With world-class dining, spectacular scenery, and authentic kiwi hospitality, traveling through New Zealand via its acclaimed luxury lodges is the best way to capture the essence of this remarkable land.
When many of us think of New Zealand, we generally think of The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, and the stunningly beautiful scenery that backdropped these timeless cinematic moments. New Zealand, with its towering peaks, plunging waterfalls, and remote, end-of-the-world qualities, is made for fantasy flicks like these and the country has become quite the destination for Hollywood and Bollywood alike. However, what you may not realize is that there’s another industry that has quietly evolved, and one that also takes advantage of its postcard-perfect surroundings to seduce audiences from near and far.
If we were to credit one property with beginning New Zealand’s luxury lodge movement, it would be Huka Lodge. Located on the mighty Waikato River just outside Taupo, at the center of the North Island, what started as a humble fishing cabin that gave anglers access to some of the southern hemisphere’s best fly fishing, became a luxury icon, one that stood for authenticity, hospitality, and a new, natural take on the finer things in life. While Huka Lodge is still operating, and you could say better than ever, it’s been joined by an extensive and varied collection of luxury properties that capitalizing on those stunning natural surrounds to introduce travelers to the real New Zealand. Here are some of our favorites.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Set atop a stunning 5,930-acre (2,400-hectare) working farm at the heart of the Hawke’s Bay wine belt, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers delivers world-class accommodation and hospitality to one of the country’s most coveted golf courses. Developed by American hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson, owner of sister properties Matakauri and Kauri Cliffs, this unique coastal retreat boasts just 22 guest suites, in addition to a beautifully-appointed four-bedroom Owner’s Suite.
Each elegant farmhouse-style suite features interiors by designer Linda Bedell, king-sized beds, spacious bathrooms with over-sized bathtubs, wet bars, and lofty ceilings. But the real beauty is in the main lodge building, home to a sunkissed courtyard, fireplace snugs, and a curated collection of local art. There’s also a Balinese-themed spa, a heated infinity pool and fitness center, an intimate wine cellar, and a Relais & Chateaux restaurant that capitalizes on Hawke’s Bay’s outstanding local produce.
If you’re not into golf, have the culinary team prepare you a picnic and explore the coastal cliffs on the Kiwi Discovery Walk; there are also Can-Am tours and opportunities to go horseback riding, wine tasting, kayaking, or trout fishing.
Treetops Lodge & Estate
One of New Zealand’s most acclaimed luxury lodges, Treetops Lodge & Estate is nestled amidst an 800-year old native forest just outside the geothermal mecca of Rotorua. Created by passionate naturalist John Sax, Treetops showcases the very best of New Zealand through lavishly-appointed accommodation, sensational dining, and a raft of unique encounters that infuse the region’s Maori culture, its bucolic landscapes, and its world-class trout fishing legacy.
With a pioneering eco-friendly architectural design that has won the property global praise, Treetops offers a variety of accommodation styles, including the traditional Lodge Wing, a four-room enclave ideally suited for families and friends traveling together, and a clutch of secluded villas. Each space is exquisitely decorated with custom furniture, fireplaces, high thread count linens, and objects d’ art.
Guests can explore the estate’s seven trout-packed streams or wander 31 miles (50 kilometers) of adventure trails on geocaching hunts, hiking, and 4WD experiences, while the lodge’s ground-breaking Maori Indigenous Food Trail, Estate to Plate Safari, and Wild Food Cooking School offer foodies unprecedented access to locally-sourced ingredients and traditional culinary culture. Be sure to leave time to visit the recently added Spa, where a host of innovative Rituals of Treetops treatments guarantee to soothe both mind and body.
Hidden away atop sea cliffs overlooking Northland’s beautiful Bay of Islands, this multi-award-winning, 74-acre (30-hectare) estate offers world-class accommodation married with a warm kiwi welcome. Accessible by road or helicopter from Auckland, Eagles Nest features clean, minimalist lines and plenty of glass to ensure the captivating view never loses your attention.
Boasting just five stand-alone luxury villas, four of which have their own private infinity pools, Eagles Nest is a departure from the classic New Zealand lodge, where meals are served in the main lodge building and communality is always on the menu. Instead, there’s no lodge restaurant and each of the five villas come complete with a state-of-the-art kitchen (private chefs at the waiting), an expansive sun deck, refined furnishings, and seamless technology.
Guests can settle into their lavish home-away-from-home with a complimentary bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne, rustle up the culinary team for private BBQs, select a few bottles from the extensive wine cellar, order an in-villa massage, and be seduced by Northland’s star-filled nights.
