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  • Writer's pictureJulie Wolbers

Ribbonwoods Connection to New Zealand Nature

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Ribbonwood Retreat Lies at the Heart of Glacier Country

On the secluded West Coast of New Zealand, Ribbonwood Retreat is surrounded by nature abundant with wildlife, sprawling valley farmland and rainforest that eventually kisses the base of the mighty Southern Alps towering out of the ground.

Ribbonwood Retreat's intimate connection with nature is one of the reasons we love sharing the space with people from all over the world so that they can experience New Zealand's nature and culture at its best, the way we get to every day! From the moment you step outside of The Cottage or The Waiho Suite and breathe in the fresh country air, it's as though the kaleidoscope of West Coast lakes, rivers, mountains, valleys and streams envelope you, pulling you into the present, stimulating your sense of adventure and conjuring a deep appreciation for the natural surrounds.

Accommodation Amidst Glacier Country

We are proud to have created spaces and an experience where nature is quite literally on your back doorstep with accommodation options set upon two and a half acres of established lawns, native trees and plants and edible gardens creating fresh produce for our guests year-round - yet we are located merely a few minutes to the hub of Franz Josef Glacier. Here, you can jump on a helicopter to experience the world-renowned Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike, pack a picnic and soak in the famous Waiho Hot Tubs, take a dip in nearby Lake Mapourika, dine at one of our fabulous restaurants and cafes or take a stroll through temperate rainforest on one of our many short or long walks.

Ribbonwood Retreat is a must-stay for nature lovers or those longing for slow-down, rejuvenation and reconnection. Let's bring it back to New Zealand nature...

Native Birds

Franz Josef Glacier is a mecca for native birds, with the iconic Rowi or Ōkārito Brown Kiwi found only here. Our land is home to a combination of natural wetlands, such as the Ōkārito Lagoon, coastal forest, farmland and alpine forests - it is not surprising that Ribbonwood Retreats backyard is abundant with birdlife.

We encourage birds to linger in our backyard by planting bird-attracting tree species - many self-seeded native trees are growing in our garden. One of these is fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata), one of our few deciduous trees. Its prolific flowers attract bellbirds, wood pigeons and the tui bird to the garden in early spring. We witness beautiful birdsong from dawn to dusk, starting with bellbirds at first light then tui and the fantail bird all day long. This winter we put up a sugar water feeder in a fuchsia and after waiting with anticipation, eventually, a tui started feeding there! The tui would come to the dining room window to remind us when it was empty.

Temperate Rainforest

Descending to just 250m above sea level, Franz Josef Glacier is one of only three glaciers in the world that drops into a temperate rainforest zone, the others being Fox Glacier located a slow one-hour drive from Ribbonwood Retreat and the Perito Merino Glacier in Argentina.

Ribbonwood Retreat is lucky to be surrounded by this gorgeous rainforest no matter which direction you turn. We have 5 metres of rain a year in Glacier Country, most people exclaim with horror when they hear this but the thing is, when it rains it pours and we are well balanced with long fine spells in between making for the perfect opportunity to explore the glacier and glorious rainforest right in our backyard. The waterfalls come gushing down, our mountain views are stunning, the glacier is just “a stone’s throw” away from the village and of course, without the rainfall, we wouldn't have our stunning forest! ​

A Unique Stay in Glacier Country

Another way in which Ribbonwood Retreat is uniquely connected to nature is because we are located in a UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO is tasked with safeguarding living heritage for future generations and we do what we can to support that by giving back to nature whenever possible.

​Environmental sustainability ethos exists at the heart of our core values – that is why we use environmentally friendly cleaning products, make our soap in-house and provide NZ-crafted, eco-friendly products. We have planted 500 trees on the property as a carbon reduction initiative and are actively involved in community environmental projects. At present, we are setting up our own predator control programme in the Glacier Valley.

A little taste of how our Retreat connects you with New Zealand nature...

​Our sunny and private cottage is set in passionately landscaped surroundings offering views of the glaciers and glorious mountains of Westland National Park. We invite you to relax on your large private deck and witness the breathtaking colour palette of one of our famous West Coast sunsets. Embrace the welcoming warmth of the Scandinavian-style cottage built from solid timber.

The Waiho Suite boasts views of stunning Westland National Park and vistas that travel as far as the eye can see, inviting you to truly let go, relax and jump off the conveyor belt of life. The Wahio Suite encompasses two bedrooms of which both have ranch slider doors that open out onto private decks, perfectly positioned to soak up the majestic naturescapes.

Retreat to our Rainforest Garden

​We have a large garden and tunnel house, producing vegetables and berries which are served as part of the food experience at Ribbonwood Retreat - another way in which we connect you with nature! Bringing it inside, on your plate!

Our large walk-in berry house houses garden fruit including strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, specially grown for our guests' breakfasts. Explore our raised and covered garden beds which provide a variety of seasonal produce including spinach and silverbeet. Will you be inspired to grow your own food at home?

Jonathan was pleased to learn that hazelnuts suited the poor silty soils here, as these are his favourite nuts. Over the years we have planted nearly 100 hazelnut trees of five different varieties to enhance pollination. Enjoy reaping the hazelnut tree rewards every March.

All green waste is composted with leaves and grass clippings and layered onto the beds to enhance soil fertility and drainage. We love watching the native trees and shrubs we planted years ago mature, providing food and habitat for so many birds.

We look forward to welcoming you to Ribbonwood Retreat soon :)

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