Any visitor to New Zealand looking to experience the Maori concept of manaakitanga (the importance of hospitality towards guests) need look no further than Otahuna Lodge.
The American owners have pulled off that difficult trick of blending the contemporary (modern art by leading Kiwi artists, outdoor Jacuzzi) with an extremely traditional setting (original Victorian wallpaper, croquet lawn) to create one of the South Island's most distinctive and welcoming lodges.
There are just seven suites in total, each with super comfy super-king sized beds and large bathrooms liberally stocked with Penhaligons goodies. The Rhodes Suite (named after original owner and all-round local hero Sir Heaton Rhodes) is actually a series of four rooms, including a dressing room and octagonal study. Meanwhile the Veranda Suite has - as the name suggests - a glorious 50ft long veranda that's the perfect venue for enjoying a sundowner as the sun sets behind the Southern Alps in the distance.
Peer down from the same veranda and you will see another wonderful feature of Otahuna - the extensive and award-winning garden and grounds surrounding the lodge. Designed in English country house style, there are immaculately kempt lawns, daffodil fields, beds of camellias, an ornamental lake and mature woodland to wander around, as well as a tennis court and swimming pool.
The 30 acre grounds are also home to a potager garden and orchard that provide a lot of produce for Otahuna's kitchen where the chef creates five course degustation menus each evening served in the original Victorian dining room. The emphasis is on communal dining, local produce and seasonality, and the end result is one of the finest places to eat in New Zealand, with the local wines (stored in the old game larder turned wine cellar) the perfect complement.
Given the quality of the grub, it's appropriate that there are several foodie themed activities on offer, including cooking classes with chef Jimmy McIntrye, foraging for mushrooms (in season, which starts in June), trips to visit local artisanal producers and wine tastings in North Canterbury's vineyards. On a less foodie tip, guests can enjoy massages in the spa, visit nearby Akaroa to swim with dolphins (fingers crossed), sail in a harbour created from a volcano crater or take a helicopter ride from the Great Lawn in front of the lodge.
Why We Love It
The owners encourage communal dining at Otahuna but couples can always retreat to a table for two in the cosy library, the romantic turret in the drawing room or even the sunken wine cellar.
Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, this alpine Lodge takes its name from the tradition of sheep shearing on the shores of the lake.
Accommodation consists of Lodge rooms, Lodge suites and Chalet suites, all with views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The suites each have an open fireplace and all accommodations TV's and wifi. Set amongst fields of grazing sheep, the Main Lodge houses a sitting room, games room, wine cave, outdoor terrace and self-serve bar. Facilities also include a gym, spa and outdoor pool with spectacular views.
Blanket Bay has three dining areas: the terrace; the dining room; and the wine cave for more private dinners. Food is local and seasonal, and the wines some of New Zealand's finest.
At the gateway to two national parks, Blanket Bay sits at the edge of a remarkable alpine wilderness and is renowned for being home to three of New Zealand's most famous walking tracks. Queenstown, the 'Adventure Capital of the World' is a short drive away, where a wide array of activities are available, from horse riding to hiking and heli-skiing to fishing. For a more relaxing day there is a Wine and Arts Trail where guests can enjoy a long lunch and visit artists in their studios.
Why We Love It
The magnificent scenery might seem familiar, having played a starring role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Bay of Many Coves
Accessible only by ferry, the Bay of Many Coves Resort is a true romantic hideaway. Spectacular views of the Queen Charlotte Sound are complimented by the surrounding bush in New Zealand's sunniest region.
Accommodation comes in the form of one, two and three bedroom apartments, all en suite, with kitchenette, living area and internet access. Relax after a day of adventure and activity (preferably with a glass of chilled Malborough Sauvignon Blanc), taking in the breathtaking view from the private balcony.
The resort boasts two restaurants and one café. The Foredeck Restaurant creates a refined and romantic atmosphere while the Kumatage Restaurant has a more relaxed vibe. The Bight Café sits on the shore, serving lighter food, coffee and fine Marlborough wines.
A heated outdoor pool, hot tub, day spa and library are all provided for guests' enjoyment and babysitting can be arranged. Marlborough Sounds has plenty on offer - guests can swim with dolphins, walk through the bush, hire a kayak or sailing boat and observe the cormorant colonies nearby. Trips can also be arranged to Motuara Island and to the principal Marlborough vineyards.
Why We Love It
The activities on offer are endless - from swimming with dolphins to wine tours, or just relaxing on one of the nearby secluded beaches.