By Gwen McClure
May 11, 2022
AFTER TWO LONG YEARS of borders being closed to non-citizens, New Zealand officially reopened to international tourists on May 1. The country’s varied and dramatic landscapes make for a stunning road trip backdrop, and seeing the country by car, checking in at homey lodges along the way, is the best introduction (or reintroduction) to New Zealand.
There are plenty of excellent lodges to choose from on your New Zealand road trip, but we’ve planned an itinerary that hits some of the best. Despite the extravagance of these luxury stops, there’s no stuffiness to be found, but rather a balance of attention to detail with friendly, down-to-earth warmth. On this itinerary, you’ll visit the coast of verdant, subtropical Northland, travel over crystal-clear water to a secluded island, and visit a valley beneath snow-capped mountains. Stay for as long as you like at each, and enjoy the journey in between. Here, the seven most impressive lodges to visit on a luxurious New Zealand road trip.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
The suites at this resort are tucked away in dense jungle, with native birdsong providing the soundtrack outside your window. Rooms look out over the 72-par, award-winning golf course, with the Pacific Ocean and Cavalli Islands in the background. Even for non-golfers, there’s plenty to see and do, including e-biking around the property (you may have to move out of the way for passing herds of sheep), spending a lazy day at the spa and enjoying the fine dining provided by the in-house chefs. Make sure to visit Pink Beach, a private beach on the property that gets its name from the color of the shells that wash ashore. The packages here are inclusive of three meals each day, plus a pre-dinner drink and canapes.
This lodge is built into a cliffside, with views of Owhanake Bay, an hour ferry ride from downtown Auckland. Waiheke Island is a favorite destination for day-trippers, as well as those with beach houses, meaning the island has every modern accommodation you could need. Though meals are available on-site, the array of excellent restaurants and vineyards around the island are worth a visit. Waiheke can get very busy, especially in the summer months, so after a day of exploring, return to Delamore to wander the gardens, soak in the infinity pool, or treat yourself at the spa.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Located in the Hawke’s Bay region, along the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, Cape Kidnappers luxury lodge offers proximity to one of the best wine regions in the hemisphere, and is another prime destination for golfers. The course is set on wild, windy cliffs overlooking the bay, and it’s worth taking a golf cart for a tour regardless of whether or not you play. Bet yet: spring for the helicopter tour over the sprawling, dramatic estate. As for the accommodation itself, the level of attention to detail is impressive: fresh flowers, friendly staff, and turn-down service are just a few of the grace notes that will make you feel pampered and right at home. You’ll be welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine and a tour of the lodge, before setting off to explore. As at Kauri Cliffs, which is part of the same family of lodges, meals and evening canapes are included.
Huka Lodge is synonymous with the luxury lodges scene in New Zealand. It’s located on the banks of the Waikato River, in a geothermal region in the center of the North Island. The lodge’s history dates back almost a century, to when the location was used as a fisherman’s camp, and you can still take advantage of the Waikato River for fly-fishing expeditions. The suites open onto lush gardens, giving guests privacy and tranquility. Breakfast and a five-course dinner are included, and the chef combines his European training with local ingredients for stunning meals, accompanied by a large collection from the wine cellar.
Split Apple Retreat
After an indulgent trip through the North Island, Split Apple Retreat, in the Abel Tasman National Park, is an excellent place to reset. Run by a doctor-and-chef couple, the focus here is on restoration. Just three suites – each overlooking the park – mean the utmost attention to each guest. In addition to dining on nutritionally balanced, nourishing meals, you can float in the saltwater infinity pool, practice yoga in a rose garden, take a cooking class, or rejuvenate with massage, aromatherapy, and acupuncture treatments. For active guests, sea kayaking, fishing, and horseback riding are also on the menu. Split Apple only allows guests over the age of 12, meaning you can be sure your experience will be tranquil.
A handful of the accommodation options at Annandale suit families or groups of friends, but for couples, the Seascape suite is a must. Take in the views of a private bay from the outdoor spa pool, or from inside the glass-front room. (You don’t need to worry about privacy – you’ll take a 40-minute all-wheel-drive vehicle to get here.) Meals will be prepared by the chef and delivered to your villa for you to serve yourself, further protecting your privacy. When you finally peel yourself away from the room, you can explore the farm, bike around the property, or get out on the water in a kayak to spot local wildlife, like Hector’s Dolphins, one of the world’s smallest.