New Zealand's South Island Hotels
Abel Tasman National Park , South Island
Tel: 64 3 528 8758
Set on a private, 47-acre wetland preserve inside the Abel Tasman National Park, this eco-lodge is an excellent base for exploring the gemlike northwest coast. Abel Tasman's forests and beaches bordering Tasman Bay are a mecca for sailors, kayakers, and nature lovers—and Awaroa's 26 rooms and suites take full advantage of the natural surroundings, with balconies overlooking the wetlands. The interiors are a combination of rustic and contemporary, with rough-hewn ceiling beams, rattan couches, local artwork, and lots of plants; bathrooms in the superior rooms have pebble-stone floors and open glass showers. A large organic garden supplies fresh food for the kitchen, nature guides are on hand to lead you through the preserve, a boardwalk threads through the marsh grass for private walks, and a beautiful, empty beach is only steps away—all fine white sand, chunky driftwood, and whitecaps. There's no drive-in access here; you'll need to come by helicopter or boat from Nelson or hike from Marahau, two days down the Abel Tasman Coastal Track.
23 MacKinnon Terrace
Queenstown , South Island
Tel: 64 3 409 0588
Commanding stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and the daunting Remarkables Range, this lodge and nine villas are set on a steep hillside almost two miles west of Queenstown, the South Island's adrenaline-sports mecca. The airy, stand-alone stone and beechwood villas offer privacy, with under-floor heating, flaming faux-log fires, and spa baths designed for the illusion of bathing in the open air. The tiny touches are cute (essential oils, spiced apple lip salve), and the larger ones well considered (including gourmet canapés in the lodge). Internet access can be spotty depending on the weather, but the service is wonderfully personal.
Queen Charlotte Sound
Marlborough Sounds , South Island
Tel: 64 3 579 9771
The Marlborough Sounds, on the South Island's northeastern coast, is a ruggedly beautiful landscape of ocean channels and rocky, wooded promontories. It's home to one the country's most famous walking trails, the Queen Charlotte Track, and it's also a paradise for boaters and sealife lovers (dolphins and penguins are often spotted in the waters). The remote Bay of Many Coves, built in 2003, sits high on a forested bluff overlooking the Queen Charlotte Sound; the only ways to get here are by walking (it's about four days along the walking track) or taking a 30-minute water-taxi ride from the port town of Picton (visiting "boaties" can also tie up at the resort's dock). The accommodations here are discreetly plush: The 11 apartment-like suites all have wood floors, vaulted ceilings, and streamlined modern furniture. Suites have open slate shower stalls, private balconies, and giant sliding-glass doors through which to admire the sparkling water. The amenities are simple and perfect: The pretty heated pool and outdoor hot tub are welcome when the sea's too cold for swimming; the glass-walled restaurant serves wonderful NZ fusion cuisine; the cozy breakfast café makes fresh-baked croissants every morning; and an on-site masseuse can help work out the kinks after a long day on the resort's 40-foot sailboat.
Glenorchy , South Island
Tel: 64 3 442 9442
A 35-minute drive north from Queenstown along the coast of Lake Wakatipu—with stunning mountain and water views all the way—brings you to this dramatic-looking lakeside lodge. The solid-looking schist building with a multi-peaked roof and shimmering glass windows seems to blend right into the surrounding Humboldt Mountains; inside, soaring beamed ceilings, stone fireplaces, deer-antler chandeliers, and furniture upholstered in leather and duck prints give the feel of a grand, old-fashioned hunting lodge (in fact, the property was only built in 1999). The five guest rooms and three suites are outfitted similarly; all have king-size beds, balconies or terraces, and enormous windows for enjoying the drop-dead outdoor scenery. Suites, though, have their own hearths and comfy couches for fireside dozing—a big plus if you've spent the day indulging in the lodge's main activity: fly fishing. Brown and rainbow trout, as well as Quinnat salmon, are plentiful at the lake edge and in surrounding rivers and streams (fish weighing more than ten pounds have been caught here). Guided fishing trips bring anglers to all the prime spots, some only accessible by helicopter. The top-notch cuisine at the lodge restaurant naturally features fresh local catch, and the wine room and "wine cave" stock hundreds of vintages.
10 Isle Street
Queenstown , South Island
Tel: 64 3 442 5164
Something between an après-ski lodge and a boutique hotel, this cozy spot is a short, sharp drive uphill from central Queenstown. Named for the 1920s corner store that once occupied the site—and which is now the hotel's small breakfast room—the Dairy has 13 well-appointed rooms spread through two adjoining buildings. All are furnished simply but stylishly, with clean-lined furniture in cream and neutral colors and immaculate white-tiled bathrooms with fluffy towels and robes. A few have tiny balconies. In winter, the hotel draws a crowd of youngish skiers; at the end of the day, they clomp back from the slopes at nearby Coronet Peak, store their skis in the secure back room, and stretch out in the communal fire-warmed lounge to chat and unwind.
Queenstown , South Island
Tel: 64 3 441 0450
Built more than 150 years ago, when Queenstown was just a grubby lakeside mining town instead of the adventure-sport capital of the world, Eichardt's is the poshest waterfront hotel in town. Completely refurbished to incorporate many of the building's original Victorian elements (stone walls, huge double-hung windows, suspended wrought-iron balconies), the hotel now has five gorgeous guest suites outfitted in dark wood and plush, cream-colored fabrics. All have their own gas fireplaces and super-king-size beds; built-in shelves filled with art books; and spacious marble baths with tubs and showers, double basins, and heated floors and mirrors. The three lakefront suites, with their spectacular views over Lake Wakatipu, are worth shelling out a little more for. The common spaces include The Parlour, a firelit lounge where a sumptuous breakfast is served every morning, and the chic House Bar off the lobby—perfect for a nightcap after you've strolled back from dinner in town.
