The land that brought us the All Blacks, Flight of the Conchords, manuka honey and the haka may be a long way away, but it’s a bucket list trip that’s sure to reawaken the imagination and nourish the soul. The scenery found on these two islands is so diverse and magical, that it’s been the backdrop for otherworldly movie sensations like Lord of the Rings. Follow the film set trail, or embark on a tour of vineyards across the 10 wine regions. You might like to delve further into the land’s culture at the capital Auckland’s visitor attractions, hike the incomparable countryside, or visit the glowworm caves in Te Anau and Waitomo
Less than a 10-minute drive from Queenstown, but surrounded by forest, breathtaking mountains and Lake Wakatipu, the Matakauri Lodge is an exclusive boutique retreat. 11 style-forward rooms have memorable views, an iPod dock, minibar, fireplaces, terraces and Evolu toiletries. It’s homely, but up-market, with high-quality gastronomy utilising produce grown onsite as well as native meats and fish, to create a daily changing menu. And you don’t have to eat in the dining room; the lodge will accommodate romantic meals in your suite or other suitable nooks across the grounds. There’s also a bar, and a spa which incorporates indigenous ingredients into treatments.
Minaret Station Alpine Lodge
Stay in New Zealand’s alps, on a 50,000-acre working country farm. Whether you want to ski, fish, hike, cycle, star gaze or celebrate your honeymoon in a special setting, this lodge is marvellous. Guests stay in individual chalets with sheepskin carpets, king-sized beds, terraces and sunken tubs. Access to the Mountain Kitchen public space is via a lit boardwalk, where you can enjoy two living areas, a dining room, wood-burning and open fires, a well-stocked library and a wine cellar. Private and pastoral, Minaret Station is a hidden gem.
Azur Luxury Lodge
In Sunshine Bay, this waterside hilltop idyll accommodates nine modern chalet-style villas. It’s just five minutes from Queenstown but feels remote. Floor-to-ceiling windows and glass-fronted terraces provide a front-row view of the magnificent scenery, while toiletries by Linden Leaves of New Zealand, a minbar, a gas fireplace and under-floor heating, provide a luxe in-villa experience. Guests can book massage treatments and dine by candlelight in their private space, arranged by the friendly team at Azur. Breakfast, afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks and canapes are all included, as is a shuttle into town.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Look out onto working farmland, rugged cliffs, rare plants, endangered wildlife and the Pacific Ocean from The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. At the Relais and Chateaux property, you can play golf at the award-winning Tom Doak-designed course, swim in its infinity pool, take a countryside picnic personally prepared by the hotel’s chef and dine in James Honore’s dining room. Each of the suites has a sitting area and a private balcony and is situated in either the Lodge Building, on the hillside, or atop the skyline ridge – there’s also a four-bedroom cottage available. The Lodge Building has a guest lounge, a library, a wine cellar and a snug.
On Auckland’s Waiheke Island, Delamore Lodge is just over half an hour by ferry (transfers are included in rates) or a quick heli-hop from the capital. The lodge’s architecture takes the form of a Maori fish hook, shaped into the hillside and overlooking Owhanake Bay. It has a Mediterranean feel but contains lots of indigenous crafts and artworks. Guests are accommodated in two-bedroom apartments, villas or four suites with views of the Hauraki Gulf. Partake in a winemaker’s dinner, dine at the chef’s table and feast on dishes created from produce grown in the lodge’s garden and served in the main restaurant. Treatments in the spa use organic products from Nellie Tier (100% New Zealand owned).
Fiordland Lodge Te Anau
On the South Island, this lakeside hideaway hosts just 27 guests in its boutique lodge, along with two self-contained lodges and a four-bedroom cottage for families and larger groups. The accommodation boasts timber beams, river stone fireplaces, high ceilings and large windows, allowing the outside in. Breakfast and dinner are included, taken in the lodge restaurant overlooking Lake Te Anau, with a stone terrace for alfresco meals. Close to Fiordland National Park, the resort is found in a World Heritage Area and close to Milford Sound and the Te Anau caves where you can visit glowworms.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
Golfers love the ocean-side 18-hole PGA course at this Bay of Islands resort. Surfers love the waves at nearby Matauri Bay and families enjoy its three pools – one of which has an infinity edge. Couples seeking a romantic getaway can find a secluded spot for a picnic (prepared by the lodge kitchen) within its three beaches. Residences, suites and an owners cottage cater for every type of traveller, plus there’s a spa, two tennis courts, and a restaurant cooking up Pacific Rim cuisine, which is served with views of Cape Brett.
Wharekauhau Country Estate
This country estate may be set on a working sheep and cattle farm, but it’s one of the most exclusive and fancy around. The Relais & Chateaux property sits above Palliser Bay. It comprises 16 cottages (one with four bedrooms and its own pool), the main lodge, a gym, Hauora Spa, a tennis court, a games room, a 24-metre indoor heated swimming pool, a library and pretty gardens. Guests drink water from a natural spring and feast on produce grown and reared on site, sumptuously prepared by the able kitchen team. Meals are akin to a high-end dinner party, with a personal feel.