Fancy a break from the Big Smoke? Verve brings you the lowdown on some of our nation’s most unusual and most luxurious destinations (and now’s a great time to grab some deals before the peak season kicks in).
1. Helena Bay Lodge, Northland
Positioned 40km north of Whangarei, the Helena Bay Lodge only opened in 2016 and was immediately branded the best new luxury hotel in the world by Luxury Travel Intelligence, fending off entries from the likes of Paris, Rome and New York. Developed by Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov, and costing a cool $50 million-plus to build, the oceanside complex boasts a gym, heated pool, outdoor fire pit, library and massage room, while the suites—of which there are only five—are decked out with European-made hypoallergenic bedding, towels, and robes. Its exclusivity is enhanced owing to its ten-guest cap.
2. Eagles Nest, Bay of Islands
Another internationally noted Northland retreat, Eagles Nest has been honoured as the country’s best by the World Luxury Hotel Awards. Perched atop a private ridgeline over a 75-acre estate, its five contemporary private villas afford spectacular views of the surrounding scenery. Facilities include private Jacuzzis and heated infinity pools, Ecostore goodies, original artworks and resident fine dining chefs who serve up spoils such as venison and lamb and seafood straight out of the water.
3. Solitaire Lodge, Rotorua
The secluded Solitaire Lodge springs from a private peninsula that juts into Lake Tarawera, 20 minutes from Rotorua. Airy, modern suites here overlook local natural attractions such as the lake, the lagoon and the summit of volcano Mount Tarawera—views that can also be enjoyed from your bath (best done while enjoying a complimentary drink or two from the minibar). Such is the lodge’s exclusivity that it features its very own private helipad for flights over the surrounding geothermal landscapes and out to White Island. Five-course fine dining fare is served daily. Lake Tarawera also has its own natural hot spring and there are numerous private bays punctuating the shoreline—make the most of them in a kayak.
4. Huka Lodge, Taupo
Long lauded as one of the world’s most wondrous retreats, the Huka Lodge, set in 17 acres on the banks of the Waikato River, has hosted celebrities and royal guests. First established as a trout fishing retreat, the handsome 1920s structure is a short stroll from Huka Falls (or use the free mountain bikes) and offers guests amenities like a tennis court, outdoor pool and croquet. Combine your stay with the Huka Experience for a chance of a helicopter ride with volcano landing, a gourmet crater lake cruise and fishing. Classy suites are equipped with separate dressing rooms and river views. Included are pre-dinner drinks and canapes, a five-course gourmet feast and full country breakfast.
5. Woodlyn Park, Waitomo
Kiwi quirkiness at its finest, Woodlyn Park, a couple of minutes from Waitomo Caves, offers accommodation by way of Hobbit Houses, shaped just like those shelters in the Shire and built beneath a hill upon which sheep and a donkey graze; a Bristol Freighter Plane that was flown in Vietnam, now converted into two lodgings in the cockpit and the rear tail; a restored 1918 rail carriage called the Waitomo Express; or aboard the ship, Waitanic, a restored Australian second world war petrol boat. Recycled and natural materials been used to craft and recreate the lodgings, all of which are fully self-contained.
6. The Farm, Hawke’s Bay
Nestled on Cape Kidnappers—the site of the world’s largest accessible gannet colony—The Farm has previously been placed on the Conde Naste Traveller USA Gold List. Occupying a sprawling 6,000-acre sheep and cattle farm, this fabulous destination affords mesmeric views of the Pacific and the legendary local vineyards. Accommodation comprises five-star luxury suites or self-contained cottages, with private balconies with sea views. Guests can make the most of an on-site cellar door, open fireplaces, infinity pool, hot tub, an abundance of walks, a glorious golf course and an on-site spa overlooking the ocean. The gourmet restaurant takes great pride in its menu of local produce and seafood.
7. Wharekauhau Country Estate, Wairarapa
The expansive (5,500 acres) and exclusive Wharekauhau Estate sits opposite the black sands of Ocean Beach at Palliser Bay—framed by ominous cliffs and looming peaks. Established in the mid-19th century as a sheep farm (it still is, along with cattle), Wharekauhau, which translates as ‘place of knowledge’, each of its elegant private cottage suites are replete with spa baths, a fireplace and antique furniture and overlook the ocean and immaculate gardens with a pond. On-site activities include a fitness centre, horse riding and quad biking—things to work up a thirst before kicking back with some local wines and a gourmet feast.
8. The Lighthouse, Wellington
One of the New Zealand’s more unusual offerings, The Lighthouse protrudes proudly over Island Bay, 15 minutes from downtown Wellington. This cosy coastal lodging allows guests to slip into a deep slumber serenaded by the sound of the crashing waves, while the business part of the building on the top floor serves as a sitting room from where you can take in the endless vista. This is an especially spectacular setting during a storm as the waves crash and spray off the rocks beneath.
9. Edenhouse, Nelson
A listing on Tatler’s Top 101 Hotels in the World was well-earned by six-star Edenhouse, tucked away between Nelson and the gorgeous Abel Tasman national park. Maybe the most majestic Kiwi crib you’ve never heard of, the 50-acre setting includes fairytale-like gardens, patrolled by sheep and pheasants and quail, and accommodation by way of a pair of guest rooms in the main house and a private cottage. Tasteful, yet understated, Edenhouse is adorned with original artworks and an extensive library and, owing to its isolation and sense of privacy even within its grounds, attracts the occasional celebrity.
10. The Jailhouse, Christchurch
Christchurch’s mutlti-award-winning Jailhouse hostel was originally built in 1874 and has since served as both a men’s and women’s prison and military camp. Revamped in 2006, vibrant white cells with hardwood floors now serve as dorms, single and double rooms, though a historical display jail cell remains—and, just like a real prison, there’s games and movie rooms.
11. Aro Ha, Glenorchy
Nestled between the Southern Alps and the shore of Lake Wakatipu, soulful Aro Ha isn’t just New Zealand’s ultimate wellness retreat, but one of the finest in the world. The ultimate detox, guests are invited to take part in daily yoga, meditation and cardio sessions in a studio with a cinema-sized window overlooking that legendary Otago landscape—lake included—complemented by massages and the most imaginative of vegan menus with meals presented like works of art. There’s also ample hiking opportunities and plenty of downtime to make the most of the saunas and sizeable outdoor hot tub. The sustainable site generates most of its own power, and also grows much of its produce, the soothing suites decked out with recycled timbers, organic cotton linen and mattresses of natural latex.
12. Fiordland Lodge, Te Anau
The spectacular Fiordland Lodge peers over Lake Te Anau as the majestic mountain landscape of the nation’s largest and most dramatic national park guards the horizon. Such views are mirrored across the accommodation that comprises 10 luxurious lodge rooms with private balconies and some with spa baths, and a pair of standalone self-contained loft-style log cabins. The cozy environment is enhanced thanks to ample timber furnishings, high ceilings and open fires.A popular wedding and honeymoon destination, the service here is second to none.