Middle Earth Luxury: New Zealand
New Zealand’s luxury lodge scene continues to thrill well-heeled travellers, with stunning new properties joining the country’s esteemed favourites.
Once upon a time, the wildlife lodges of New Zealand’s north and south islands were only known by a select few. They were destinations and encampments frequented by passionate anglers or hunters willing to travel to this remote country in search of game, authentic hospitality and some of the southern hemisphere’s most beautiful locales. As the expectations of these intrepid travellers changed, do did the offerings of the retreats, with simple hunting and fly fishing cabins lining remote rivers and secret edens offering degustation menus, wine pairing dinner, and culinary philosphys that appealed to a new generation of traveller. Today New Zealand’s lodges are on par with any in the world and have helped keep this southern-most land firmly on the luxury traveller’s map.
TREETOPS LODGE & ESTATE
Hidden away at the end of a long gravel road, within its own expansive working farm, home to 800-year old native forest, Treetops Lodge & Estate remains one of New Zealand’s most endearing luxury lodges. Just minutes from the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, at the centre of the North Island, Treetops is the brainchild of passionate naturalist John Sax, and was built initially as a big stag hunting lodge, although many of its guests would rather pick up knife and fork than rifle. Treetops showcases the very best of the Bay of Plenty through homely-styled accommodation, sensational estate-driven dining, and a raft of unique encounters that infuse the region’s geothermal attributes with its distinctive Maori culture, its bucolic landscapes, and its world-class trout fishing and stag hunting legacy.
A pioneer of environmentally-managed design, Treetops, offers a variety of accommodation styles, including the recently-added Lodge Wing, a four-room enclave housed in the main lodge building that’s ideally suited for families and friends travelling together; and a clutch of secluded cottage-style villas. My suitestyled cottage boasts custom furniture; fireplaces that keep the morning chill at bay; a king-sized bed dressed in high thread count linens; a voluminous bathroom with jacuzzi bath; and dramatic native forest views. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the roar of resident red stags.
At Treetops, you can do as much or as little as you like. The adventurous can explore the estate’s seven alpine streams, which are packed with brown and rainbow trout; explore the property’s 50 kilometres of adventure trails on geocaching hunts and 4WD experiences; or hunt the six deer species, bighorn sheep, pheasants or wild pigs with the experiences estate team. But most guests come to Treetops for its dining experiences, which include the lodge’s groundbreaking Maori Indigenous Food Trails, Estate to Plate Safaris, and, in my case, an intimate Wild Food Cooking School class with Chilean executive chef Felipe Ponce in which we used estate venison and indigenous herbs to create a spectacular dish – if I do say so myself. Be sure to leave time to visit the newly opened Spa, where a host of innovative treatments use locally gathered ingredients to soothe both mind and body. www.treetops.co.nz
Forged from simple fly fishing and hunting huts to some of the world’s most spectacular luxury havens, the acclaimed lodges of New Zealand offer foodies and nature lovers alike a unique insight into the people, traditions, and awe-inspiring landscapes of the Land of the Long White Cloud.
HIDDEN AWAY AT THE END OF A LONG GRAVEL ROAD, HOME TO 800-YEAR OLD NATIVE FOREST, TREETOPS LODGE & ESTATE REMAINS ONE OF NEW ZEALAND’S MOST ENDEARING LUXURY LODGES.
THE LODGE AT KINLOCH
One of New Zealand’s newest luxury retreats, and one aimed at golfers looking for both challenging fairways and creature comforts, The Lodge at Kinloch, located on the shores of Lake Taupo, is sister property to Treetops, but that’s where the similarities end. Perched on steep mountain flanks, the new uber-luxury lodge’s clutch of one and two-bedroom apartment style suites overlook the stunning (and as I found out deceptively challenging) Jack Nicklaus-designed course with the shimmering waters of the country’s largest lake beyond. Designed by architect Andrew Patterson, with interiors by acclaimed lodge guru Virginia Fisher that include oak floors, handmade New Zealand rugs, and carbon-neutral fireplaces, The Lodge at Kinloch is dressed in local schist stone, and blends into the lakeside landscape to perfection.
