About the Lodge



Hapuku Lodge +Tree Houses was designed and built by the Wilson family: five siblings (Michael, Tony, Peter, Marilyn and Sara), who grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, and their children. It all started in the mid 1850s, in the very early days of settlement by Europeans, when Francis John Wilson, our great grandfather, at 19 years of age, settled in Timaru. He was a carpenter who became an architect and the progenitor of 4 subsequent generations of architects. Francis Gordon Wilson was his grandson, and father and grandfather of the current Wilson family. Francis Gordon (called Don or F. Gordon) was an architect who in 1936, a few weeks after moving to Wellington, the Capital, to take up an appointment to head the new State Housing Department in the middle of the Great Depression, married our mother, Virginia, an American, just off the boat from California. They settled in Wellington and raised us. In 1951 Gordon was appointed New Zealand’s Chief Government Architect. He passed away in 1959. With his passing, Virginia returned to California, with children.  

In California two of Gordon’s three sons, Michael and Peter, became architects. In 2016 Julia Mandell-Wilson, daughter of Marilyn, became a licensed architect in California and is now working with the family firm of Wilson Associates in Oakland, California. In 1986 Tony, Peter and Sara had formed Wilson Associates (Wilson-Associates.net) to design, build and operate small, high quality properties.  At the same time, they formed businesses devoted to producing, importing and selling food. (MarketHallFoods.com and Manicaretti.com). 

Over the years we have frequently returned to New Zealand.    Tony in particular has spent a good deal of his time in the country. Tony and Paul, Michael’s eldest son, who has lived in New Zealand almost all his life, first came to Kaikoura in the mid-1990s to farm and surf.  They bought 35 acres of deer fenced land above the surf break in Mangamaunu Bay and began to farm deer. Over the years they have expanded the farm until today it encompasses over 500 acres, running over 800 head of deer.  

With the farm on its feet, Tony thought that Kaikoura’s unique landscape presented the opportunity to weave something special out of the threads that run through the family - a fascination with design, with building, and with all things to do with food – so we set out to develop what we initially thought would be a roadside café/pub, eco friendly, with its own garden and fowls. When we opened in 2003 we had 6 beds and a relatively large café/bar.    

The café prospered and put us in touch with the many overseas visitors attracted to Kaikoura.  From them we learnt that the Lodge could be so much more. The Tree Houses grew out of the thought that if one could but be a bird one could more fully appreciate the beauty that is Kaikoura. To position people in the tree tops would put them closer to the birds, to the mountains, to the ocean and the sky.  The Tree Houses allow our guests to nest in the tree tops in a beautiful version of a child’s tree house, among the birds. Indeed, each house is named after the native bird that showed the most affinity for the house then under construction: Kereru (the NZ native pigeon); Piwakawaka (the Fantail) for the second; Kotare (the Kingfisher) for the third; Tui for the fourth; and Korimako (the Bellbird) for the fifth.

The Lodge and Tree Houses, designed and built by the Wilsons, offer a unique and inviting environment, even down to the furniture, a good deal of which Peter and Tony designed and had crafted locally, with the help of three skilled furniture makers, David King, Lochlan Hill and Michael Henwood. Particular attention was paid to the beds, even down to the design of the mattresses, with the result that many guests say our beds are "the most comfortable beds in the South Island.”  


In 2002 Kaikoura, as a township, was the first local authority in the world to become a Green Globe certified community. In addition, nearly every local operator has a green mission threaded through their operations, caring for the environment which brings tourists from all over the world.

We recognise that guests to Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses may travel great distances to experience the spectacular scenery and maritime activities of Kaikoura. Our aim is to nurture this unique environment, restoring it through planting native trees, re-introducing native birds, and being sustainable in our operations.

Beyond tree planting, our eco-efforts include:

  • We are sourcing over 75% of our ingredients and products from local farmers and purveyors.
  • The kitchen garden is completely organic, growing seasonal vegetables and herbs.
  • Our aim is to reduce, recycle and compost with a goal of becoming a zero-waste community.
  • Timber used in construction and interiors are responsibly sourced or recycled and salvaged timbers.
  • Our Tree Houses have small private fireplaces that are some of the most efficient fireplaces in the world.
  • All rooms have significant insulation and double glazing.