As the country finally reopens to international travel, I’ve had the privilege of revisiting the Aotearoa; the Land of the Long White Cloud. Here’s a roundup of my top tried-and-tested luxury stays across New Zealand.
The Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbor
Our journey begins in Auckland, the country’s biggest city, where the crown of all stays is the Sofitel Auckland. The hotel occupies a prime position along the Viaduct Harbor offering a scenic water location with generous views of the city skyline. Sleek glass-lined corridors connect the spaces, constantly reflecting the adjacent harbor or courtyard ponds – with selective slivers of gold adding to the lustre.
The wellness areas, including gym, spa, pool and jacuzzi, continue the chic French flair with slick lines and modern tiled frescos. Come evening, Sabrage Bar serves up enticing tipples, and La Maree delivers fresh flavors with an undercurrent of French chic. Their sustainably sourced New Zealand quality cuts are mouth-watering – the Speckle Park Scotch Fillet was the highlight dish of my entire trip. If you’ve added access to Club Millésime enjoy the complimentary drinks and canapes. Of course, you may just choose to luxuriate away the day in the comfort of your room (be sure to opt for the Luxury Marina View Rooms), staring out over the harbor view.
When it comes to exploring the city, start the day at the historic Pah Homestead and accompanying gardens, and make sure to sample celebrity chef Sam Mannering’s Eggs Benedict at the in-house café. The city and its suburbs are flanked by over 50 volcanoes – Mount Eden is one such, with a short but rewarding walk to the top. Zingi restaurant is a swanky affair in the downtown Britomart Hotel.
Picture waking up and swinging open the doors in your luxe cottage to an azure ocean and virescent vines – and even more enticing that you’re on an island. Less than 30-minutes on the ferry and you’re at Waiheke – an island of boats, beaches, and Bordeaux blends. The hills are smothered in vineyards with around 20 estates of which Mudbrick is one of the most established.
The estate offers a variety of accommodation options, with ‘Merlot’ being my choice. The charming and luxe two-bedroom cottage occupies a private corner of the estate, and offers a constant reminder of the unique location – from the bedroom, lounge and even the hot tub – the views stretch out over the island and bay, with the skyline of Auckland just visible at the distance.
And then, when you’re ready, step through the hedge and a premium wine tasting and restaurant only a minute’s walk away. Prepare to be transported to wine-heaven with the wine flight – including Francesca – possibly the most delectable Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted.
The George Hotel
Having firmly recovered from the devastating quakes a century ago, Christchurch has worked hard at establishing itself as an welcoming location. Modelled on England’s Oxford you’ll doubtlessly notice the similarities between the towns. The most scenic part of the town is perhaps Hagley park offering 407 acres of green space – and sitting on the edge of the park is The George Hotel.
Named after Sir George Seymour, one of the first ships to arrive in Canterbury in 1850, The George is Christchurch’s only five-star boutique hotel. The on-site 50 Bistro offers an unforgettable dining experience – probably the city’s finest cuisine – where careful consideration has gone into sourcing the local finest ingredients. Try the Lumina Lamb – a boutique New Zealand cut of note. Your take-home ‘George Bear’ – gifted to all guests on the first night’s turndown – will forever remind you of your luxury Christchurch home base.
‘Punting On The Avon’ offers a calm and traditional way to explore the river – or use George’s complimentary bikes and peddle your way about. Head to The Lastword for a tasty dram and then ‘The Terrace’ for a string of chic bars and eateries.
It’s an almost Jurassic park experience – sans killer dinosaurs of course – with the towering snow-capped mountains above, and below a lush forest dripping with ferns. This is the almost mythical setting of the West Coast’s Rainforest Retreat. The property is a one-minute walk from the hamlet of Frans Joseph – named after the iconic Glacier that snakes up the nearby valley and is the country’s fourth-largest glacier.
Rain Forest Retreat offers accommodation for all budgets, with the top of the pops being the Deluxe Spa Treehouses. Two bedrooms flank the central lounge which is attached to a fully-stocked kitchen. When booking your unit, number eleven is perhaps one of the most secluded so put in a request if possible. Once settled in, soak up the landscape from the luxury of your private hot tub. Oh, and did I mention the minibar is complimentary?
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Since the glacier is the real hero of the show, book a helicopter flip up with The Helicopter Line – which includes a scenic flight and glacier landing. There’s also a heli-hike for the more adrenaline seekers. If the weather is clear, consider a drive to the nearby hamlet of Fox Glacier and visit Lake. There are drool-worthy photos to be had of the mountains reflected in the lake.
With a generous spread of wine regions across both islands, why not head to one of its most quaint. Martinborough sits in the Wairarapa, an hour away and separated from Wellington by the Rimutaka Mountain range. The Martinborough Hotel is the country’s oldest continuously operating hotel, having welcomed guests since 1882. The rooms have been tastefully renovated, with several openings onto the Victorian building’s upper wrap-around balcony – the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner while watching the sun make its evening descent.
The lower floor serves as the Union Square Bistro and Bar – offering chic food and beverage offerings and breakfasts to write home about. Wine lovers will revel in the fact that many of the boutique wineries are within walking distance of the hotel – or pick up a bicycle from Green Jersey and head out to explore. The dominant plantings are Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Moy Hill, Luna, and Palliser all offer informative tasting experiences.
If you’re up for a romantic break and have the privacy of your own rental, then Cottage 103 on the North Island’s Kapiti Coast may just be what you’re looking for. The house is spacious and stylishly outfitted for travelers with discerning tastes. Set in countless acres of farmlands, where the closest neighbors are donkeys, horses, and sheep. It’s fairly common for New Zealand home rentals – or bachs as they’re referred to locally – to feature outdoor hot tubs, and Cottage 103 lifts the bar with its natural wood tub which stars out over the valley, with overhead string lights creating extra ambience.
While you may want to stay cocooned in your little country haven, when you are ready to head out and explore, a visit to the Salt and Wood BQ is a must-do. You’ll find locals enjoying the establishment’s craft beers – and the famous dirty fries. Afterwards, walk off the calories along the Waikanae beach – just remember a warm jacket.