Six of the best: NZ North Island lodges

HELENA BAY LODGE

This country retreat is owned by a Russian billionaire and, when he isn't in residence, you get his 800 acres, sea-gazing mansion, 60 staff, 25-metre swimming pool, 100 cows and handful of alpacas almost to yourself, since there are only five guestrooms. You won't have to park your car, carry a suitcase or look around for drinks, which appear at your elbow as if by magic. Play tennis, fish for snapper and take a tour with informative farm manager Jason Hanham. The lodge gets the nod from gourmet-minded Relais & Chateaux, so no surprise that dinner is impressive too. See relaischateaux.com

HUKA LODGE

Established as a rustic fishing retreat on the edge of the translucent, emerald-green Waikato River just outside Taupo, Huka Lodge went on to become New Zealand's best-known luxury retreat. Set on clipped lawns and beautiful gardens, it's a tranquil hideaway of paddling swans and gurgling water. Gliding waiters in long white aprons circulate with pre-dinner nibbles and wine for well-coiffed guests, including the occasional celebrity and royal. Multi-course tasting dinners are included. Suites are large and lavish, or you can settle into one of two cottages. Staff can organise just about anything, from Maori encounters to heli-fishing. See hukalodge.co.nz

TAKATU LODGE

With just four luxury rooms and a large and lovely communal lounge and dining area surrounded by patios and gardens, this hideaway makes you feel as if you've blundered into someone's home. Even better, you're welcome to chat to manager and cook Sharon Greene as she prepares one of the tastiest dinners (and breakfast omelettes) you'll enjoy in New Zealand. The lodge has a commanding view over its own vineyards and towards the ocean just outside Matakana, a country getaway with a lively arts scene, farmers' markets and lovely coastline just an hour's drive north of Auckland. See takatulodge.co.nz

THE LODGE AT KAURI CLIFFS

This lodge is set in 2600 hectares of coastal rainforest with its own waterfall and private beaches, though is best known for its golf course, one of the world's most scenic. Non-golfers increasingly visit, taking farm and Maori cultural tours, birdwatching and fishing, or simply enjoying windswept walks. A series of suites sits in a secluded row, with a central New England-style building supplying knickknack-scattered lounges and a dining room where you can tuck into seriously good honey-roasted duck, Fiordland venison or grass-fed beef fillet that demonstrate why this lodge also has Relais & Chateaux accreditation. See relaischateaux.com

THE FARM AT CAPE KIDNAPPERS

Advertisement

A world-class golf course, the coastal scenery New Zealand does best, a setting on a working sheep and cattle farm and a boutique hotel that is well-nigh flawless make this Hawke's Bay retreat one of the country's most notable getaways, reached down a seven-kilometre private driveway. Expect a rustic and sometimes playful ambience matched with considerable chic and great service. Naturally, there's a spa and heated infinity pool, a Picasso on the wall and, wouldn't you know it, wine from The Farm's very own vineyard with dinner. For a retreat of this calibre, it's surprisingly child-friendly. See robertsonlodges.com

TREETOPS LODGE

Hidden high in a valley outside Rotorua, the main lodge at Treetops looks as if it was built for giants, with huge cathedral ceilings, gigantic fireplaces and beams cut by chainsaw. The dining room is baronial and the food excellent. Individual accommodation lodges sit in lovely forest of giant ferns and gushing streams. Take a tour of the 1000-hectare estate to spot (or hunt) water buffalo and several species of deer, or just enjoy the 70 kilometres of walks and mountain-biking trails. You can also fly fish, clay-pigeon shoot or learn about cooking with native ingredients. See treetops.co.nz

Brian Johnston was a guest of Tourism New Zealand, Relais & Chateaux and individual lodges.

Comments