5 jaw-dropping luxury stays in New Zealand

Yes it has pristine wilderness, vibrant culture, and super-friendly locals, but did you know New Zealand is also blessed with some of the world’s best accommodation? Aotearoa’s luxury lodges offer not only security and privacy: guests get exclusive access to unique experiences such as horse-riding in alpine meadows, heli-skiing and fly-fishing on wild rivers.

As tourism green shoots appear, it’s expected that travelers will be more discerning about where (and how) they vacation. For many who’ve been stuck at home for a couple of years now, splurging on luxury accommodation is a more attractive proposition in the new era, for lots of reasons.

Often these unique places to stay offer greater privacy, sharing with fewer (and sometimes no other) guests. Some are self-catering, or catering is included on-site by the hosts or a private chef. Plus, holidaymakers in the post-Covid travel era may want to stay in one place and enjoy the best New Zealand has to offer in the local area rather than moving around constantly.

The boutique tree houses at Hapuku Lodge look out to Kaikōura’s dramatic mountains © Benedicte Lassalle

Stay in glamorous tree houses at Hapuku Lodge in Kaikōura

On the South Island in the vicinity of whale-watching hub Kaikōura, Hapuku Lodge has five boutique “tree houses” dotted among the branches of its Kanuka grove. Tree houses may sound rustic, but these come with luxurious deep baths, fireplaces to stay cozy in winter, and epic views of Kaikōura’s dramatic mountains. They are an excellent option for families, as a separate bedroom gives parents private space, and families time together away from the main lodge.

The “kai” in Kaikōura means “food” (Kaikōura translates from Māori “meal of crayfish”) and food is also one of the other major draws at Hapuku Lodge. Naturally, the seasonal three-course menu includes local crayfish (tenderly-grilled with chilli, horseradish & lime…) but venison is also a speciality: Hapuku Lodge is set on a deer farm. Produce from the kitchen garden is complemented by regional suppliers, local farmers and fishermen.

Gannets as far as the eye can see
Gannets as far as the eye can see, Cape Kidnappers © Steve Clancy Photography / Getty Images

Golf lovers and birdwatchers should head to Cape Kidnappers

An entirely different experience awaits you at Cape Kidnappers in the Hawke’s Bay region. Part of a three-resort collection owned by the Robertson family, Cape Kidnappers was voted the number one resort hotel in Australia and New Zealand by Travel + Leisure readers in 2019 and 2020.

This property is open to the public (pre-booked only) who can visit to dine, spa, or play golf. Residents are housed in one of several separate “cottages” (in truth as large as your average three-bedroom family home) set apart and overlooking the golf course and the ocean. The rooms are spacious, with an airy, Cape Cod feel — unsurprising given its American providence. You can contemplate the connections across the Pacific while relaxing over cocktails with a view, or swimming in the infinity pool.

Cape Kidnappers is also a working farm, and the craggy cape (Te Kauwae-a-Māui) is home to a rare gannet colony, accessible on a 4WD safari from the lodge. The cape gets its name from an incident in 1769, when the local Māori seized Taiata, a 12-year-old crew member of Captain Cook’s Endeavor, because they believed he was being held by the explorers against his will. A rescue or a kidnapping? It depends on how you look at it!

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The architecture of Acacia Cliffs Lodge is as stunning as the location ©Stephanie Lang

Visually arresting architecture awaits you at Acacia Cliffs Lodge

Nestled in the treed hills above Lake Taupō, Acacia Cliffs Lodge stands apart for its stunning architecture. Spacious and comfortable, it can be hired exclusively, or shared by up to eight guests in four carpeted bedrooms with dreamy super-king beds. An on-site chef delivers breakfasts and additional hospitality packages are available. The other prime reason to stay is the location, which offers so much more than memorable views.

Taupō is the small center of a region packed with some of the North Island’s top attractions. From here you can access Tongariro National Park, famous for alpine hiking through cinematic terrain (Lord of the Rings fans know what we’re talking about); scenic cruises to the Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Māori rock carvings; tout fishing on Lake Taupō; cycling and mountain-biking adventures; and geothermal hot springs in which to wind down at the end of the day.

Beyond the natural beauty, Taupō is strong on culture and art as well. Significant pa (fortified villages) of the local iwi (tribes), Ngati Tuwharetoa, are close by. Book on a foraging tour with Māori locals, pop into the museum and art galleries, or time your visit for the annual street-art festival Graffiato, New Zealand’s longest running.

Discover Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand

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The main lodge at Lindis is designed to blend relatively seamlessly into the valley © Shaun Jeffers

Blend into the landscape this Ahuriri Valley luxury resort

You can plant yourself in the middle of the pristine Ahuriri Valley in New Zealand’s South Island, staying at one of the pods at The Lindis in Canterbury. The pods are a stone’s throw from the main lodge, harmoniously-designed to blend into the landscape. Each 18-square-meter pod immerses you in a near-panoramic view of the valley from behind mirrored-glass walls. Although you won’t want to leave this incredible accommodation, stays can include once-in-a-lifetime experiences like heli-touring Fiordland and the Southern Alps; fly-fishing rarely-fished rivers; or horseback-riding through streams and fields in the valley.

The Lindis is the flagship property of four outstanding New Zealand luxury stays owned by the one hospitality group. There’s also Chalet New Zermatt near Queenstown; Paroa Bay winery; villas near Russell up in the winterless Bay of Islands; and their latest addition, Mt Isth-mus near Otago’s Lake Hāwea which opened in 2020.

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A bedroom in one of the luxury lodges at Minaret Station © Minaret Station

Arrive by helicopter at Minaret Station

Next on this whistle stop tour of New Zealand’s world-class luxury lodges is Minaret Station. Located at the head of a glacial valley on the western shores of Lake Wanaka, it is only accessible by helicopter. This glorious remoteness means most activities — such as skiing, guided hunting and mountain-biking — are also helicopter-enabled. If you prefer to skip the adrenaline activities and simply relax, there are walks and cycle-rides in the valley, or you can simply hunker down at the lodge playing board games by the fire.

Accounting for its unique combination of exclusivity with down-to-earth Kiwi friendliness, Minaret Station is also a working high-country farm, raising deer, sheep and cattle. Caring for the environment is taken seriously here, as it is by most New Zealanders. To keep its footprint light, Minaret Station uses hydroelectricity from a nearby waterfall, and recycles as much as possible, reducing the amount of waste that needs to be transported back out of the valley.

As Tourism New Zealand Premium & Partnerships Manager, Pauline Dwight explains: “Kaitiakitangaor care for people and place, is deeply-rooted in New Zealand, and we look forward to inviting international visitors back to enjoy our environment and our luxury experiences as soon as we can.”

This breathtaking alpine location deep in a valley on New Zealand’s South Island is about as far away from the worries of the world as you can get. Luxuriating in a hot tub on the deck of your private chalet, enjoying the finest of New Zealand’s incredible cuisine and hospitality, is possibly one of the best ways to enjoy this blessed and inspiring country.

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