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Super Lodges: New Zealand

Any traveler to New Zealand will agree that the country’s lodge-style hotels are among the world’s most impressive. Many grew from humble fishing and hunting cabins, tucked into remote locations and surrounded by incredible landscapes. They are all incredibly personal, with top cuisine and even better views. The list is long — here are six of our favorites.

Blanket Bay, South Island

A forty-five-minute drive from Queenstown, Blanket Bay sits in a breathtaking spot on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, looking toward the Humboldt Mountains. Sheep still graze the hillside, as they did in the 1970s, when Americans Tom and Pauline Tusher bought the property, which abutted a 65,000-acre working sheep station. The couple intended to build a vacation cabin for themselves, for fly-fishing, but after Tom retired from running Levi Strauss, their plan expanded to a grand lodge with thirteen guest rooms. The design, inside and out, owes less to New Zealand than to the Tushers’ time in the American West, as evidenced in the enormous rock fireplace, antler chandelier and log beams that dominate the great room. A wonderful touch is the “excursion” room downstairs, where guests can plot the following day’s activities on a giant map on one wall. A helicopter jaunt for fly-fishing, perhaps? Or a drop-off somewhere along the Milford Trek for hiking the least touristed bit? Satisfying any adventurous urge is easy if you know that a well-stocked wine cellar and coddling spa await. When the guests gather in the den for cocktails and trade tales of the day’s exploits, the conviviality is infectious.

Where: Glenorchy Number of Rooms: Thirteen Highlight: Uninterrupted views of the landscapes featured in The Lord of the Rings

Matakauri, South Island

Queenstown’s most renowned property, Matakauri is a lodge par excellence, with communal sitting areas and lots of wood-burning fireplaces. But the interiors seem straight out of a Dwell magazine photo shoot, featuring a contemporary look crafted by designer Virginia Fisher.

Compared with its famous sister properties—the Farm at Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs (both on the North Island)—Matakauri is tiny: just a four-bedroom Owner’s Cottage and sixteen guest rooms and suites, located in the main building, where breakfast and dinner are served, and in free-standing homes that dot the nine lushly planted lakefront acres. The latter house the sumptuous Deluxe Suites, duplexes with elevated bedrooms and tubs tucked into window nooks, so bathing feels like floating above the lake.

Matakauri is geared to travelers who want to kick off or finish a New Zealand itinerary with a bang. From fly-fishing with a private guide and wine tasting with an oenophile to helicoptering to a nearby glacier for a private lunch, no request is too complex for the lodge’s staff. Queenstown is activities central, with four golf courses, wonderful hiking and, of course, proximity to the Milford Sound and the Southern Alps. But many guests might be tempted just to stay put. The property offers a tiny but terrific spa, a gym, a small infinity pool and an outdoor terrace with lots of day beds for soaking up the views.

Where: Queenstown Number of Rooms: Sixteen, plus an owner’s cottage Highlight: Gorgeous Lake Wakatipu location with sweeping views toward Queenstown

Farm at Cape Kidnappers, North Island

The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, located in Hawke’s Bay, one of the country’s top wine areas, offers the truly rare combination of a 6,000-acre sheep and cattle farm and a world-class golf course. Perched on a headland on the North Island’s eastern coast, with emerald hills and 800-foot cliffs that plunge into the brilliant blue ocean, it has twenty-four suites spread among several cottages. All are spacious and equipped with top-of-the-line amenities and private decks affording sweeping views.

Although the region offers a plethora of activities, including sailing, surfing, paragliding, fly-fishing and hiking, the size of the property makes leaving less appealing. Luckily, there is plenty of on-site entertainment, such as farm tours, mountain biking, walking, ATV touring and, especially, golf—either on the Farm’ own phenomenal seaside course or on the equally fabulous one at sister property Kauri Cliffs Lodge, a helicopter ride away. Orniphiles will love the resort’s serious kiwi sanctuary, created to help preserve the flightless birds, which are threatened by introduced mammalian predators like cats, dogs and weasels, as well as habitat loss. Taking a walking tour of the sanctuary is a must, if you’re there when they’re offered, from November through April. Indagare’s Eliza Harris writes of making such a trek: “I tracked an endangered baby kiwi through a forest of white pines with a biologist. When we found it hiding in the thick forest duff, I held the delicate bird in my hand (goose bumps!) while he weighed it and fed it juicy grubs to fatten it up.”