After trout fishing excursions, hiking or rounds of the private golf course, join fellow guests for pre-dinner drinks in the Great Room, a baronial space accented with fox fur, copper, stone and brass or on the open terrace. The cavernous Dining Room, a bold yet calming space in textured whitewash, acts as the perfect canvas for the modern Estate to Plate cuisine of executive chef Jeremy Talbot, who uses produce reared and grown on the lodge’s 2,000-hectare estate to execute refined, contemporary dishes matched with boutique New Zealand wines. www. thekinlochclub.com
THE LODGE AT KAURI CLIFFS
Created by US billionaire and Tiger Fund founder Julian Robinson, the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs is located near Kerikeri, a few hours’ drive north of Auckland, or a quick and appropriately elegant helicopter flight from the big smoke. Set at the crest of a hill overlooking the stunning fairways and greens of its acclaimed David Harman-designed course, regularly named as one of the top 100 in the world, this stunning retreat features a colonial-styled main building with spectacular 180-degree views Cape Brett and the Cavalli Islands. The 22 sumptuously appointed suites and a luxurious 4,200sqft two-bedroom Owner’s Cottage each feature private terraces, cathedral-esque bathrooms, and chic, residential styling.
When you’ve finished tackling the beautiful but challenging golf course (the front nine is especially captivating), many holes of which cling to the towering sea cliffs to the east, you can join fellow guests for nightly sundowners. Sample indigenous wellness treatments in a spa nestled within an ancient Totara forest; escape with a picnic at private Pink Beach, a postcard perfect slice of coastline; or enjoy the world-class estate-inspired cuisine of group executive chef Dale Gartland, in the sumptuous dining room or on the spacious terrace. www. kauricliffs.com
THE FARM AT CAPE KIDNAPPERS
Sister property to Robinson’s Kauri Cliffs and the crowning glory of the Bay of Island’s lodge scene since it opened in 2004, Cape Kidnappers is nestled amidst Hawkes Bay wine country, on the north island’s east coast. Set atop a stunning 2,400-hectare working estate, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers also delivers worldclass accommodation and hospitality to one of the country’s most coveted golf courses, this one designed by guru Tom Doak. A truly unique coastal haven that boasts just 22 guest suites, in addition to a beautiful four-bedroom Owner’s Suite, this clifftop retreat marries world-class service, with spectacular Hawkes’ Bay panoramas, and generous accommodation, making it as destination in itself for golfers and non-golfers alike.
CREATED BY A MEDIA-SHY RUSSIAN STEEL BARON, HELENA BAY IS A US$35 MILLION RETREAT THAT CATERS TO ONLY TEN LUCKY SOULS AT A TIME.
With touches of rustic chic, each of the lodge’s elegant suites boasts interiors by Linda Bedell and are replete with king-sized beds, elegantly appointed bathrooms with over-sized tubs, minibars, and vaulted ceilings. If you can drag yourself from your suite, which I eventually did, the action of the lodge is centred around the main lodge building, home to a sun-kissed courtyard, fireplace snugs and a curated collection of local art. There’s a Balinese-themed spa, a heated infinity pool and fitness centre, and a Relais & Chateaux restaurant that capitalises on the region’s outstanding local produce and world-class wine to create mouthwatering degustation menus that change nightly. If you’re not into golf, have the culinary team prepare you a picnic and explore the coastal cliffs on the Kiwi Discovery Walk; tackle the terrain on a guided Can-am tours; or, as I spent an afternoon doing, tour the fascinating local boutique wineries with a resident oenophile. www. capekidnappers.com
New Zealand’s newest super luxury lodge is located on a hidden bay in the North Island’s far north and offers a far more modern take on the luxury New Zealand experience. Created by a media-shy Russian steel baron, Helena Bay is a US$35 million retreat that caters to only ten lucky souls at a time, often as a single booking. During my stay I’m the only guest, offering a rare insight into the life of the truly wealthy.
Beyond towering timber doors intricately carved by local artisans, immaculately clad staff, many of whom cut their teeth working luxury superyachts, dote on guests accommodated in five suites wreathing a private beach, with each space boasting super king-size beds, Christian Fischbacher robes, Hefel of Austria linens, and mosaic-lined bathrooms.
