Luxury travel is one of New Zealand's growing tourism sectors as the world wakes up to a premium offering that begins with top international lodges and world-class premium experiences.
Like all best kept secrets, word eventually gets out, so it's no surprise that luxury travellers are increasingly drawn to New Zealand as high-end lodges and tourism experiences notch up international awards and recognition and the word spreads.
For the world-weary, well travelled visitor, New Zealand offers a genuinely refreshing approach that's strongly linked to the landscape and all about creating personal and unique premium experiences - world-class accommodation, service and transport delivered in an intimate and engaging Kiwi manner.
Drawn firstly to the unspoilt landscape, international visitors are often blown away by the sophisticated infrastructure and services providing all the trappings of a first-class experience topped off with priceless treasures like peace, privacy and safety.
Discerning tourists are continually voting New Zealand their favourite destination with New Zealand lodges and luxury hotels frequently winning accolades from within the international luxury travel industry.
In 2014 three New Zealand luxury properties - Otahuna, Huka Lodge and Blanket Bay - were named in prestigious Andrew Harper's Top 20 International Hideaways. In 2013, New Zealand was named the 'World's Best Luxury Destination' for affluent Chinese travellers by the Shanghai Travellers Club while exclusive Eagles Nest retreat won top honours as the 'World's Leading Boutique Villa Resort' at the 2013 World Travel Awards.
As a relative newcomer to luxury tourism, New Zealand has had the benefit of hindsight, able to draw from the experience of others and create a world-class product with a truly unique Kiwi flavour. Locally grown fine foods, award winning wines, exclusive accommodation and tailor-made activities all exceed the expectations of the most discerning luxury traveller.
Another element of the New Zealand luxury experience that moves international visitors is the chance to interact with the indigenous culture in an authentic sense, whether joining a Māori guide to walk in ancient kauri forests or meeting a contemporary Māori artist in their own studio.
New Zealand's first luxury property is still the best known - the multi-award winning Huka Lodge in Taupo has hosted heads of state and Hollywood stars, and earned international recognition for its seclusion, unique environment and luxury experience.
Newer properties like Treetops, Blanket Bay, Wharekauhau, Kauri Cliffs, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers and Matakauri Lodge have quickly earned world class status. The golf courses at Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers have each earned a significant share of international golfing honours, with the newest golf resort The Lodge at Kinloch now seeking international attention.
At no extra cost comes New Zealand's natural asset, the landscape, with mountains, crystal-clear lakes and rivers, wide open spaces and miles of sparkling blue coast.
Each summer, super yachts enjoy the relative privacy of cruising New Zealand's waters. There are luxury yachts to hire offering exclusive options for exploring New Zealand's endless coastline by water via the hundreds of islands and secluded moorings found within easy reach of main centres.
The cruise market is also on the up, and the current figure of around 140 ocean liners visiting New Zealand steadily increases each summer as cruise companies rise to world demand.
As well as the chance to sail the subtropical waters of the Bay of Islands in the north of New Zealand - where dolphins and whales are a common sight - many liners take passengers on a dramatic journey into Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park where bush-clad peaks rise from the still blue waters, waterfalls cascade hundreds of metres into deep coves, and wildlife abounds.
Rat race escapees
Escaping the rat race is one of the main reasons luxury travellers come to New Zealand and visitors list the seclusion, easily achieved privacy, restorative health benefits and infectious warmth of the people as key factors.
One of the mistakes visitors commonly make is not allowing enough time to enjoy the New Zealand experience and, despite the ease of travel and accessibility of facilities, people frequently say they wish they could stay longer.
With the chance to walk for days and not see another soul, fly in to a remote fishing spot hours from civilisation, soak in a spa under the stars, entertain in a private lodge with your personal chef, dine on your own freshly caught seafood and escape into anonymity - it's easy to see why.