Inside Vegas Golden Knights Owner Bill Foley’s New Zealand Luxury Lodge

Wharekauhau Lodge owners Cottage at sunset
Wharekauhau Lodge owners Cottage at sunset

Businessman Bill Foley has made a solid investment in the Vegas Golden Knights, the current No. 2 ranked team in the NHL… which is pretty impressive, considering the 2017-2018 season was its first. While the Knights’ overwhelming success was a surprise to many, it shouldn’t have been given Foley’s success in making solid investments. He made $40,000 in the stock market—in his spare time—while still at West Point in 1967, before negotiating million-dollar defense contracts with Boeing. Later, he bought and revitalized then struggling insurance firm Fidelity National Financial before he began investing in wineries, golf courses, hotels, ski resorts, steak houses, fast-food restaurants and auto parts manufacturers. Today, Foley serves as the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors for Fidelity National Financial Inc. (NYSE: FNF), and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for Fidelity National Information Services, Inc. (NYSE: FIS).Thanks to its underwriters—including Fidelity National Title, Chicago Title, Commonwealth Land Title and Alamo Title—the former issues more title insurance policies than any other title company in the United States.

And although Foley has a passion for the finest things in life—wine, food, hotels and golf—not all are aware that he actually owns a piece of property that’s so special it was even a preferred stop of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, during their Royal tour of New Zealand in 2014.

We introduce you to Wharekauhau Country Estate, which, after visiting in 2009, Foley decided to buy (with a deal done just six months after his initial stay… he works fast). Here, we introduce you to Foley’s stunning Wairarapa wine region estate.

Wharekauhau Lodge cottage
Wharekauhau Lodge cottage

When you drive from Wellington, the 2.5 hour journey to Wharekauhau Country Estate may feel like you’re on the road to nowhere. Sometimes, you might not even see another car for 20 or 30 minutes. But when you do reach one of New Zealand’s top luxury lodges, you’ll feel like you’re at the end of the Earth in the best way possible: this stunning, solitary retreat for the super private is yours, all yours.

The luxury lodge experience is something America lacks, and we’re so charmed that we barely want to stay anywhere else. They’re truly home away from homes, but better—because these “homes” include four-course farm-to-table dinners, wine and an outrageously adorable house puppy named Merlot (he’s a very quiet, well-behaved black Labrador that guests who miss their four-legged friends can take for walks and temporarily claim as their own).

But back to the stay/escape. Wharekauhau, which means ‘place of knowledge,’ is a 5000-acre working sheep station, so expect to see friendly sheep dotting the pastures outside your cottage and mountains shining against the sky. The gentle sound of the ocean is perfect ambiance as you watch a spectacular sunset overlooking Palliser Bay.

Whether you stay in a cottage or the cottage (rather, Foley’s “Owners Cottage”), expect to step into a bygone era with Edwardian grandeur. When you first step foot into your abode, there’s a lot to take in, and every little detail elicits a tiny gasp of delighted surprise (or, it did in our case).There’s the huge four-poster bed with a canopy and wrap-around hemp curtains (and apparently, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge felt right at home as well); natural materials including clay tiles, pebble mosaics, rich New Zealand wool carpeting, and soft cotton linens; the amazing views of Palliser Bay through a huge bay window; an open gas fireplace; the double-size sunken marble tub with every kind of bath product imaginable (plus, that stellar view again, so yeah, you’ve got to take a bath; we demand it!); a huge, unparalleled walk-in closet that Imelda Marcos would just love to get her shoes in; heated marble floors; satellite TV; a mini-bar; and even, yes, fabulous homemade cookies for an extra personal touch. Add in the natural materials are used throughout the cottage suites.

In the main lodge, you’ll find carefully-chosen antique furniture and oversized classic fireplaces, cozy nooks and crannies where you can curl up with a good book in front of a fireplace, and even a gaming room with a pool table, TVs and snacks in case there happens to be a particularly important (ahem, NHL) game on. In the lodge, you’ll also find an elegant main room where pre-dinner drinks and canapes are served alongside stellar conversation with enigmatic lodge manager Richard Rooney; an open-air country kitchen and conservatory, which looks like something Martha Stewart might dream up; and an elegant formal dining room, where the farm-to-table style “locavorian” cuisine is served (e verything is sourced fresh from Wharekauhau’s own gardens or in surrounding areas).

And that’s just the lodge. Walk through the French doors and step into another world; Wharekauhau’s magical private courtyard and gardens, which include a croquet lawn and Pentanque field; hiking trails; a 79-foot swimming pool; a top-of-the-line gym with fixed weights, free weights, elliptical machine, treadmill, cycle, multi-gym and yoga mats; and a tennis court. There are also two golf courses nearby, including the Royal-status Royal Wellington Golf Course.

Last, but not least, yes, there is even a spa. The lodge has big plans to build a larger spa area in the coming year, but for now, Amelie Agerter, a German transplant with magical hands, will be treating you from a private, cozy little room on property, where she’ll give you a Manuka honey gel mask or glowing skin with organic Millefeuille beauty products.

Honestly, all in all, this lodge is the one to beat.

Wharekauhau Lodge Owners Cottage
Wharekauhau Lodge Owners Cottage

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