Beyond, a modern low-rise main lodge features a large infinity-edged swimming pool, a spa with fitness centre, steam room and icy plunge pool; a tennis court; lounges, libraries and snugs with fireplaces, soaring ceilings and extensive art collections; and two dining rooms. Here, acclaimed Italian chef Michele Martino, a protégé of restaurant Don Alfonso 1890 chef Ernesto Iaccarino, uses fruit, vegetables, herbs and Wagyu beef from the lodge’s own 215-hectare farm to create breathtaking and contemporary Italian cuisine that has taken the country’s dining scene by storm. www.helenabay.com
SEASCAPE AT ANNANDALE
One of my favourite of New Zealand’s recent wave of luxury lodges - properties that don’t always fit into the conventional mould but still offer the same levels of luxury and hospitality and the unique interaction with the destination - Annandale is nestled in Pigeon Bay outside Christchurch. Envisioned by kiwi-born real estate tycoon Mark Palmer, Annandale is a collection of four unique and very different properties. In addition to the historic and beautifully restored Homestead, with its multiple guest rooms, adjoining stables, there’s the rustic elegance of Shepard’s Cottage, the open-plan, family-friendly living of Scrubby Bay and the blissful isolation that is Seascape, a one-room, glass-encased retreat overlooking a remote bay that’s popular with resident fur seals. Each property can be accessed directly by helicopter and remains a half hour drive by farm ute from each other, ensuring levels of privacy impossible anywhere else in the country.
Seascape, which I fell in love with at first sighting, boasts mesmerising sea views, a duo of gas fireplaces, an outdoor Jacuzzi and a deep soak tub from which you can gaze out at the expanses of the Pacific and, if you’re lucky, the Southern Cross constellation. While not a traditional lodge per se, Seascape still offers its
A HISTORIC STATELY HOME, OTAHUNA REMAINS A FIRM FAVOURITE WITH KIWI AND OVERSEAS TRAVELLERS LOOKING FOR TOUCHES OF THE SOUTH ISLAND’S RICH HISTORY AND SOME OF ITS MOST INSPIRING CUISINE.
guests the same chance to become a part of the landscape, to slow down, sleep in, and leave the rest of the world behind. If you’re looking to explore, spend your days trekking the property’s forest paths; help the farmer with herding cattle or even docking lambs; take a bespoke cooking class; or simply grab a blanket and a great read and find a coastal corner that’s miles from the nearest human being. www.annandale.com
Very much the image that comes to mind when people think of luxury lodges, Otahuna Lodge is a beautifully preserved mansion nestled amidst daffodil fields outside Christchurch. A historic stately home, Otahuna remains a firm favourite with Kiwi and overseas travellers looking for touches of the South Island’s rich history and some of its most inspiring cuisine, backdropped by the towering Southern Alps.
To put things in perspective, unlike the purpose-built lodges, Otahuna is a Queen Anne-style home dating from 1895 that’s wreathed by 12-hectares of stunning gardens. The property has been lovingly reincarnated by a trio of hospitality innovators; bought by Americans Hall Canon and Miles Refo in 2007 and managed by executive chef Jimmy Mcintyre. Otahuna is now one of the country’s most coveted historic retreats. It’s five sumptuous guest rooms (the stunning Rhodes Suite with its hidden octagonal dining room is a personal favourite) are decked out in ancient wood. Bespoke furnishings and subtle technology, and feature Victorian fireplaces, balconies overlooking gardens and orchards, and a stunning art collection that includes pieces by artists Peter Hackett and Virginia Leonard.
Any self-respecting foodie will want to follow Chef Mcintyre around as he takes fruit from the orchards, herbs from the gardens and even smokes meat in the resident smoke house. The ever-smiling chef 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 property, front and centre. With all this goodness he created lavish multi-course meals that begin with canapes around the leather-clad lounge’s roaring fireplace, and are followed by a delectable five-course dinner in the dining room, a historic setting dressed in timber, the colour of wild honey.
Another stately home that’s been given a new lease on life, Pen-y-bryn was built in 1889 and was lovingly restored by dynamic couple James Glucksman, a former World Bank economist, and James Boussy, a dentist, in 2010. This historic Victorian home, which sits on a low hill overlooking Omaru, a tiny town recently named New Zealand’s coolest, boasts just five cosy guest rooms. These, in turn, complement the manor’s opulent living rooms, dens and lounges, including one featuring a full-size billiards table commissioned by the New Zealand houses of parliament. Filled with beautiful art and artifacts from the owner’s many years in Asia, Pen-y-bryn is in every way a traditional lodge; an inn where guests can enjoy old-world hospitality, listen to tales of the James’ travels through Asia beside the fire, and feast on fantastic South Island fare that boasts a distinctly local feel.
Foodies will find a man after their own heart at Pen-y-bryn; extravagant meals are crafted by slow food lover Glucksman, an Officier Maître Hôtelier in the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the Paris-based gourmet society. Each is not only inventive and delicious but made up of fresh ingredients that are almost entirely sourced from the lodge’s own gardens, homemade in its kitchens, or brought from local producers with which your hosts have a lasting relationship.
