Many of New Zealand’s luxury lodges are as green as their bush-clad surrounds – ecologically sound, exclusive and unspoiled.
It used to be said that thoughtful travellers took only photographs and left only footprints. Today, our eco-footprint is getting smaller, thanks to advances in renewable resources. New Zealand is fast becoming a world champion in environmentally friendly tourism, with these five lodges leading the charge.
Earthsong Lodge, Great Barrier Island
Lush subtropical forests, dramatic landscapes, white sandy beaches all to yourself, Great Barrier Island is one of the Hauraki Gulf’s grand treasures, well off the beaten track, with views that stretch on forever. At Earthsong Lodge, you’ll be treated to a warm welcome, cocktails and canapés at sunset, and world-class cuisine. Choose between private Ocean View suites for romance, or book a place in the lodge if you’re travelling with friends. The island, known for its extraordinary hiking, ocean pleasures, hot pools and birdlife, is also renown for its enviable, unspoilt beauty. Overlooking lovely Tryphena Bay, Earthsong Lodge deserves every one of its five stars.
The plane trip from Auckland to Great Barrier Island is approximately 30 minutes; there are 6-8 daily flights. Helicopter charters, ferries and a seaplane also serve the island; Earthsong has its own helipad. Visitors to the lodge tend to be north of 30, active and interested in nature, history, gentle adventures, culture and fine food. Book a diving or fishing trip with Hooked on Barrier, or learn to surf in one of the island’s sheltered bays.
Hapuku Lodge – Kaikoura, South Island
Treehouses reach new heights at Hapuku Lodge, where every detail has been lovingly crafted. Ten metres high, in a canopy of manuka trees, you have views of Kaikoura’s dramatic mountains and Pacific coastline that will take your breath away. Clad in native woods and copper shingles, the treehouses give guests the feeling they’re sleeping in the treetops, nestled into the environment. Interior furnishings are utterly elegant, from the doorknobs to the way the light shines through the rough-hewn slats. And if you can bear to tear yourself away (the food will blow your mind), you’ll want to head for the shore to admire dusky dolphins, albatrosses and whales.
About 180 kilometres north of Christchurch, Kaikoura is best reached by car – or a helicopter. It caters for everyone from honeymooners to family groups, with hiking, wildlife tours, cultural tours, kayaking and skiing all on the doorstep. Swim with dusky dolphins off the coast or gain an insight into native culture through a tour with Maori Tours.
Kokohuia Lodge – Hokianga, Far North
Architecturally designed in accordance with sustainable principles, Kokohuia takes its inspiration from a leaf lying gently on the ground. From your bed, you can feast your eyes on the dramatic Hokianga Harbour and distant, soaring sand dunes. Sophisticated and private, catering for just one couple at a time, the lodge provides romantic memories you’ll cherish forever, of being lulled to sleep by the sound of the sea. Proud to be off-grid, the owners generate all their own power and hot water, while the surrounding hectare of native bush hosts a wealth of bird life, alongside organically managed orchards and gardens.
Three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Auckland, Hokianga offers a warm welcome all year round. Choose to meander along the seashore, visit ancient kauri forests, immerse yourself in Maori and European culture and history, ride the sand dunes or just soak in the bath. Yoga, meditation and massage sessions are also available. Take a Footprints guided tour of the ancient Waipoua Forest to see some of the largest remaining kauri trees in the world.
Manawa Ridge – Waihi, North Island
Manawa Ridge Luxury Eco Retreat is an artistic marriage of recycled beams, mudbrick and straw-bale walls. Its indulgences include starlit spa baths and an impressive wine cellar; its imaginative touches range from a cushion-filled turret to a hand-basin carved from a giant tree knot. Perched on a Coromandel hilltop with 360-degree views of the Kaimai Ranges, Waihi Beach and the Pacific Ocean, the gardens are spectacular and it’s just a 25-minute walk to secluded Homunga Bay. The food here is top-notch and largely grown by your hosts – “manawa” is Maori for heart, and this inviting lodge has plenty of it.
Waihi is 90 minutes’ drive from Auckland and, while its high season is summer, it’s just as delightful in winter, when you often have the beach to yourself. Cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail, visit Karangahake Gorge or the Gold Discovery Centre, or hike among the distinctive native pohutukawa trees.
The Resurgence – Nelson, South Island
Set among 20 hectares of tranquil wilderness, the grounds of The Resurgence include five kilometres of bush tracks, which help ensure you’re often surrounded by a symphony of native birdsong. With a famously relaxed atmosphere, this lodge offers guests the choice of rooms or self-contained bush suites, where options include self-catering or being served a full breakfast and gourmet four-course dinner using the region’s finest wine and produce. The Resurgence is the closest five-star lodge to the Abel Tasman National Park, and also offers easy day-trips to Golden Bay, Kahurangi National Park, art studios, cycle trails and wineries. Popular activities include kayaking, hiking and birdwatching.
Located an easy hour's drive from Nelson airport and 15 minutes from Kaiteriteri Beach - the main access point for Abel Tasman National Park - The Resurgence is and is open from mid-October to mid-April: the ideal months to visit the region. Pool, spa, gym, bikes and massages are available onsite. Hire a kayak and head into the pristine Abel Tasman National Park or take a “Wine in the Wilderness” tour, where you’ll discover medicinal and edible plants and enjoy a gourmet lunch matched with local wine.