When it comes to lodges we have some world leaders, writes Ewan McDonald.
We thought we’d set the bar pretty high when we decided to profile “some of New Zealand’s greatest luxury lodges and what makes them so special”. Perhaps we didn’t realise how many high-end lodgings you can find in and around Aotearoa. So we decided to focus on the best of the best.
Some centres have more than their share of these; some establishments fit into more than one category. In case the Cumberbatches or Cambridges googled and booked the place you fancy, we’ve listed “Check Out” options following each category.
Back in the day when people freely roamed the planet – aka 2019 – Donkey Bay Inn was voted the world’s best eco-hotel. The four-room lodge, built into a hillside near Russell, has the Southern Hemisphere’s largest living roof, a vineyard, olive grove, beehives, chickens and organic vegetable gardens. Also in the Far North, Kokohuia Lodge is an off-grid, architecturally designed, organic property overlooking Hokianga Harbour.
In downtown Auckland, The Hotel Britomart is a 10-storey eco-friendly hotel crafted from handmade bricks, timber-lined rooms, brass-dipped driftwood doorhandles and a feature wall of Muriwai Beach’s black sand. Its all-day eatery, kingi, specialises in sustainable seafood.
Built in a native bush clearing to frame Ruapehu views, Nightsky Cottage is a 10-minute drive and 50m boardwalk stroll from Ohakune. The 2-bedroom cottage boasts a deck for wildlife spotting (expect kiwi), log fire and skylights for dark sky stargazing.
Beside Abel Tasman National Park, Split Apple Retreat is surrounded by golden sands, bush and ocean. And that’s only the outdoors: enjoy a saltwater infinity pool, private paths to beaches, spa and sauna, yoga pavilion, massages, meditation theatre and stress reduction therapies.
In 200ha of beech forest, river and mountains between Nelson and Christchurch, Maruia River Retreat experiences include forest bathing, gourmet dining, river rafting and more esoteric encounters – spa, yoga, massage, naturopathy and guided nature walks. One may fly into the private airstrip.
Get away from it all – literally – at Cascade Creek Retreat, near Milton on the West Coast. No other people for kilometres. Nor cellphone coverage, internet or television, and the lodge, set into a farm, is powered by solar and hydro power.
Above uber-organic Greystone vineyard an hour north of Christchurch, cosy up for a night in the PurePod, one of several clever, eco-designed glass cubes around Canterbury. Personal recommendation: a cool way to holiday, eat and sleep in, not on, the environment.
Four high-country sheep stations covering 55,000ha between Wānaka and Queenstown comprise the utterly remarkable Mahu Whenua eco-sanctuary. Robert “Mutt” Lange – you may be aware of his musical and marital history – bought the properties in 2005 and is regenerating the land with sustainable farming, native plantings and a bird-breeding programme protected by 25ha of predator-proof fencing. His lodge caters for up to12 people at $15,000 a night.
More economical options in the neighbourhood are Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat on the shores of Lake Pukaki, with a range of wellness options, and off-grid Lakestone Lodge.
Reached only by helicopter, set in a meadow 1000m above sea level, surrounded by the Southern Alps, bordered by Lake Wānaka and two national parks, Minaret Station‘s four chalets have fair claim to be “one of the most secluded and private luxury lodges in the world”. It uses hydroelectricity from its own plant, water from rainfall and snowmelt, supplies arrive and waste leaves by air, and all laundry is washed offsite. Paddock to plate: meat is from the 20,000ha station, garnishings from local producers. Other experiences, imagine and discover for yourself.
Ecoscapes and Camp Glenorchy, on opposite sides of Lake Whakatipu, are two takes on green building technology, designed to blend with the environment while offering outstanding comfort and luxuries. EcoScapes calls its style “passive low-energy”, at one with the environment, while Camp Glenorchy is an ambitious and ground-breaking “positive energy” destination.
By Ewan McDonald, NZ Herald