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It would be inaccurate to describe New Zealand as otherworldly. Rather, if you were to choose a corner of the earth as a model for the geographical highlights of the world, this stretch of islands in the South Pacific would do the trick. The North Island is home to rugged, windswept coastlines, tranquil bays and rolling green hills. On the South Island you’ll find snowy mountain ranges towering above fiords, glaciers, and some of the clearest freshwater on the planet.
New Zealand has earned a must-do reputation with backpackers and campers, but there’s no need to pitch a tent to experience the incredible wilderness here. These two islands boast a collection of world-class luxury lodges that allow for access to some of the most stunning landscapes in the world—with world-class amenities. Though it’s hard to narrow them down when we’re so spoiled for choice, here are seven of the best.
Guests of Eagles Nest will fall asleep under the stars and wake up to views of native bush, thanks to the glass architecture used in the five free-standing suites. Beyond the flora and fauna are views of the Bay of Islands, a sparkling body of water dotted with nearly 150 islands. This location means easy access to an array of water and land activities set against a breathtaking backdrop. Kayak, go site-seeing by helicopter, or have a picnic set up on a private island. The lodge is also within walking distance of Russell, a historic port town worth an afternoon wander. The lodge can accommodate groups and couples. Each suite has a heated spa pool, and four of the five have private infinity lap pools.
This secluded hideaway is tucked between emerald hills on the shore of tranquil Helena Bay. The only concern you’ll have here is simply how to spend your days—from adventuring around the property on mountain bikes or taking paddleboards out on the water sit in direct competition with working your way in a constant loop between lazy laps in the pool and making a circuit between the spa’s massage table, sauna, and plunge pool.
Still, make sure to explore the empty waters around the resort with Luke, the skipper of the brand new, private yacht. He’s from just around the corner, as bays go, and knows the area well. If you’re really looking for luxury, Michele, the in-house chef who recently traded in Capri for Helena Bay, will prepare you a romantic dinner on board.
The Hawke’s Bay sits on the east coast of New Zealand, and Cape Kidnappers—an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property—at the south end of the bay. The area is known for being the oldest wine region in New Zealand, and for producing a majority of the country’s merlot, Syrah, and cabernet sauvignon varietals.
The lodge is surrounded by trees on a cliff dropping off into the Pacific Ocean, and it isn’t just a farm by name—much of the produce you’ll eat here is grown on the property. There’s also an on-site, par 71 golf course, which ranks as one of the best in Oceania. Five suites accommodate between two and eight people apiece.
An hour-and-a-half drive north of New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, Wharekauhau Country Estate offers 16 cottages, perched on a cliff overlooking Palliser Bay. This land has been home to a working sheep station for nearly two centuries, and these days,10,000 new lambs are born here every spring.
The 3,000 acres of property are surrounded by the Rimutaka Range to the west, Lake Onoke to the east, and ten miles of Pacific Ocean to the south, leaving plenty of room for guests to explore the estate by foot, quad or mountain bike, or on a guided farm tour. Guests can also fish from the shore along the breaking waves, try their hand at archery and visit a seal colony.
‘Unbelievable’ may be a cliché, but truly, Minaret Station will require some rapid blinking to register as reality. This lodge is tucked in an alpine meadow at the head of a glacial valley, surrounded by mountains, and with only four double-occupancy chalets, it’s a near-private escape.
Minaret Station is run by a family known for their aviation background, and the only way in or out is by air. Guests can take advantage of a range of activities, many involving helicopters. For the adventurous, try heli-skiing, hiking, or biking, or soak in transcendent views of Fiordland or Mount Aspiring National Park by chopper tour. But you don’t need to step foot off the property to revel in its offerings. Linger over fresh meals, stroll along the two miles of boardwalk to the base of a waterfall and take in the expansive night sky from your deck.
Queenstown is known for dramatic landscapes as well as for being the so-called adventure capital of the world. At Blanket Bay, another American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, you can get the best of both.
The main lodge is built to emulate an alpine lodge. Stone and timber construction, warm fires, exposed beams, and hardwood floors create a welcome respite from the crisp mountain air. Choose from a variety of accommodation options, including rooms in the main lodge, a villa, private chalet or, if you’re traveling with a group, the owner’s residence.
For the adventurous, explore the famous Routeburn Track on foot or jet boat through Mt. Aspiring National Park. If you'd prefer to explore by air, take a helicopter tour with add-ons including skiing and fishing. For golf enthusiasts, there are five courses within the area.
This South Island gem is located a little over an hour south of Christchurch. Like many other luxury lodges in New Zealand, Annandale is set on a historic farm, meaning you can expect to be served meals focused around lamb and beef raised on-site, accompanied by creations comprising some of the 50-odd herb and vegetable varieties on the property.
The lodge sits in Pigeon Bay, on a peninsula jutting into the Pacific ocean. Guests have a selection of private accommodation, ranging from a glass box designed for a romantic escape to a refurbished homestead from the early 1800s that’s perfect for larger groups. Each of these is set in its own area of the property, meaning if you’ve come to New Zealand to get away, this is the place to do it.