Where: Hawke’s Bay Number of Rooms: Twenty-four, plus three owner’s cottages Highlights: The excellent golf courses and proximity to the vineyards of Hawke’s Bay, among of the country’s top wine producers

Huka Lodge, North Island

The intimate Huka Lodge is set in a pine forest on the banks of Taupo’s Waikato River, amid grounds landscaped with clipped boxwood, ferns and willow trees. The interiors evoke a British men’s club: the bold, dark colors of navy tartan rugs, forest green leather couches and red wingbacks; gilt-framed oil paintings of fish and stags, blazing fires. The service is impeccable but also more formal than that at most of the other lodges. Cuisine is lavish, with superb five-course dinners that can be eaten in the Trophy Room, which can seat twenty, the cozy Library or, on warm summer evenings, the Jetty Pavilion, located on the river.

A string of cottages extending from the main lodge holds the twenty-five guest rooms, which are decorated in a palette of celadon, cream and stone. Each has glass doors that open onto to a small private terrace and a lawn that slopes down to the river. Contributing to the peaceful atmosphere, there are no televisions or phones in the rooms, although they are available on request.

Where: Lake Taupo Number of Rooms: Twenty, plus two owner’s cottages Highlight: Excellent fishing

The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, North Island

In 1978, on a sabbatical from Wall Street, investor Julian Robertson Jr. escaped to New Zealand to ponder the future. The perspective he gained led him to found Tiger Management Corp., one of the first successful hedge funds In 1995 he bought a farm on the North Island coastline. He had no intention of becoming an hotelier, but the property seemed to the avid golfer to cry out for a course. In 2000 he realized his dream of creating a Pebble Beach of the South Pacific with the opening of Kauri Cliffs Golf Course, now top rated, followed a year later by its namesake lodge.

The resort’s cottages contain two separate suites, each composed of a large bedroom and sitting area opening onto a private porch overlooking the Pacific. The owner’s cottage has two bedrooms, an enormous living room, a kitchen, a library and an infinity pool. Since its opening, the Dave Harman–designed championship course has attracted golfers from around the world, who can now also ply their clubs at Robertson’s other North Island property, the Farm at Cape Kidnappers, an easy helicopter hop away. Nongolfers are also accommodated, with have a full menu of activities like sailing, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and sea kayaking in the Bay of Islands. Room rates include meals, which, in the case of dinner and cocktails, are formal affairs, requiring jackets for men.

Where: Bay of Islands Number of Rooms: Twenty-two, plus owner’s cottage Highlight: Private swimming beaches and glorious views of the Bay of Islands

Wharekauhau Lodge, North Island

Although just one and half hours by car from Wellington, Wharekauhau (pronounced Foray-ko-ho) Lodge, located on a working sheep farm in one of the North Island’s most scenic corners seems a world away. Surrounding the lodge is a dramatic landscape of pastures dotted with sheep and cattle, cliffs dropping sharply to a black-sand beach and wild Pacific stretches as far as the eye can see. And just as your mind is absorbing the countryside’s natural beauty, you are bowled over by the stylish interiors. Each common room is more beautiful than the next, and their style and comfort continue in the thirteen guest cottages, which cluster beside the main lodge, making it easy for guests to walk to meals and activities.

Activities at Wharekauhau abound. The property itself has several hiking and walking paths, and guests can take one of the mountain bikes for a ride or hone their clay target shooting and archery skills. The two-hour farm tour includes a sheep shearing demonstration and a short walk through a fern forest. Off the property, guests can take a thirty-five-minute drive to tour some of the best of the acclaimed Martinborough region’s wineries. For entertainment on rainy days, there’s an indoor pool, board games, a well-stocked library and in-room spa treatments.

Where: Wairarapa Number of Rooms: Thirteen cottages Highlight: The mix of bucolic seclusion and stylish interiors

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