Though full-service, five-star resorts are few and far between in New Zealand, the country does have its share of intimate and upscale luxury lodges. Ranging in size from four to 25 rooms and located in some of the most beautiful settings, New Zealand’s renowned luxury lodges offer a unique taste of true Kiwi culture, cuisine and hospitality.
Ideal for honeymooners, couples seeking a secluded romantic atmosphere or families in search of activities for all ages, these luxury lodges typically offer pricing inclusive of breakfast, and in many cases, wine or cocktails and a gourmet dinner. From the South Island’s seaside to the North Island’s forests, here is a look at some of the top luxury lodges in New Zealand.
Kauri Cliffs: Sitting on 6,000 acres near the Bay of Islands, Kauri Cliff offers spectacular, 180-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, Cape Brett and neighboring islands that will take your breath away. You will be further wowed by the main lodge with its beamed living room, beautiful dining room (guests can dine there or on the veranda) and spa nestled in the Totara forest. The spa features four treatment rooms, an indoor heated lap pool, a hot tub and a fitness center. There are 22 ocean- and golf-view guest suites, each with a private porch, an open fireplace, walk-in closets and a large sitting area.
Rounding out the amenities are a par-72 championship golf course with 15 oceanview holes (six played alongside the cliffs), two tennis courts, three private swimming beaches and an outdoor heated infinity pool with a hot tub. While staying at the lodge, guests can enjoy world-famous big-game fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing and pheasant hunting. They also can take guided tours to Ninety Mile Beach, the Puketi Kauri Forest and nearby historic villages. Kauri Cliffs is reachable by a four-hour drive, an hour’s flight to Kerikeri or by helicopter direct to the property’s private helipad. For more information, visit www.kauricliffs.com.
Treetops Lodge & Wilderness Estate: This is one of the most unique lodges in New Zealand due in part to its location -- it is literally set among the treetops in New Zealand’s famed geothermal region. About 20 minutes from Rotorua, Treetops is situated in 2,500 acres of private wilderness, a carefully managed game and wildlife habitat for fly fishermen, sporting enthusiasts and others seeking an active yet luxurious retreat. The sprawling yet cozy main lodge welcomes guests with its elegant and simple architecture, a throwback to the country’s pioneering past. It features spacious living areas, a beautiful bar and wine room, a breakfast room, an open kitchen and incredible views of the great outdoors.
Four suites and eight private villas feature cozy, warm decor and are spread among the grounds to offer the utmost in privacy. On-site activities include nearly 50 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, guided eco-walks, photo safaris and horseback riding. For more information, visit www.treetops.co.nz.
Huka Lodge and the Owner’s Cottage: Just an hour away from Rotorua, this iconic luxury lodge, which was founded in the 1920s, sits on 17 acres of perfectly manicured grounds against a backdrop of the Waikato River. Consistently rated one of the best lodges worldwide, the 20-room property is well known for its gourmet cuisine, including the nightly five-course dinner, which can be enjoyed at private dining venues property-wide. It also is famed for its high level of service, stunning accommodations and over-the-top, four-room Owner’s Cottage. The latter is so popular among high-end guests that a second stand-alone luxury cottage is being constructed.
Activities include golf, fishing for trophy-size trout on Lake Taupo, helicopter sightseeing, kayaking, and guided tours to nearby Hawke’s Bay or volcanic White Island. Huka Lodge is a scenic, three-hour-plus drive from Auckland. There also are regular flights into Rotorua from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. A private helicopter transfer can be easily arranged. For more information, visit www.hukaretreats.com.
Lake Okareka Lodge: Owned by Lebua Hotels & Resorts, Lake Okareka Lodge is a stylish, 7,072-square-foot lake house with three luxury suites. These include an executive suite featuring a lounge, spa, private office and walk-in wardrobe. What makes this property unique is that it is exclusively booked to one group of up to nine people at a time. All suites are outfitted with private balconies, in-room Internet access and plasma-screen TVs. Twenty-four-hour butler service is included. The gated estate features a private jetty and boathouse, private beaches and a helipad. Guests can enjoy access to a well-stocked and climate-controlled wine cellar, fly fishing and private rides in a boat of choice (kayak, dinghy or speedboat). Additional attractions include an entertainment theater, customized gourmet cuisine prepared by chefs from Bangkok’s award-winning Le Dome and amazing lake views. For more information, visit www.okareka.co.nz.
Hapuku Lodge & Treehouses: Designed by a San Francisco-based, New Zealand-born family of architects and builders, this lodge was created as contemporary country accommodations, complete with hand-crafted furnishings by local builders. With the recent addition of five luxury treehouse-style duplexes replete with fireplaces, spa tubs and the most comfortable beds in the country, this Kaikoura property can accommodate up to 35 guests. Each treehouse sits 30 feet above the ground in the canopy of a native Kanuka grove and features stunning views of Kaikoura’s mountains and Pacific coastline -- not to mention a few sheep down below.
Beyond the beautiful aesthetics of Hapuku is a serious eco-initiative comprising such efforts as one native New Zealand tree planted for every guest night spent at the lodge, solar heating of water used at the lodge, compact fluorescent lights, and the use sustainable materials and local organic food whenever possible. For more information, visit www.hapukulodge.com.
Blanket Bay: Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu on a 10,000-acre, high country farm with incredible South Island lake and mountain views, Blanket Bay is perfectly positioned to allow you to experience all that South Island has to offer. The sprawling main lodge houses five spacious guest rooms and three suites, each with open log fires, oversized sofas and chairs, king beds and lake views from a private balcony. Two chalets adjacent to the lodge offer two private suites. Guests enjoy access to a swimming pool, steam rooms, a gym, wine cave, private jetty and beach. Those seeking more active options can choose to fish the nearby Greenstone and Caple rivers, take a heli-excursion to Milford Sound, go jet boating or canoeing along the Dart River, or try their hand at heli-skiing in the winter. Blanket Bay is just 12 minutes by helicopter from Queenstown Airport or easily reached by car along 25 miles of one of New Zealand’s most spectacular lakeside drives. For more information, visit www.blanketbay.com.
Either before or after a luxury lodge experience, spend a few days enjoying the sights and sounds of local culture in Auckland (North Island) or Queensland (South Island). A stop in Christchurch en route to Kaikoura and the wineries of Marlborough is also a nice addition to any South Island itinerary. In Auckland, one of the top hotels is The Langham. Fresh from a renovation, this 410-room hotel is just a quick walk from the Auckland waterfront. In Queensland, Azur is a unique place to stay because of its intimate boutique lodge ambience coupled with the best lake-view location in a cosmopolitan yet rustic and activity-filled part of New Zealand.
For more information on New Zealand, visit www.newzealand.com.--Stacy H. Small