New Zealand’s network of independently owned, impeccably appointed lodges – unrivalled anywhere in the world – extends from the shimmering archipelago of the Bay of Islands in the north to the lush central volcanic plateau and the snowy peaks and glaciers of the Southern Alps.
In an era of mass tourism and template hotels, Kiwi lodges have evolved into a class of accommodation distinct from any other. Originally pitched at fishing or hunting clientele, today they’re celebrated for their dazzling natural settings, unpretentious service and activities that immerse guests in the lands and life of the country. Because epic settings demand epic accommodations, these are the lodges truly worthy of luring you to the edge of the world. Here are five of our favorites:
The restless energy of the turquoise-hued Waikato River is a palpable presence at Huka Lodge, and its raison d’être. New Zealand’s first true luxury lodge opened in 1924 as a fly-fishing refuge for the world’s elite and, in the process, set the ground rules for the genre.
They are as follows: The setting must be spectacular – in this case, a 26-suite lodge on the North Island’s verdant volcanic tablelands, beside a quicksilver river and 17 acres of magnificent gardens. Accommodation should be contemporary, luxurious and at one with the environment, ideally with distinctive New Zealand accents such as Iwi (Maori) art and local materials like native timbers – all evidenced here. There should be a range of spirited activities: at Huka, that includes trout fishing, hiking, golf, heli-sightseeing and boat tours on neighbouring Lake Taupo, the country’s largest lake. But staying in to savor the surroundings should be equally appealing. Eating and drinking should be exceptional and memorable. The service – and this is key – should be of the relaxed New Zealand school, where anything is possible but nothing is pretentious.
Who is it for? Lovers of the great outdoors — and the great indoors.
What’s its superpower? The natural glory of the river and parklands, and a sense of having stepped into a bygone era.
Any drawbacks? The riverside suites are lovely but could use a makeover that channels a more distinct personality and Huka’s rich history.
This private sanctuary, set in astonishing scenery – glacier-carved peaks and valleys carpeted in green – is a 10-minute helicopter hop from the South Island’s ski and outdoor capital, Queenstown. Music producer Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange bought this property on the shores of Lake Wanaka in 2004 with his then-wife, country-music star Shania Twain, uniting four high-country sheep stations into 210 square miles of alpine grandeur.
Four suites added in 2018 transformed the once-private home into a year-round getaway for the fortunate few. The Tui Suite is the most marvellous, with a brass and copper bathtub positioned for meditative views of lake and snow-capped mountains.
Interiors are muscular arrangements of stone and timber softened with rich textiles and striking photography, and expansive windows framing nature’s wonders. Days can be languid or active, according to whim. Explore the landscape on hikes, bikes and horses (there are extensive stables), relax with cooking classes and yoga, or hail a helicopter for the Southern Hemisphere’s finest skiing and sightseeing to Fiordland and Milford Sound.
Who is it for? Homebodies and high-country adventurers.
What’s its superpower? Of all New Zealand’s lodges, this one arguably feels the most homely. It’s small, off-grid, friendly and full service.
Any drawbacks? The catering is less sophisticated than at other NZ lodges.
The Landing’s four residences share 1,000 acres of outrageously beautiful coastal real estate on the Purerua Peninsula in the genuinely breathtaking Bay of Islands. This North Island peninsula was the landing place of Maori and later European explorers and the site where the two peoples first met, hence the name.
Besides sharing a significant chapter of the country’s history, the architecturally striking (and very tasteful) residences – in configurations from five bedrooms to two – share impeccable grounds, six beaches and a new winery. Guests can explore the archipelago and its history on included tours aboard The Landing’s fishing yacht, Ata Rangi, sample estate wines, swim, kayak, fish or just revel in the serenity and birdsong. Service is present and faultless when you need it and on-call at all other times. Guests need only describe their ideal stay – ideally involving talented executive chef Jacqueline Smith and her hyperlocal produce – and staff will make it happen.
Spotlit excursions in search of kiwis, the endangered and endearing national bird, are an unexpected highlight.
Who is it for? The ultimate AirBnB for the Davos set.
What’s its superpower? Former US president Barack Obama said it best in his guestbook comment after staying in March 2018: “It’s magical here.”
Any drawbacks? Besides the winery and gym, there are few communal areas and little of the conventional, convivial lodge experience. But that’s rarely an issue for The Landing’s discreet clientele.
Wild and elemental, the setting of this new clifftop hideaway, anchored 800 feet above the restive Tasman Sea, is pure New Zealand. Tom Eastwick and his black Labrador Gin greet guests on arrival at Pipinui Point to introduce them to the property, a 1,600-acre sheep and cattle farm that’s been in the family for four generations.
Opened in September 2020, Pipinui Point is not a lodge but a bach (pronounced “batch”), a quintessential Kiwi beach house angled over the Cook Strait that divides the North and South islands. The sleek building, clad in birch plywood, features two bedrooms, a fireplace and glass walls framing life-affirming views. The signature activity is a tour of the family farm, ideally followed by a soak in the outdoor bath, glass of local wine in hand. Guests can get chef Warren Maddox to prep dinner for them, perhaps a Wakanui beef short-rib to finish off on the barbecue. Or book a table at Hiakai, the Maori fine-dining restaurant operated by New Zealand’s most exciting young chef, Monique Fiso, just down the road in Wellington.
Who is it for? Outdoorsy couples and anyone keen for a truly authentic Kiwi experience.
What’s its superpower? The glorious isolation and absolute privacy, all just 30 minutes drive (or six minutes by helicopter) from the capital city.
Any drawbacks? This southern tip of the North Island is notoriously windy.
Kauri Cliffs sits across the Bay of Islands from The Landing but provides a markedly different experience; it’s more like a slice of the Hamptons in the antipodes. To wit: Its centerpiece is a championship golf course that hugs the stunning headland above the Pacific Ocean and dominates views from the lodge’s 23 cottages and four owners’ residences.
The 6,000-acre property is a working cattle and sheep station (tours with the farm manager and his 11 sheepdogs are a joy) that also encompasses stands of ancient kauri, rainforest and waterfalls, a sylvan spa set in a native totara forest and three beaches – including one strewn with pink shells where guests gather for weekly barbecues of bay-caught seafood. Social life centers on the two-story clubhouse, where well-dressed guests gather for evening cocktails in the lounge or on the ocean-facing veranda, before settling in at one of several dining spaces for Relais & Châteaux–sanctioned cuisine. Interiors by Kiwi design queen Virginia Fisher tend toward heavy and patrician in the main lodge but channel brighter beach-house vibes in the balconied suites.
Who is it for? Avid golfers and gold card holders.
What’s its superpower? A flawlessly run country club in the serene surrounds of the Bay of Islands.
Any drawbacks? Until recently, Kauri was the stuffier of the NZ lodge set, but it’s loosened up lately. Gentlemen no longer need jackets at dinner.