One of New Zealand’s most awarded lodges and the property which spearheaded the luxury lodge scene, Huka started life as a humble fishing cabin overlooking the iconic Huka Falls. Founded just outside Taupo in 1924, the property has developed in leaps and bounds; located on a nine-hectare private estate that edges up against the mighty Waikato River, the property is wreathed by heritage-listed gardens.
Huka Lodge features 18 Junior Lodge Suites, one Lodge Suite, a four-bedroom Owner’s Cottage, and a sumptuous two-bedroom Alan Pye Cottage, named for the Irish founder. Expect thoughtful interiors by Virginia Fisher dressed in cream, honey, and lavender, with monogrammed bed linen, private terraces, well-lit bathrooms with deep-soak tubs, and captivating river views.
Dining has always been at the heart of the Huka Lodge experience, with guests offered 20 private dining rooms in which to feast on the world-class cuisine of British executive chef Paul Froggatt, which is laced with locally-sourced ingredients from the central North Island.
The younger sibling of acclaimed North Island golf destination lodges Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers, Matakauri brings a more contemporary feel to the South Island. Positioned overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the towering Tooth Peaks ranges, Matakauri features just 12 guest rooms, with four located in the main lodge, and the rest scattered across the clifftops.
Each boasts clean, modern décor that takes its design cues from autumn in Otago, as well as a gas fireplace, private balcony, flatscreen TVs hidden behind artwork, and quite possibly the best bathtub views in the world. The Owner’s Cottage, the lodge’s penthouse, accommodates eight in absolute luxury.
The warm colors of the suites are continued in the main lodge, where breakfast and dinner are served in the intimate dining room, on the outdoor patio, or in the private library. Head chef Jonathan Roger’s menus are inspired by the produce of the deep south and his ever-changing à la carte offerings are laced with the likes of roasted scallops with black pudding and beurre noisette; North Island tarakihi with mussels and dill; and smoked Otago duck with beetroot, goat’s curd, and blood orange.
Kinloch Manor & Villas
Another great lodge for golfers, and sister property to Treetops, Kinloch Manor & Villas (previously The Lodge at Kinloch Club) is located beside beautiful Lake Taupo, in the centre of the North Island. Home to a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole signature championship course, Kinloch Manor also features sublime accommodation across a series of one, two- and three-bedroom residences, each dressed in local schist stone, oak floors, handmade rugs, and Egyptian linens, and boasting soaring views across course and lake.
After a battle on the links, guests come together in the Andrew Patterson-designed main lodge building, with its captivating Virginia Fisher interiors including cow and goat hides and plush banquettes for pre-dinner drinks, followed by refined estate-to-plate cuisine in the vaulted dining room.
Situated just outside Glenorchy, a hidden Eden at the western end of Lake Wakatipu (just down the road from Matakauri), Blanket Bay is regularly listed among the leading luxury lodges of the world. Purpose-built, the lodge is flanked by the lake on one side and imposing peaks on the other. Designed by US architect Jim McLaughlin and built using locally-sourced schist rock and recycled timber, Blanket Bay boasts 12 luxurious guest rooms and suites, including four elegant standalone Chalets.
In addition, within the main lodge building, there are cavernous living rooms with double-height picture windows and towering fireplaces, intimate bars, a modern games room, a duo of wine caves, a spa and fitness center, a seasonal outdoor pool, and an indoor spa that looks through French windows to the lake.
Located at the base of the Southern Alps, the lodge is the perfect jumping-off point for travelers looking to explore Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park by helicopter, the Dart River by high-powered speedboat, or the ancient rainforests and towering peaks of the Mount Aspiring National Park on foot. Here, the flyfishing is phenomenal, the heli-skiing the best in the Southern Hemisphere, and the horse-riding sensational. Guests return to dinner cooked by multi-award-winning executive chefs Jo Clarke and Dan Reynolds and served in the cozy Lake View Dining Room.
Nestled in Pigeon Bay, at the tip of the Banks Peninsula, Annandale is the modern face of New Zealand’s luxury lodge movement. Envisioned by New Zealand-born real estate tycoon Mark Palmer, Annandale isn’t really one property but a collection of four, each vastly different from the next, and each spaced a good 30-minute drive across a working farm from each other, ensuring the ultimate in privacy.
In addition to the historic and beautifully restored Homestead; the rustic elegance of Shepard’s Cottage; and the open-plan, family-friendly living of Scrubby Bay, Seascape, a one-room glass-encased retreat overlooking a remote bay wreathed by a stony beach and rocky headlands, can be accessed directly via helicopter from Christchurch. A stunning, unashamedly modern, open-plan villa, Seascape offers mesmerizing sea views, a duo of gas fireplaces, an outdoor Jacuzzi, a kitchen with Miele appliances, and a deep soak tub with little between it and the expanses of the Pacific.
