G’day folks! This is Dianne from Go WalkAbout Travel, your travel expert for Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. I’m here today to tell you all about the luxury lodges of New Zealand. Many of you ask me about them, wondering if they’re worth the cost and what makes them different from other places. Well, I’m here to answer those questions!
What are luxury lodges in New Zealand?
To be considered a luxury lodge in New Zealand, a property must offer a very high standard of hospitality. These are places that offer outstanding comfort, service and style, in a premier location.
However, each one is unique. Some luxury lodges are coastal villas, some are remote cabins, some are charming historic estates, some are mountain chalets, some are working farms, and still others feel more like a fishing lodge. None of them are part of any recognizable international hotel chains. They are independent, small, and mostly in the countryside. After all, most folks go to New Zealand for the scenery, so if you’re going to spend time and money on the best experiences in New Zealand, then you’re probably going to want to be out in nature!
You should note that there isn’t really one official list of luxury lodges in New Zealand. What’s considered a “luxury lodge” depends partly on inclusion in a group of properties that joined together to market themselves as exceptional, and partly on individual opinion. If you’ve heard of a place being a “luxury lodge,” make sure to ask your travel agent what they know about it. Sometimes a place may call themselves a luxury lodge, but they aren’t up to the standard of others so make sure to ask for an expert’s opinion and get as much information as you can.
What the luxury lodges of New Zealand offer
The one consistent thing between all the luxury lodges is that they must emphasize their location, both in New Zealand and the world. The design of the lodge and its decor, the selection and training of the staff, the activities on offer, the food and wine they serve, nearly everything is intended to immerse the guest in their local environment. You won’t find a lodge that feels as though it could be in Florida or the Swiss Alps. It’s all about immersion in what makes New Zealand New Zealand.
Since they emphasize their location, no two are the same. One may offer a sheep shearing experience out on the farm, while another encourages guests to try deep-sea fishing. There’s a huge emphasis on local history, flora and fauna, scenery and sometimes, even building materials. The ones that have guides on staff make sure to hire top experts in their field. Many lodges grow their own food, emphasizing local, fresh ingredients paired with New Zealand wines (and some even have their own vineyards).
In terms of hospitality and service, the lodges are on par with the best in the world. We sometimes say that they set the bar for luxury accommodations worldwide. You’d be hard-pressed to find better dining, guiding and service anywhere in the world. These are folks who will bend over backwards and cater to any reasonable request.
At the same time, since this is New Zealand, the style of these lodges is surprisingly casual. For the most part, if you feel like wearing jeans and hiking boots to dinner, then you can. The staff member who brings you an extra pillow could very well be the owner of the lodge. There aren’t likely to be any occasions that require high heels or diamond jewelry. In keeping with New Zealand culture, there is a feeling of humility and equality. You might go horseback riding with the CEO of a major corporation and never realize it, because you’re both treated equally and with the same style of down-to-earth individualized service.
A few examples
While this list isn’t by any means exhaustive, it should give you an idea of what the luxury lodges of New Zealand are like.
Blanket Bay, about 45 minutes from Queenstown, is nestled in the Southern Alps and situated right on Lake Wakatipu. It has a main lodge with guest rooms, as well as separate chalets. Due to its remote location, like many of New Zealand’s luxury lodges, Blanket Bay includes breakfast and gourmet multi-course dinners in the rate as well as most activities. Dinners are held around on large table for guests to mingle with each other and share how they spent the day. When you stay at Blanket Bay, you can have a helicopter pick you up directly from their lawn and take you straight to Milford Sound — truly a spectacular way to travel!
Poronui Lodge is another luxury lodge, but this one is located about 40 minutes from Taupo in the center of the North Island. It sits on 16,000 acres of private land, allowing them to create their own special menu of activities without even leaving the property. Here, you can try hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, private Maori cultural experiences, and even a luxury remote safari tent in the wilderness for the ultimate in privacy, peace and quiet. Other overnight options include rooms in the main lodge, or stay in your own two-bedroom house with no other guests.
Eagles Nest offers contemporary style in the far northern end of New Zealand, perched above the beachy, sunny Bay of Islands. Here, there’s no main lodge. Instead, Eagles Nest offers five self-contained villas where you stay separated from other guests. With a full staff, you won’t want for anything. They offer personal trainers, massage therapists, and maybe most important, private chefs who can cook up local fish in your kitchen and serve it with a glass of superb New Zealand wine from the property’s own wine cellar.
Kids and families
While the lodges do cater best to adults, children are often allowed. Families will feel especially comfortable at properties that have separate multi-bedroom cabins or villas that they can rent out exclusively for themselves, like at Poronui or Matakauri. A few lodges allow kids of all ages, and cater to them well. Others ask that guests be at least 10 years old, or 12 years old, depending on how well they suit younger ages. If you’re traveling with kids, make sure that the places you stay know the ages of your children and what sorts of activities they enjoy. That way, they will be well prepared to give your kids the time of their lives!
Is it worth it?
Although cost seems high, if you were to itemize the value of the rooms, meals, activities, top-notch staff and design, then you’d see that the experience of staying in a luxury lodge is actually a great value. Nowhere else can you get such a well-rounded experience in one place, and it’s tough to put a real value on experience.
We say that it’s definitely worth splurging at least once on your trip. Perhaps your budget doesn’t allow you to stay in these lodges the entire time, but you can indulge yourself for the last couple nights as a treat before the flight home. We can guarantee that the experience you have at a luxury lodge will be a highlight of your stay in New Zealand.
Just make sure to book early, because these lodges are small and fill up quickly. You don’t want to plan your trip around a certain experience, only to find that it’s no longer available when you want to go.
A final tip: stay at least three nights in each lodge, if you can! Longer stays allow you to time to relax into your environment, and truly feel where you’re staying. Once you arrive and find out all the well-rounded activities and experiences at each of these lodges, you may never want to leave!
At Go Walkabout Travel, we are experts in New Zealand luxury lodges and can recommend specific ones that are best suited to your interests. Contact us to start planning today.