Pukaki Air Lodge

We chat with the owners: Mary and Grant

As the cycleways bring new business to local communities, nowhere is this as obvious as in the accommodation offerings. On all trails growth in a wide array of innovative and exciting overnight options are what makes the trails diverse and exciting. Out on the Pukaiki Airport, several sections have been sold to interested parties and Pukaiki Air Lodge. Owners Mary and Grant Murdoch arrived with a vision to combine their love of aviation with hospitality to create a memorable overnight experience.

What is the story behind your accommodation creation?

Grant (commonly known as Muddy) and I have holidayed in this region with the children for a number of years and then with the youngest about to leave home in 2017, we seized the opportunity to purchase a section and build a hangar. We had spent 20 years restoring a Chinese CJ6 Nanchang and it was in need of a new home, and we were looking to do something different. Muddy was until recently an airline pilot for Virgin Australia, but is now a casual on call pilot for the Mt Cook Skydive company, as well as pilot for the Nanchang joy rides. I work as the local physiotherapist providing services to the Twizel townspeople and surrounding areas 2 days per week, so I’m able to provide useful advice to those suffering from any pains from unaccustomed exercise of bike trail riding.

Pukaki Air Lodge - Blog

What capacity does your Air Lodge have for visitors?

We have 4 x superior en-suite bedrooms, each catering for 2 persons and 1 x large family room which can accommodate a further 4 persons. This room doubles as our accessible bedroom. Our accommodation is an easy reach from the end of Pukaki Flats section of the trail, without having to cycle on the road.

Platters of pre-dinner nibbles and drinks (Locally sourced Ostler wines and Burkes beers) are also able to be purchased on pre-order request, for relaxing and unwinding in our upstairs guest lounge at the end of a big day cycling. We are 4 minute drive to town and guests have the option of complimentary shuttle into Twizel for dinner at one of the very good restaurants or we also have a car to hire if the aim is to explore the general area a bit further afield. Breakfast is provided to see cyclists on their way in the morning. Lunches can be provided on request, or purchased from the bakery, supermarket or cafes on the way through in the morning.

Is there really a B52 Bomber stored in the hanger?

Well that may be an exaggeration – but we do have a cool Chinese CJ6 Nanchang flying machine that we spent 20 years restoring – so I guess thats bit different from the usual rose garden. Our plane is housed in the hangar which is part of the whole building. It is not separate, though well separated in terms of any noise. Our guests can view the plane or take a joy ride/scenic flight on a cost share basis if they wish. This is only available to guests who stay at Pukaki Air Lodge and is not available to the general public. The hangar also doubles as a very large space in which to securely store and charge bikes overnight.

Is it true that you are pushing to have international flights fly into Twizel from Australia?

Gosh – did that secret get out somehow??? Don’t read anything into our luggage scanning machine – honest! There is a steady increase in aviation activity on the airfield with Mt Cook Skydive now operating from here, as well as the Red Cat Biplane. We have 5 permanent residents who all have aeroplanes and there are usually a number of other smaller aircraft coming and going along with helicopters on a regular basis, though only when the weather is good.

The airfield is starting attract a lot of interest amongst the aviation community and there are murmurings of businesses like Dawn Aerospace coming to do test flying from here. However as residents we are proactive to make sure this activity does not interfere with our quiet enjoyment of our living space. Fortunately there is no night flying so guests can view the stars and sleep in peace.

How are you and Grant enjoying your new life, and whats your best memory so far?

Since we moved here things have been pretty crazy and our best memory to date is that when we first opened the lodge in 2018 we immediately handed the keys over to Disney movies for 6 weeks as our completion date lined up with their need for a large space in which to do some indoor filming for the movie Mulan, which is being released on September 4th 2020. This was a pretty lucky start for us and exciting as well. I’m slowly getting used to the stunning views with clear skies and landscapes out to the east and north and views to Mount Cook on sunny days.