New Zealand’s South Island contains some of the world’s most beautiful and dramatic scenery. It now also boasts many fine expressions of the luxury lodge concept – whether basking in the glory of southern lakes and mountains, the serenity of quiet bays or rolling farmland, or sitting majestically within its own manicured grounds. Here are four favorite Luxury Lodges of New Zealand throughout the South Island.
Bay of Many Coves, Marlborough Sounds
A balmy Friday evening in the Sounds. A bottle of Marlborough Pinot Gris is chilling beside our dinner table and we’re gazing down on the perfect calm of the Bay of Many Coves. Shags skim the darkening surface of the water. Ripples spread and die as fish disturb the glassy stillness. The only way to get to this part of New Zealand is by water taxi from Picton – or helicopter. Have we died and gone to heaven? The Bay of Many Coves Resort in Queen Charlotte Sound certainly commands a heavenly aspect, and the food in its lofty Foredeck Restaurant is blissful. Behind us the resort’s well-appointed one- to three-bedroom apartments climb the hillside. There’s a swimming pool and hot tub and a day spa. Local activities include kayaking off the jetty, fishing, motor cruising, swimming with dolphins, exploring the famous Queen Charlotte Track or wine tasting at Marlborough’s esteemed cellar doors. Ask Travel Associates about special happenings at the property like opera or ‘champagne and jazz’ weekends.
Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses, Kaikoura
The beds at Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses – like much else around this unusual property – are custom-made: not too hard and not too soft, Goldilocks would have loved them. We were having a lie down after a day spent whale watching off Kaikoura and clambering through bush to witness seal pups playing in a “crèche” pool at Ohau Point. Hapuku has four lodge suites, a separate Olive House Suite and a string of Tree Houses in the canopies of native manuka trees. We were in one of these, a comfortable modern suite with every mod con and views over a deer park to the Kaikoura Mountains. Dinner and breakfast are included in the tariff (although whole Kaikoura crayfish costs an extra NZ$75). Most ingredients come from Hapuku’s kitchen garden, its olive grove, free-ranging chooks or deer farm, and local suppliers. Both meals were gourmet events. Kaikoura, 12km down the coast, is a paradise if you enjoy encounters with whales and dolphins, seals and seabirds, fishing, walking and golf. We can also recommend stargazing from the spa tub in a tree house.
Otahuna Lodge, near Christchurch
The owners of historic Otahuna Lodge, Hall Cannon and Mile Refo, have seen their loving restoration project devastated by two earthquakes, but never gave up on the beautiful old lady. Most recently they were rewarded by being voted number one in the world’s “Top 20 International Hideaways” for 2015 by readers of the prestigious Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report. The lodge was also voted the 14th best food and wine resort in the world. Like the rest of the lodge, its seven spacious themed suites pay homage to its 1895 heritage status, with exposed wood detailing, period furniture and refined colour palettes. We stayed in the upstairs Garret Suite, its panels hung with fishing and hunting memorabilia in honour of original owner Sir Heaton Rhodes’ love of the outdoors. Elsewhere the romance of this gracious Victorian manse has been faithfully retained, while outside is a Garden of National Significance, a lake and woods, a swimming pool, tennis court and croquet lawn. The potager garden, meanwhile, provides many of the fresh ingredients for the dining table and carefully chosen New Zealand wines line the Cellar.
Matakauri Lodge, Queenstown
Beauty is its own reward, I’m told, but surely it’s not a sin to enjoy it from the comfort of an elevated king-sized bed? From the day bed beside floor-to-ceiling windows? The bath-with-a-view? Wherever we move around our stunning suite, the peaceful grandeur of Walter Peak and the jagged splendour of the Remarkables fill our vision across the waters of Lake Wakatipu. Matakauri – owned by the Robertsons of Kauri Cliffs fame – has eight outlying suites, two lodge suites, one lodge room and the sumptuous Owner’s Cottage (William and Kate stayed here). In the main lodge we find a bright, airy lounge, library, dining and living areas – all, of course, with gobsmacking views. An outside courtyard complete with couches, fireplace and barbecue face the lake; behind the lodge are a full-service spa, heated infinity pool and fitness centre. Matakauri is a Relais & Chateau property, so food is a big part of the experience. Head chef Jonathan Rogers uses local seasonal produce in a daily changing menu that might include poached fresh scampi, locally farmed quail and merino lamb from a high-country station. Matakauri has won numerous awards, including featuring among Tatler magazine’s 101 Best Hotels of the World.