There’s luxe, then there’s Wellington luxe — and it usually comes with a little quirk or huge nature hit on the side. Here are the five best places to relax after a full day exploring New Zealand’s vibrant capital.
This modernist two-bedroom wooden cabin sits in solitary splendour on the edge of a 250-metre cliff overlooking Cook Strait. You’ll be stunned: how can all this open, untouched space be only 30 minutes from a buzzing city? Expansive windows and a generous deck make the most of spectacular westward views across the strait to the South Island and it’s up to you how you make the most of New Zealand’s lush produce: Continental breakfast comes included, then you can either cook up finds from local markets or let the property’s chef do all the work.
If it’s stormy, hunker down in front of the fire. If it’s not, watch the sunset and listen to the crashing waves from your outdoor hot tub.
Naumi Studio Hotel Wellington
It doesn’t get more central than the Cuba Street precinct, with its funky cafes, restaurants, galleries and bars. And hotels don’t get cooler than the boutique Naumi Studio. Whimsical is the vibe here and the lobby sets the tone with an enormous floral backdrop covered in gold leaf. Inside rooms, eclectic bespoke interiors champion Kiwi designers and artists who have been inspired by the story of the building’s original custodian, Lady Naumi, and her seafaring lover. Take an Asian culinary journey at in-house restaurant Lola Rouge, where the Crying Tiger lamb loin is a signature dish, imbibe a Mekong Delta tequila cocktail in the Grand Bar or relax in the pastel dreamscape of The Parlour. If bohemian cool is your thing, this is your hotel.
A 90-minute drive from Wellington (or 10 minutes by helicopter if that’s how you roll) and sitting between the rugged Remutaka Range and the wild beauty of Palliser Bay, Wharekauhau Lodge is the ultimate country retreat. On more than 1200 hectares of private land that spans ancient forests, rivers and lakes, the 16 luxurious cottage suites here are scattered around a central lodge where you’ll find the elegant formal dining room and the country kitchen where chefs are willing to share their secrets. With hiking, tennis, croquet, clay target shooting, horse trekking, archery, ATV quad-biking and spa treatments and the Chef in the Wild picnic-by-Land Rover experience all on the estate, you can get in a lot of adventure without even trying. But you will want to wander around more of the Wairarapa region’s wonders. Don’t miss Cape Palliser Lighthouse and its nearby seal colony or the Martinborough wine region, which is just a 35-minute drive away.
Get a taste of pure Kiwi paradise on a farm high above the sandy expanse of Te Horo Beach on the Kāpiti Coast, an hour north of Wellington. This luxe, glass-roofed eco cabin is nestled among olive trees overlooking the ocean and Kapiti Island. You’re off the grid here, with no wifi or TV — no distractions but sea, stars and birdsong. There is a telescope to take advantage of the night sky and the bathroom has glorious view of grapevines and farming hills. Opt for the food hamper which features Kāpiti cheeses, home-made dips and fresh fruit, and chicken, beef or lamb to throw on the barbecue, or pop over to the Long Beach Cafe & Tavern in Waikanae for a fresh fish dinner. A coffee at the Bus Stop Cafe in Te Horo kickstarts a day full of possibilities: walk through native rātā, kōwhai and pōhutukawa trees to find the spring-fed stream hidden in the farm’s gully, take a trip to Kapiti Island for a nature tour or stroll around nearby Raumati Village’s boutique clothing shops.
With its curvy lines, Kiwiana artwork and wood panelling, this mid-century modern five-star hotel on the waterfront at Oriental Bay has Mad Men style to burn, with authentic 1950s and ‘60s pieces giving each room its own character. Most of Wellington must-sees are within walking distance – Te Papa is across the road and it’s a short stroll to Cuba Street and Courtenay Place for cafes, intriguing laneways and craft beer pubs such as Rogue & Vagabond or Heyday Beer Co. Closer to home, Ohtel Pantry serves up more-ish plates with a mid-century flair made from locally sourced ingredients plus local wines, beers and good coffee.
Image credit: Simon Devitt (Pipinui Point); Naumi Studio Hotel Wellington; Wharekauhau Lodge; Paul Wilson (Kokomea PurePod); Ohtel Wellington.