Otahuna is a Tai Tapu homestead formerly owned by Sir Heaton Rhodes
Otahuna is the former homestead of the lawyer, runholder, stock breeder, politician, horticulturist, philatelist and philanthropist Sir Heaton Rhodes (1861–1956) and his wife Jessie. Heaton Rhodes, the son of a wealthy landowner, was educated at Oxford University, and then returned to Christchurch as a lawyer. He served as an officer in the South African War, was elected to Parliament in 1899 and became Postmaster General and Minister of Health in 1912, and Minister of Defence in 1920. He later became a member of the Legislative Council. He was knighted in 1920. Sir Heaton is remembered as a Victorian country gentleman and benefactor known for his enthusiasm for life and kindness towards others. He was a long-term parliamentarian, a military officer, stockbreeder and keen horticulturist whose contributions are integral to the history of Canterbury. Otahuna would remain his home for more than 60 years until he passed away at the age of 95.
The name “Otahuna” is Maori and popularly translates as “little hill among the hills.” The homestead sits atop a small hill, between the rocky outcrops of the Banks Peninsula, providing commanding views of the gardens and across the plains to the Southern Alps. At Otahuna, Heaton Rhodes was regarded as a model farmer of the property's 5,000 acres of land and created a remarkable garden complete with an artificial lake. The grand country house is located near Tai Tapu on Banks Peninsula. The building, designed by Christchurch architect Frederick Strouts, was finished in 1895 and is registered with Heritage New Zealand as a Category I heritage structure. Strouts, noted for his design of Ivey Hall at Lincoln College, had designed two earlier houses for the Rhodes family in Christchurch as well Rhodes Memorial Home (1885-1887) built in memory of Rhodes' father. Otahuna is arguably one of Strouts' finest works. Queen Anne in style, the house's notable features include the complex roofline, the tall brick chimneys, the hexagonal corner tower, the sprawling asymmetrical elevations, extensive use of New Zealand timber, and elaborate architectural detail. One of the chimneys bears the date the house was completed and Rhodes' monogram (RHR). The interior of the house is notable for the fine woodwork and for the surviving wallpaper in the entrance hall, living room and dining room. The house has retained its substantial garden and much of the house is in near-original condition.
It sits within 14 hectares of landscaped gardens, planned originally by Kew Gardens-trained designer A.E. Lowe. In spring the grounds, which are recognised as of national significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust, feature countless swaying daffodils. The front gardens were created using Georgian garden design principles in which the dramatic surrounding Port Hills are mirrored and framed by plantings surrounding the Great Lawn. From this grand expanse of lawn, three bridges cross the ornamental lake leading to the daffodil field. During the first half of the 20th century, Otahuna became nationally famous for its field of daffodils - the largest in New Zealand at the time. Today, millions of bulbs still bloom resplendent every September, welcoming guests to the property on the annual charity open day. Elsewhere, a small pathway leads through an avenue of chusan palms into the Dutch Garden. Low buxus hedges laid out in a windmill pattern form six gravel pathways radiating out from a central circle. Sunlight filters through the canopy of exotic trees which include a host of camellias, a loquat, a weeping cherry and a strawberry tree. The potager-style vegetable garden provides for a huge range of heritage vegetables, herbs, nuts and berries all grown organically for the Lodge's kitchens. Apples, pears, quince, and other fruit abound in Otahuna's orchard which includes many trees from the Edwardian era. A sunken apple store and Victorian melon house are among some of the buildings surrounding the orchard.
Rhodes and his wife Jessie (1865-1929) had no children and after his death in 1956 Otahuna was sold. The government acquired the bulk of the estate in 1957 to subdivide into farms for returned servicemen. Otahuna, including its garden, was sold to J.E. Boyd, who ran it as a guesthouse. It was then owned by the Christian Brothers, a teaching fellowship who used Otahuna as their national headquarters between 1961 and 1972. For a time the house was occupied by the Otahuna Christian Community, who established a therapeutic community there, before it went back into private ownership in 1975 as a family home before Hall Cannon and Miles Refo bought Otahuna in 2006 and set about breathing new life into it. After an extensive refurbishment, they opened it as a private luxury lodge, bringing a spirit of hospitality and bonhomie back to one of the country’s grandest country houses – and its garden. Tatler has included it on its list of the 101 best hotels worldwide. After receiving damage in the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes the newly restored building opened again in August 2011.