Mid­dle Earth Lux­ury: New Zealand

World Travel Magazine - - Contents - BY NICK WAL­TON

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.


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.



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


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


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.


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


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


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.



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...

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