While not a traditional lodge, Seascape offers the same chance to become a part of the landscape, to slow down, sleep in, and leave the rest of the world behind. To that end, guests can choose to have a chef cook up a storm in the butler’s pantry; have raw ingredients delivered; or opt for the “we create, you serve” approach, which has executive chef Callum Farrell prepare a gourmet dish packed with ingredients from the farm’s own gardens that are vacuum packed and need minimal preparation.
A true departure from the traditional lodge model, Minaret Station marries luxury and the rugged outdoors to perfection. Only accessible by helicopter, Minaret Station is hidden away 3,000ft up in the Southern Alps, in the shadows of Mount Aspiring. Situated on a 64,200-acre (26,000-hectare) station that’s home to just four luxuriously appointed Alpine Chalets (two tented, two hard-walled), each of which features sheepskin carpeting, king-sized beds, ensuite bathrooms, and private in-deck hot tubs, the camp takes privacy and luxury to whole new levels.
Powered by its own hydro-electric system, and constructed from timber and stone harvested from the station, Minaret Station’s main lodge building may have a rugged exterior but inside are gleaming timber floors, a complimentary wet bar, and a communal dining room where head chef Alastair Wilson showcases local produce, from Te Mana lamb, beef or venison from Minaret Station’s own farm, or crayfish, blue cod, paua and whitebait from the West Coast and Fiordland.
Spend your days ‘tramping’ through Middle Earthlike scenery; take the helicopter to coastal islands for crayfish dives; go sailing on Lake Wanaka, or drop in at some of the region’s best cellar doors, and return in time for an alfresco soak under the stars.
Hapuku Lodge & Treehouses
Located on the east coast of the South Island, near Kaikoura, famous for its whale viewing, and flanked by olive groves and a deer farm, Hapuku is best known for its chic treehouses. Owner Tony Wilson was passionate about treehouses as a child and this unique property boasts four sumptuous suites in the main lodge and five uber-cool treehouses beyond. Each Hapuku Lodge Suite boasts spectacular views of the Kaikoura Mountain Range; the Olive House Suite, a spacious apartment, also features a kitchen, open-plan bathroom with spa tub and rain shower, and a fireplace.
Most guests come to this chic country house for the innovative treehouses, each of which is perched 32-feet (10 meters) above the ground and is nestled in a canopy of Manuka trees. With a touch of the Swiss Family Robinson, these treehouses are elevated on stilts and are dressed in locally crafted timber, with custom furniture produced by local artisans. There’s a duo of rocking chairs and a wood-burning fireplace, a bathroom with floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the rural bliss, and intimate balconies with outdoor Jacuzzis for great stargazing. For couples traveling with children, two of the treehouses also boast an additional downstairs bedroom.
After days spent deep-sea fishing or searching for the humpback whales which graze off the coast throughout the year, return to the Lodge for world-class cuisine that makes the most of the
property’s own vegetable gardens, and partnerships with local fishermen and hunters. Dishes like fresh local crayfish and venison with wild blackberries, matched with the best wines from Marlborough, are the ideal way to finish up your luxurious sojourn through Middle Earth.
One of New Zealand’s newest luxury lodges, and certainly one of its most exclusive, Helena Bay is located on its namesake cove in Northland, where its contemporary villas and main lodge building contrast with an expansive working farm. Built by a Russian steel billionaire that likes to keep a low profile, the property features two miles of pristine coastline, four private beaches, and countless intimate coves, as well as just five suites catering to a total of ten guests. Ocean-facing suites form a chain from the main lodge building and include super king-size beds, Christian Fischbacher robes, Hefel of Austria linens, and mosaic-lined bathrooms.
The main lodge is equally spectacular, with its swimming pool, art collection, and shaded patios. Guests can enjoy estate-to-plate cuisine that follows the culinary philosophy of Michelin-starred Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890 of Southern Italy or take a tour of the farm via 4×4 that finishes at Mohei Pavilion, an intimate little retreat set on its own private beach. Read more about our adventures at Helena Bay here.
Another of New Zealand’s original game-changing properties is The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs. Sister property to Matakauri and Cape Kidnappers, Kauri Cliffs is also located in Northland’s Bay of Islands and combines world-class golf with an authentic, albeit luxurious kiwi hospitality experience. Kauri Cliffs was actually Tiger Fund founder Julian Robertson’s first New Zealand property and includes a David Harman-designed golf course set atop dramatic sea cliffs, and a 6,500-acre (2,630-hectare) working sheep farm.