50 Park Terrace
Christchurch , South Island
Tel: 64 3 379 4560
If you're going to stay in South Island's biggest city, this is the place to do it. The George's staff has a way of making even rumpled, tired travelers feel like VIPs: The one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio means all the details (a welcome cocktail in your room on arrival, gifts of teddy bears for children) are taken care of. The 53 airy, mod-luxe rooms and suites are plush in a quiet way, with lots of velvety, neutral-toned fabrics; glass; and blond wood furnishings. The hotel is near all of Christchurch's best sights: Hagley Park, with its Botanical Gardens and boat-speckled River Avon, is right outside the door; the wonderful Arts Center, with its galleries, shops, and cafés, is a short stroll away; and two of the city's best restaurants are right in the hotel. Pescatore, which serves formal dinner, is locally legendary for its Pacific Rim–influenced degustation menu and its impressive wine list. The more casual 50 on Park serves a wonderful breakfast; smoked grouper hash with buttered spinach and poached eggs, or a chive-infused waffle with bacon and a perfect "flat white"—like a café crème—will prime you for a day of sightseeing.
Gowan Valley Road
Nelson Lakes National Park , South Island
Tel: 64 3 523 9121
A Valhalla for brown-trout fishermen, Lake Rotoroa's narrow mountain-flanked waters (a 90-minute drive south of Nelson) are fed by more than 20 different rivers and streams, and have been featured on fishing programs like ESPN's New American Sportsman. Little wonder, then, that this 10-room luxury lakefront lodge—where celebrity anglers like Liam Neeson and Michael Keaton have stayed—has an extremely fishy vibe. Built back in the 1920s as a gentlemen's overnight stopover on the rugged coach ride from Nelson, the lodge still draws a heavily male crowd, most of it wearing waders and carrying expensive tackle. The fishing guides here tailor all-day trips according to their guests' desires and experience levels; most leave at dawn and return in the early evening, and then gather in the lodge's folksy screened patio to swap stories and share pre-dinner drinks. The guestrooms, fitted out in dark wood and rich colors, are comfy and subdued; all have bathrooms with heated floors and views over the lake or surrounding beech forest. All have verandas, but beware: The sand flies here can make sitting outside less than pleasant.
Closed May through September.
545 Waiwhero Road
Nelson , South Island
Tel: 64 3 528 2100
This property's six luxury suites, heated infinity pool, tennis court, spa, and garden scattered with bold, kinetic modern sculptures all seem a little out of place in farm country. But the juxtaposition of luxury and bucolic simplicity works. The lodge, opened in 1999 on a 2,000-acre working sheep farm, gives visitors the chance to taste rural New Zealand life without having to muck around in it. Lounging in their private courtyards, gas-fire warmed sitting areas, or giant clawfoot tubs, guests can listen to the sounds of sheep bleating from the hillsides; if they need a little constitutional after lunching in the cozy dining room, they can take a guided "farm walk" through the property and see sheep being sheared. The lodge is known for its fresh produce and its cuisine; in 2005, a cooking school opened on the premises. The five-course dinner menu, which changes daily, reflects what's in season but always has a Kiwi twist—past dishes have included pancetta-wrapped seared scallops with grilled sheep's-milk cheese and corn foam—and is always accompanied by labels from nearby Nelson wineries.
569 Glenorchy Road
Queenstown , South Island
Tel: 64 3 441 1008
After an extensive makeover, Matakauri, positioned along milky-blue Lake Wakatipu, less than six miles from the center of Queenstown, has commanding views of the Big Threethe Remarkables, Cecil Peak, and Walter Peakwithout a single man-made development sullying the splendor. The lodge maximizes its scenic surroundings with a number of gorgeous viewing platforms: a large infinity pool (though it is rarely warm enough for swimming), a pretty courtyard with a massive outdoor fireplace next to the dining and lounge area, and the accommodations themselves. Warmly designed in burnt orange and russet colors against white walls and stone elements, the two simple-yet-cozy suites and eight outlying cottages have a beachy feel, with daybeds in the suites, a freestanding tub in front of massive windows. Perhaps only an artist like Picasso could compete with nature on this scaleand in fact he does: Look for the plates and vase by the master in the main lounge as well as works by well-known New Zealand photographers and painters throughout the property. Staff are attentive and helpful, and while the dining is elegant, those with hearty appetites may want to skip the artfully presented but tiny-portioned ménu dégustation.
Queenstown , South Island
Tel: 64 3 441 0004
This seriously chic hotel is an anomaly in Queenstown. Tucked away from the city's pub-and-grub tourist bustle is The Spire's glass front door, which leads to another world. Every square inch is stylish, from the sleek lobby to the 16-seat gourmet restaurant. The ten guest rooms, decked out in red, cream, and black, have walk-in closets, gas fireplaces, balconies, and lovely touches such as Eames loungers. There are idiosyncrasiesdoors do not automatically lock behind you, and the in-room multimedia system is devilishly confusingbut the standards are high and the result a deliriously sweet taste of South Island comfort.