informative tour of the island. We saw places we would never have gotten to. I would stay there again in a heartbeat.

Stayed: January 2018, travelled as a couple
Thank billles2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 December 2017 via mobile

Observation Rock is in a beautiful setting in Oban on Stewart. It is a terrific B and B. The rooms are charming, easy walk to town, breakfasts delicious. The hosts Annette and Phil work to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. They are knowledgeable about the island and always helpful. Highly recommended,

Stayed: December 2017, travelled as a couple
Thank Barbara H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 December 2017

We stayed three nights at Observation lodge and were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves. The owners Annette and Phil and were very pleasant and knowledgeable. The lodge is about a ten minute walk from the action in Oban and close to Golden Bay(There are hills on both routes). Terrific bird life in the garden, including the friendly resident Kaka (Hoppie). Amazing views over the bay from the garden and living areas. Annette cooked dinner one night and it was wonderful

  • Stayed: December 2017, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Chris M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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