New Zealand may be benefitting from too much of a good thing. International Tourism to New Zealand has been growing at a speedy pace, with numbers that approached 3.5 million in 2016 and are expected to top 4.5 million in the next five years. And there may be good reason for that.
In its remote location at the bottom of the earth, temperate and lush New Zealand is still one of the most scenic and untouched spots on the planet.
Visitors seeking their own version of paradise should try to visit New Zealand sooner than later as growing popularity will only make the destination that much more precious. And when they do, they should stay in places that provide an experience of the real New Zealand – that remote place on the map that boasts more sheep than people and where you can still, for now, have a forest and beach all to yourself.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
The best place to begin this journey is at Kauri Cliffs at the top of New Zealand’s North Island. Aptly named for the majestic Kauri tree, Jurassic in age and growing to heights of 150 feet with trunks that measure up to 50 feet in thickness (and found only in these parts), this is a luxury stay like no other and presents a timeless immersion into the island’s beauty.
A Relais & Châteaux property, Kauri Cliffs is one of a trio of luxe lodging options created by Wall Street hedge fund titan Julian Robertson (see the Farm at Cape Kidnappers and Matakauri Lodge) and offering those precious amenities in demand by travelers whose vacation time is exceedingly valuable.
Kauri Cliffs has its own golf course, one of New Zealand’s top ten and the world’s top 50. It has three private beaches. It even has its own waterfall.
Find 22 guest suites on this 6,000-acre spread, scattered along a secluded walking path each with their own porch, fireplace, dressing room, and spa-themed bathroom, and views of the par-72, David Harmon-designed golf course with the Pacific Ocean beyond. And then there is the Owner’s Cottage, a 4,200-square-foot abode with its own garden and infinity-edge swimming pool, often used by the Robertson family and bookable all other times.
Nightly rates include pre-dinner cocktails on the veranda of the 1930’s style colonial guest lodge. An à la carte dinner follows, while complimentary mini-bar with domestic beers and organic sweets is offered in room. Mornings come with a full breakfast. Days can be spent wandering the beaches and forest trails, visiting quaint towns nearby, guided walks in Puketi Forest, fishing, diving the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior, quad biking on 90 Mile Beach, partaking in cultural tours and sailing the Bay of Islands.
Or guests can just hang close at the infinity pool, go for a round of golf at the challenging seaside Kauri Cliffs course or get wrapped in manuka honey and New Zealand purity at the onsite spa. Later, a rest by a gentle fire or exploration of the treasures of the lodge library might be in order.
Getting there: Find Kauri Cliffs just over three hours from Auckland by car driving north and 30 minutes from Bay of Islands Kerikeri Airport, which receives scheduled flights from Auckland. Or visitors can take the high road: Kauri Cliffs has its own helicopter that can pick up in Auckland and offer a most scenic path to the lodge along the coast.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Also on New Zealand’s North Island but heading south toward the Pacific, find a sister in this trio: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in the heart of Hawke’s Bay’s wine country. A stay here marks the finest of farm luxe with large cottage-like suites, healthy foods grown on the property and great wines that are always in season.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers is a working farm with tours available. Some 22 suites and a sumptuous 4-bedroom Owner’s Cottage share the property with sheep, cattle and, yes, kiwi. The owners have worked hard to foster and preserve the precious New Zealand namesake in what has become the largest privately owned and funded wildlife sanctuary in the country.
A Relais & Chateaux property as well, families are in vogue at the Farm. Design here is farmhouse chic with thick timbers, fireplaces, stone floors and amazing views of the bay. Golf is celebrated here as well with an uber-exclusive, par 71, 7,119-yard course designed by Tom Doak that challenges all skill levels.
Wine, too, is a major reason to stay at Cape Kidnappers. Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine producing region, and it is its second largest. (The largest is Marlborough, on the South Island, with its renowned Sauvignon Blancs.) Hawke’s Bay’s sunny and temperate climes produce seductive Merlots and Cabernets. Syrahs and Chardonnays have their moment as well. Te Mata, New Zealand’s oldest winery (est. 1896), is a must-visit for lovers of reds that only get better with time.
