Just Back: New Zealand’s Outstanding Lodges and Unique Resorts

One of the highlights of any journey in New Zealand is experiencing outstanding lodges and unique luxury resorts in every region of the country. I recently visited both South and North Islands, and wanted to tell you about five special places to stay, beyond well-known resorts like Blanket Bay, Huka Lodge and other exceptional properties you may be familiar with. At every lodge mentioned below, the luxury accommodations, attentive service, fine cuisine and warm hospitality are just the beginning. 

Azur Lodge (Queenstown, South Island)

This luxury contemporary lodge is located just 10 minutes driving from downtown Queenstown, in a residential neighborhood high above the lake. The property consists of nine private villas, each about 750 square feet with an open plan, fireplaces and large terraces overlooking the lake and mountains. The lodge is situated on the slope of a hill, with a main residence with reception area and lounge at the top. The design is modern, comfortable and pared down. Highlights: Complete privacy in the villas, space, views from the bedroom and bathtub, superb service, seclusion, proximity to Queenstown, and breakfast and afternoon tea served in the main house. Note: Azur does not have a restaurant on property, but the hotel provides guests with a wide range of Queenstown restaurant menus to order from. Azur staff will deliver the meal to your villa and serve it properly on china, a nice option. 

Bay of Many Coves (Marlborough Sounds, South Island)

Bay of Many Coves, a member of Luxury Lodges of New Zealand, is located on Queen Charlotte Sound.

Bay of Many Coves overlooks a tranquil bay in the heart of the Marlborough Sounds, a maze of peninsulas, bays and islands on the uppermost part of the South Island. The resort occupies only a small portion of the estate, which covers over 150 acres. While on property, walk along the property’s many paths, swim in the pool or the sound, or enjoy a treatment in the lodge’s spa. I felt a million miles from civilization, yet I was only a short boat ride from the mainland. Service and dining are outstanding, with a staff to guest ratio of 1-to-1. The 11 spacious apartments offer one to three bedrooms with terraces, as well as the large Kereru Suite. All apartments are built on the hillside and offer privacy, as well as beautiful views of the sound. My two favorite activities while staying at the lodge were hiking on the Queen Charlotte Track (a short water taxi away) and kayaking at sunrise from the property’s pier. The nearest airport is Woodbourne.

Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses (Kaikoura, South Island)

Hapuku Lodge: View of the property.

A member of Luxury Lodges of New Zealand, Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses is the place to stay in this part of the world. The property opened in 2013 and is a 10-minute drive from central Kaikoura. Originally, Hapuku started out as a deer farm. Today, the lodge offers four spacious rooms in the main building and five free-standing tree houses — my favorite category, built 30 feet from the ground.

Two of the treehouses offer two bedrooms (one above, the other below). Hapuku also offers its two-story Olive House for families or friends traveling together, accommodating up to six guests. The lodge has an outdoor pool and a new spa. Guests have bicycles to use during their stay. The property is known for the quality of its dining, most of it sourced locally. Don’t miss swimming with a pod of dusky dolphins in the open ocean — simply exhilarating. The nearest airport is Christchurch International.

Treetops Lodge & Estate (Rotorua, North Island)

Treetops: View of the grand living room, the heart of the property.

This celebrated lodge, which opened 17 years ago, is set within an enormous 2,500-acre estate of old native forest. Treetops Lodge & Estate has streams running through it, on-site trout fishing, lakes, miles of hiking trails and many activities. The main lodge has large living and dining areas, as well as a spa and helipad — convenient for adventures. Dining is a highlight, with menus offering produce sourced from the estate. I enjoyed the hike to Bridal Veil Falls (tip: you can also arrange to have a picnic at the base of the waterfall) and the 4WD safari that tours the entire estate. There are four spacious suites in the main building and eight freestanding villas, nestled in the estate’s lush vegetation. Suites are well-appointed and offer over 500 square feet of space; villas are over 1,000 square feet — all with terraces. Take time to explore the property on foot to get a sense of the diversity of this magnificent estate.

Solitaire Lodge (Rotorua, North Island)

Solitaire offers panoramic views of Lake Tarawera and its dormant volcano in the distance.

One of the first Luxury Lodges of New Zealand, Solitaire is located at the tip of a peninsula on Lake Tarawera. This cozy lodge has a tranquil and understated feel to it, and I felt immediately at home upon arrival. The setting is very peaceful, as you are surrounded by water on three sides. The property has its own helipad and a pier on the lake — perfect for swimming and kayaking. Solitaire is known for its service and the quality of the resort’s fine dining, serving contemporary New Zealand menus. The resort offers nine suites, all with terraces and views of the lake. Tip: While in Rotorua, take a helicopter to White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano, an unforgettable experience.  

Planning your New Zealand journey: I traveled with Southern Crossings, the expert destination specialist who creates custom-tailored itineraries and unforgettable experiences. Write to [email protected] 

New Zealand is precious. Travel responsibly. Ask your clients to take the Tiaki promise. Visit www.tiakinewzealand.com.

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