MATAKAURI HAS AN ENVIABLE POSITION OVERLOOKING LAKE WAKATIPU, A BREATHTAKING STRIP OF THICK GLACIER-FED WATER BACKDROPPED BY TOWERING TOOTH PEAKS RANGES.
Take the long, winding mountainside road from Queenstown, often regarded as one of the best driving routes in the country, to discover luxury and tradition. Situated just outside Glenorchy, a beautiful little hamlet on the banks of Lake Wakatipu, Blanket Bay is regularly heralded as among the leading luxury lodges of the world. Purpose built between the tranquil waters of the lake and the towering flanks of the Southern Alps, this Jim Mclaughlin-designed chalet-styled retreat was constructed using locally-sourced schist rock and recycled timber. The result is a beautifully understated haven boasting just 12 luxurious guest rooms and suites – my personal favourites are the four elegant standalone Chalets, which are situated above the main lodge and feature their own private lawns. In addition to sublime accommodation, the stone-clad two-storey main lodge building features soaring living rooms with double-height picture windows and towering fireplaces. Intimate cocktail bars with arm-long whisky lists, a modern games room, not one, but two wine cellars packed with Old and New World Wines, including spectacular Otago pinot noirs and an indoor Jacuzzi that opens on to a mountain stream with its resident duck family adds a distinct flavour to Blanket Bay.
Since it opened, Blanket Bay has been a favourite base for affluent travellers looking to explore its remarkable setting, whether it is hiking or skiing in the Southern Alps. A helicopter ride to world-famous Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park and racing down the Dart River by high-powered speedboat kickstarts the adrenaline rush. You’ll return, as I did, to dinner cooked by multiaward winning executive chef Corey Hume, who has cut his teeth turning locallysourced produce, including South Island venison and Otago salmon, into a worldclass cuisine that’s served in the cosy Lake View Dining Room. www.blanketbay. com
If you’re venturing as south as Queenstown and now have a hankering for luxury lodges, you can’t go past Matakauri, third sister to Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers, and the contemporary face of the country’s acclaimed luxury lodge scene. Like Blanket Bay, Matakauri has an enviable position overlooking Lake Wakatipu, a breathtaking strip of thick glacier-fed water backdropped by towering Tooth Peaks ranges. This unique hideaway features just 12 magnificent guest rooms - four housed in the main lodge, and the rest scattered across the clifftops – each boasting residential-chic décor inspired by autumn in Otago; gas fireplaces; private terraces; flatscreen TVS hidden behind artwork; and probably the best bathtub views in the world. For the ultimate retreat from the world, retreat to The Owner’s Cottage, the lodge’s penthouse, which accommodates eight in absolute luxury.
The warm colour palette of the guest suites continues in the main lodge, where breakfast and dinner is served in the intimate dining room, on the outdoor patio with its views down to the waters on which the historic Ernslaw passes regularly, or in the private library. Like at other luxury lodges I’ve visited, food is a major focus, and at Matakauri head chef Jonathan Roger’s menus are inspired by the produce of the deep south and the ever-changing seasons of the mountains. His rotating à la carte offerings are laced with the likes of roasted scallops with black pudding and beurre noisette; North Island terakihi with mussels and dill; and smoked Otago duck with beetroot, goat’s curd and blood orange. www. matakaurilodge.com
This Page,matakauri overlooks the Tooth Peaks; Opposite, from top, Blanket Bay bed-room; Blanket Bay remains one of the Grand Dames of the New Zealand lodge scene; al fresco dining overlooking Lake Wakatipu; guest suites are both functional and...
This Page,beautiful Akaroa Harbour is easily accessible from Annandale and Otahuna Opposite, from top, The timeless lounge at Otahuna; lodges like Otahuna specializing in showcasing the best local produce; the winelands of Waipara; James Boussy and...
This Page,the swimming pool at Helena Bay Opposite, from top, The lodge at Cape Kidnappers; Signature room outside area at Kauri Cliff; the Homested at Annandale; a roaring fire and views to die for at Seascape
This Page,the Great Room at Treetops Lodge & Estate Opposite, from top, Enjoy a unique Maori food safari at Treetops; an elegant guest suite wreathed by native forest at Treetops; the bar at the new Virginia Fischer-designed Lodge at Kinloch; vanilla...