The lodge is home to just 22 guest suites, with interiors designed by Virginia Fisher (yes, again), spacious bathrooms, sumptuous bedrooms, and east-facing verandahs. Wreathed by native New Zealand bush, each suite is blissfully private and intimate and has a refined, residential feel.
Meals are either served in the privacy of your suite or in the main lodge building, where Executive Chef Barry Firth champions food miles and local producers. Guests can choose from a variety of dining spaces, including the Main Dining Room, Tiger Room, Green Room, and Verandas, which is especially popular for lingering, sun-kissed breakfasts.
Kinloch Manor & Villas
From the same owner as Treetops, John Sax, comes another beautiful retreat that combines good food, luxurious accommodation, and stunning natural landscapes with world-class golf. Set on the banks of Lake Taupo, Kinloch Manor & Villas (formerly The Lodge at Kinloch) is perched over a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, with the individual suites and the main lodge building dressed in locally-sourced schist stone (inspired by Kinloch Castle in Scotland) by architect Andrew Patterson.
The property’s one, two and three-bedroom manors dot undulating hills above the golf course and boast Virginia Fisher interiors, polished oak floors, handmade rugs, Egyptian linens, and stunning lake vistas. Each boasts a residential feel and includes a full kitchen and separate living and dining spaces.
Each night guests converge on the boldly contemporary main manor for a refined cocktail hour (another lodge ritual), which is served in the Great Room (above), with its plush banquettes, cowhide, goat skins, and burnt wood floorings, and often accompanied by a roaring fireplace. Beyond, the refined dining room is where Executive Chef Palash Saha serves up a feast laced with locally-sourced ingredients and the best New Zealand wines.
More of a traditional manor than a modern retreat (although it has its contemporary sides too), Otahuna Lodge is located just outside Christchurch. Wreathed by willow trees and nestled amidst 30 acres (12-hectares) of paddocks famed for their annual daffodils, this stunning Queen Anne-style hideaway was built in 1895 and lovingly restored to its former glory by Americans Hall Canon and Miles Refo. With the help of Kiwi manager and executive chef Jimmy McIntyre, they have created a sublime property that welcomes visitors from across the globe.
Its seven sumptuous suites and master suites, which include the coveted Rhodes Suite, named for the mansion’s first resident, and the newly added The Loft, a beautiful space with vintage Schumacher Chinoiserie fabric, a cozy reading nook, and a free-standing bathtub, are decked out in ancient wood, bespoke furnishings, and subtle cutting-edge technology, and feature Victorian fireplaces, balconies with views to the Southern Alps, and plenty of little nooks to explore. All this lavish living is complemented by a stunning art collection by Kiwi artists like Peter Hackett and Virginia Leonard, as well as plenty of little touches, from the ironic bedside tome A Short History of Sheep in New Zealand by Richard Wolfe, to Royal warrant-holding Quercus toiletries.
Chef McIntyre is renowned for his simplistic yet elegant approach to fine dining, a philosophy that places locally-sourced ingredients, including 130 varieties of vegetables, fruit, and nuts from the lodge’s own gardens, and meats from Otahuna’s own smokehouse, front, and center. McIntyre, with Austrian sous chef Thomas, serves the likes of freshly shucked Bluff oysters paired with glasses of chilled Central Otago Riesling in the Relais & Châteaux lodge’s leather-clad lounge, followed by fat chipotle prawns with tomato and roasted pepper soup; locally caught monkfish with saffron risotto and a decadent lemon and vanilla sauce; and Canterbury duck breast with quince jus, kumara purée, and autumn vegetables.
Located in the breathtakingly beautiful Bay of Islands, Paroa Bay, part of the Lindis Group, combines a world-class winery with three stand-alone accommodation options in a more contemporary take on the traditional lodge. The Vineyard Cottage is a blissful two-bedroom home set among rolling hills and wreathed by manicured gardens. The villa boasts a swimming pool and hot tub as well as a sauna and BBQ area, while the main living room, with its hardwood floors and open fireplace, is the perfect spot for pre-dinner drinks.
Alternatively, Tarapunga (above) is an exciting luxury residence with contemporary interiors, a collection of intriguing artwork, a home theatre and gymnasium, and a gourmet kitchen. There’s also an outdoor heated infinity pool, spa, and sauna, while the expansive sun decks make it ideal for entertaining. Finally, Weka is a contemporary light-filled, two-bedroom, open plan house that’s ideally suited for couples or as an add on to the adjacent Tarapunga when traveling with a group, and can only be booked in tandem with Tarapunga.
If you feel like giving your private chef the night off, take a winery tour that ends at Sage, the signature restaurant, which serves dishes packed with locally-grown and sourced ingredients.
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