While there is plenty to do on the farm (consider helicopter rides over Hawke’s Bay to secret trout fishing locations, spa treatments, golf and wine tours of the district’s vineyard, ATV Can-Am property tours, horseback riding and Kiwi Discovery Walks), an exploration of nearby Napier is also worth the trip. Described as “frozen in the 1930s,” Napier suffered an earthquake in 1932 and was rebuilt in the style of the day, which was completely Art Deco. It’s a good place to explore for local knick-knacks, farm fresh cuisine and wine gems.
Getting there: Air New Zealand operates daily flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch while JetStar flies from Auckland to Napier/Hawke’s Bay Airport, which is located about 25 miles from the Farm. Private transfers are available through desks at the airport or taxis. From Auckland, drive time takes about six hours; four hours from Wellington. Helicopter transfers from Auckland, Wellington and Taupo can be arranged by Cape Kidnappers.
The third sister might be considered the most adventurous sibling, although she is also strikingly demure and exceptionally elegant. Matakauri Lodge is a South Island spot on scenic Lake Wakatipu and within a seven minute drive from the heart of Queenstown — New Zealand’s hot spot for hikers, trekkers, thrill seekers and sporting enthusiasts.
Matakauri’s 12 stunning suites offer views of the Remarkables mountain range with wide windows, private patios, and open fireplaces. Four rooms can be found in the lodge, while another eight are dotted next to the forest overlooking the lake and mountains.
The lodge’s four-bedroom Owner’s Cottage is, as one would expect, a stunner. Designed for families and groups of friends traveling together (sleeps up to eight guests), it has a spacious living room, as well as a study, kitchen and dining room and four large bedrooms. Find open fireplace, private balconies, bathrooms with large tubs angling in on the sublime views, and a perfectly located hot tub on the main balcony over the lake.
Matakauri Lodge offers plenty of comfortable, warm public spaces as well, with stylish lounges and roaring open fires. Guests can sip wine on the Remarkables Patio, find peace in the Library, soak in an outdoor infinity pool and Jacuzzi, or relax in the spa that sits on the edge of a pine forest, with uninterrupted views of the lake and Cecil Peak.
Getting there: Air New Zealand, Jet Star and Virgin Australia operate daily flights to Queenstown from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. While several carriers operate direct flights from major Australia ports of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The Lodge is located about 20 minutes Queenstown Airport.
Inquire about the Ultimate New Zealand Lodge Package and stay at all three properties with plenty of “only in New Zealand” perks included.
Top Ten “Only in New Zealand” Musts
As New Zealand, some 13 hours flying time from the west coast of the U.S., is often noted as a bucket list destination, that may be because it offers so many unique and breathtaking experiences that you simply cannot find anywhere else. In New Zealand, you can swim with dolphins in Bay of Islands, cruise Fiordland’s Sounds, indulge your Lord of the Rings fantasies with tours in Matamata, raft inside the eerie glow of the Waitomo Caves, and develop your palate among Hawke’s Bay historic vineyards.
The following is a top ten New Zealand bucket list file to tuck inside the top ten destinations to see before you die.
1. Swimming with dolphins in Bay of Islands
2. Cruising Fiordland’s Sounds
3. Lord of the Rings Tours
4. Visiting the Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers
5. Bungy Jump in Queenstown
6. Rotorua’s geothermal attractions
7. Cruising Marlborough’s Sounds
8. Black water rafting in Waitomo Caves
9. Wine tasting in Hawke’s Bay
10. Experience Fiordland’s fjords by Helicopter
Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates– Curator of undiscovered luxury travel locales with insider info and news from our worldwide portfolio of hotels, wellness retreats, and eco-resorts. View our portfolio on our Online Directory.
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