New Zealand’s ultra lodges are better when experienced together. By Martine Bury
A well-curated super lodge itinerary on New Zealand’s South and North islands offers high luxury and adventure across big skies, swaths of green grass dotted with sheep, and deeper green Alpine forests. The only things as magnificent are the places where we lay our heads
Nestled up to the shore of Lake Wakatipu, sophisticated and cozy Eichardt’s Private Hotel offers easy entry to the vibrant center of Queenstown. It’s the kind of place where the barista makes my latte just how I like it on our second morning there. Full of grace, the 10-suite property is also the perfect launching point into the action, which is aplenty in New Zealand’s adventure capital. Within strolling distance, my husband and I find ample diversions that provide immersion among friendly Kiwis and stellar scenic views of the Remarkables mountain range. We move on up to Bob’s Peak on the Gondola, the steepest aerial lift in the Southern Hemisphere; strap in for light rafting on the Shotover River; and queue for a Fergburger, New Zealand’s most sought-after bite.
In this Mecca for adrenaline addicts, opportunities abound from jetboats, luge, and bungee to the Shotover Canyon and Nevis swings—the world’s highest cliff jumps. In the winter, skiing is the elegant way to experience the the Remarkables and Coronet Peak. Lucky for us we are hotel people—so we find joy in every detail at Eichardt’s from our room’s crackling fireplace to the yummy tapas and super chic scene at cozy Eichhardt’s Bar.
Each morning, we peer out our lake-facing suite window for a quick weather visual. It’s sunny out but a planned heli tour of Milford Sound—the South Island’s most famous fjord in Fiordland National Park—is postponed due to an unfavorable forecast (which happens on this island of many microclimates).
We wait two days for Mother Nature to give us an opening. It isn’t meant to be. Instead our pilot takes us over Lake Wanaka, through a rainforest and past snow-covered terrain for a gourmet lunch at Minaret Station Lodge. Tucked in a private valley in the sweeping Southern Alps, the family-run lodge offers upscale glamping in 50,000 acres of wilderness, with well-appointed tented suites and Jacuzzi-outfitted decks.
A ten-minute drive from the center of Queenstown, Matakauri Lodge is a petite, private hideaway located on an unspoiled, wooded stretch of Lake Wakatipu.
Opened in 2010 by American hedge fund billionaire turned hospitality maverick Julian Robertson, the property quietly blends sleek luxury with spectacular natural surroundings.
Common areas, the four-bedroom Owner’s Cottage, and 11 spacious guest suites all boast unobstructed vistas of the placid water and white-peaked mountain range. The moody colors on the lake—and cloud formations atop Cecil’s Peak—dramatically shift from minute to minute. It’s the stuff of Maori legend.
The focus on intimacy, lodgers can opt to mix and mingle at pre-dinner drinks, but the dining space is by choice. Chef Jonathan Rogers’ locally sourced cuisine focuses on organic, seasonal produce.
Though Matakauri is a gateway to exhilarating, life-altering experiences like river safaris and helicopter tours over Tukoko Glacier and Mitre Peak, the property’s spectacular location is everything. And the lodge’s hyper-luxury stems from a small staff-to-guest ratio that masterfully takes the impeccable service one expects at a place like this and makes it more personal and intuitive. The combination makes a big impression.
Situated on the eastern shores of the South Island’s Tasman Bay, the Nelson bursts with creativity and natural beauty. From Abel Tasman National Park—with its emerald coves, sprawling forests and plentiful caves—to the art gallery lined streets in the city center; a few days’ exploration is a must in this sunny, coastal town. We wind past bungalow style houses perched on cliffs that hover over long, golden beaches and scores of boutique vineyards. Along the way, our driver takes us for a round of curated wine tastings.
By late afternoon we arrive at Edenhouse, a luxe little lodge slightly hidden in the rolling hills of the Orinoco Valley.
New Zealand native Bobbie and her Australian husband Peter Martin own the property. They welcome us like old friends down for the weekend.
The Martins have a deft sense of what’s needed at exactly the right time. When Peter finds out I’ve yet to try New Zealand’s famed green lip mussels, he discreetly calls into town so he can surprise me at supper.
All of this happens in the unequaled setting of the Abel Tasman region’s bountiful fruit bowl. If there is a desire to venture away from this home away from home, the staff facilitates whatever level of exploration guests are ready for—from contemplative forest hikes to boat trips on Tasman Bay to helicopter tours that culminate in epic, multicourse mountain-top dinners.
On the North Island’s east coast, Hawke’s Bay is a region of verdant hills and vast floodplains (and the five rivers that run through them) in close proximity to the ocean. Renting a car allows my husband and I to take in New Zealand’s oldest wine region as we whiz past a spread of vines that produce Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay grapes.
From endless Pacific Ocean views to a carefully curated collection of local wines, the best of everything about Hawkes Bay comes together at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers.
A 6,000-acre working sheep farm, the property’s 22 suites and lavish Owner’s cottage offer every luxury in spacious, light-filled accommodations. While I have my mind on the spa, my companion has his eye on the fairway. The property’s position on a jutting peninsula makes the Tom Doak-designed Cape Kidnappers Golf Course a linksman’s dream. Hanging over steep sandstone cliffs, the par 71 green has tamed these rugged hills.
After a day of exploring the grounds—including the lodge’s Aviary—the dining room is a place to escape solitude and dig into meals that make the most of the Farm’s bountiful garden. As we eat, the somm takes us on a tour of New Zealand in perfect pairings. Places like this are made for long dinners, leisurely strolls, and pink sunsets over the sea.
As one of the world’s preeminent hideaways, Huka Lodge is a dream destination.
The road takes us through otherworldly scenery, with billowing steam rising out of the dense forests that flank our way. We pass massive Lake Taupo and the mighty Huka Falls, and arrive at the 25-room Huka, a genteel sportsman’s lodge. A retreat favored by the British Royal Family and A-List celebrities, a sense of hush-hush envelops the place. Only the sound of the rushing river disturbs the peace. Sitting on 17 acres, the property’s gardens are an active guest’s playground—from tennis and petanque to mountain biking and fishing in the Waikato River for local trout. A short walk delivers us to the viewing area for the awesome Huka Falls, plunging over a series of small dams in a wash of aqua blue and white water. For further adventure, the lodge offers offsite fun like heli-excursions, fly-fishing, horseback riding, and kayaking.
The ultimate digs for creatures of comfort, accommodations wrap guests in layered luxury, like roaring fireplaces and soft tartan throw blankets. We dine in the main lodge building on English-style breakfast in the mornings and Executive Chef Paul Frogget’s five-course feasts at night. Through the French doors of our suite, the slow moving river entices me to sleep despite my effort to read. This is the lodge life.