New Zealand Experiences to Add to Your Bucket List
Image credit: Shaun Jeffers
Mt. Isthmus, Wanaka1/19
With a roofline that mimics the peaks behind it and clear mountain lakes to its east and west, this luxury lodge a 90-minute drive from Queenstown, is so sympathetic to the landscape, it could have grown here. The sole-use villa comprises four suites, each with an ensuite and dreamy views, and includes the services of a chef. After a day on the slopes or the water, a horse or kayak – even tasting top pinot noir – sink into a chair by the in-floor gas-fire pyramid and relax.
The Tiny Pub2/19
The pint-sized pub, with its mini dartboard, tiny piano and weeny gazette, welcomes two customers each session and they spend a total of 27 minutes inside – enough time to connect over a couple of beers but no time to stare at their phones. The pub literally travels from desolate beaches to snowy mountains (it reportedly took 25 donkeys to get it up Coronet Peak). Check the website for tour dates and bookings.
Steaming Cliffs Kayak tour, Rotorua3/19
Glide into a Jurassic landscape across the mystical waters of Lake Rotomahana on this guided kayak tour through Waimangu Valley, the world’s youngest geothermal system. As steam rises from the cliffs, keep an eye out for birds such as the weweia or dabchick, which are endemic to New Zealand. No kayaking experience required.
Falcon Brae Villa, Nelson4/19
Perched on a hilltop 50 minutes from Nelson and within an hour’s drive of about 25 premium wineries, this sprawling off-grid villa sits where eagles soar and marvels at the same sights: emerald mountains that turn blue as they touch the sky and the mighty Motueka River, where trout as hefty as 4 kilograms await. Falcon Brae, which sits above its sister property, the acclaimed Stonefly Lodge, has three suites, each with ensuite and cocktail bar, and a bunk room for your pilot, security guard or the kids.
Image credit: Manja Wachsmuth
This upmarket diner in Auckland’s Commercial Bay precinct gives new meaning to the term “local restaurant” – everything, from the plates to the woven-oak ceiling, the timber and, of course, the food, is sourced in or references New Zealand. The lamb that snuggles up to spring nettles, buffalo yoghurt and cocoa bean is from Wanaka and the charcoaled crayfish from Fiordland. This is a labour of love for chef Ben Bayly and the diners love him for it.
Image credit: Fraser Clements
Hokitika Gorge Walk6/19
For years, tourists have flocked to this gorge, 33 kilometres from the west coast town of Hokitika, to see a river as blue as Windex wind its way through rainforest, having drained from a glacier high in the Southern Alps. Thanks to an extension, including a 90-metre swing bridge across the water and through the forest canopy, what used to be a 15-minute walk is now an hour-long loop.
There are many upsides to new hotels in old buildings. Lofty ceilings are one, confidence is another; rooms so self- assured they don’t need bling to sing. In this reimagining of Dunedin’s first hotel – Wains, opened in the 1860s – Fable has created a 50-room haven only a short stroll to restaurants, bars and cool design stores.
Manea Footprints of Kupe, Oponon8/19
This cultural and education centre sits on the shores of Hokianga Harbour, the cradle of Mãori nationhood, in New Zealand’s Northland, a four-hour drive from Auckland. It’s a 75-minute multisensory event that tells the story of Kupe, the Polynesian explorer whose arrival about 1000 years ago launched the first chapter of the country’s human history.
From the moment you pass through QT’s doors on Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, you’ll be calmed by a soothing meditation of neutral tones and subtle lighting... just kidding! This 150-room addition to the ubiquitous chain is pure QT – bright, happy and a little bit wacky. Survey the water with a cocktail in hand from the rooftop bar then pull up a chair at the in-house diner, Esther, and savour Mediterranean-style dishes, including pizza delivered straight from the jaws of a golden (of course) wood-fired oven.
It’s one thing to eat good food, another to feel good about eating it. This seafood-focused restaurant in the Hotel Britomart only does business with fishers who operate ethically or practise regenerative farming. The menu is made for grazing (oysters, green-lipped mussels, octopus carpaccio) but if you’re hungry, the pan-roasted snapper should do the trick.
The Press Club, Dunedin11/19
Back in the 1870s, Dunedin’s editors and publishers would gather inside what was then the fairly new Wains Hotel. The hotel is now Fable Dunedin, and its restaurant, The Press Club, pays homage to that literary tradition. Breakfast and lunch have a casual vibe, dinner gets a little more ritzy but one thing remains the same: the produce is, where possible, sourced from New Zealand’s lush Otago region. Eat up. You’ll have the urge to write a review.
Hotel Fitzroy, Auckland12/19
Small, cosy and impeccably styled, this converted 1910 villa in the inner suburb of Ponsonby is the ideal hotel for people who don’t like staying in shiny towers. There are just 10 suites – six in the original house and four in a separate modern annex – and it’s an easy stroll to hip Ponsonby Road, a strip lined with everything from gourmet food trucks to some of the best eateries in Auckland. Who needs a dining room?
Image credit: Hobbiton Movie Set
Hobbiton Second Breakfast tour, Hamilton-Waikato13/19
Tours of Hobbiton, the enchanting set of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies, about a 50-minute drive from Hamilton, are not new but incorporating Second Breakfast is. Book the first tour of the day, which ends with a feast including fresh fruit, pastries, scrambled eggs, potatoes and bacon. What is second breakfast, you ask? In some cultures – and it’s the well-known habit of hobbits – it’s the meal after breakfast and before lunch.
Simon Levy, Gordon Ramsay’s former head chef at The Warrington in London, has opened Hali Bar & Bistro, his second eatery in Christchurch (the other is the award-winning Inati). There’s a distinct emphasis on the ocean – in both the décor and food – and a concise menu that changes with the availability of ingredients.
Cosa Hotel , Christchurch15/19
The 48 steel-framed modules that make up Cosa were built and largely fitted out in Vietnam with only finishing touches applied locally. Most of the 88 rooms have city views and are walking distance from local attractions. The hotel has low-energy lighting and no single-use plastic bottles for toiletries. Vision from start to finish.
Image credit: Celeste Fontein
Restaurant Amok , Wellington16/19
The menu is as dynamic as Thom Millott and Tashie Piper, the duo who opened this small modern-European-style restaurant and bar. The offerings change daily but it’s safe to expect a range of innovative snacks, hand-rolled pasta and dishes cooked over charcoal. Drawing on the couple’s hospitality experience in Sydney, the wine list is heavy on local and Australian drops.
Image credit: Sean Aitken
The Intrepid Hotel, Wellington17/19
The Intrepid is history done right – 18 guestrooms across three floors, all as sweet and purposeful as the one-time Cadbury Chocolate warehouse it inhabits. Distressed-brick walls nod to its past life, while linen sheets, gauzy curtains, unique artwork and velvet armchairs lure this gem into the future.
Homeland cooking school, Auckland18/19
The career of acclaimed New Zealand chef Peter Gordon has taken him to London, New York and home again. With his latest venture, part-cooking school, part-dining room and part- innovation hub, Gordon celebrates his homeland’s producers and shares his skills. Class frequency and cuisines explored depend on the time of year and freshness of ingredients.