1. Puketui Forest Escape
Best for: Couples retreats
Enveloped in podocarp forest, Puketui feels a world away despite being a short drive from Taupō. The Nordic-inspired pod house is all natural materials, black accents and blond wood. Solar power keeps the lights on, water is sourced from a spring, the loo produces compost, and ducted heating is fed by a cosy, freestanding fireplace. Explore the forest via walking tracks, then retreat to the house to stargaze from the comfort of your outdoor bathtub. From NZ$399 (£208) a night B&B.
2. Awaroa Lodge
Best for: Going off-grid
With limited wi-fi and no phone or TV signal, you’ll have little to distract you at Awaroa Lodge other than kayaking on the bay, exploring Abel Tasman National Park or searching for glow worms. Accessible only by hiking or water taxi, the lodge generates its own power and grows organic food for the on-site restaurant and al fresco pizzeria. It’s also invested in restoring the national park’s wetlands, which welcomed the return of white herons in 2020 after years of absence. From NZ$206 (£108) a night.
3. Minaret Station
Best for: Alpine luxury
Secluded in a glacial valley only accessible by helicopter, Minaret Station is surrounded by mountainous national parks. Four luxury chalets each have king beds, en suite bathrooms and a private deck with a hot tub, while the communal lodge is home to a restaurant, library and wine cellar. The main way to explore is by helicopter, with heli-skiing, hiking and mountain biking trips taking guests as close as Aoraki mountain and as far as Milford Sound. From NZ$3,150 (£1,650) a night, including meals and drinks.
4. Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge
Best for: Wildlife spotting
Conservationist Dr Gerry McSweeney and Anne Saunders wanted to prove tourism could be a sustainable alternative to logging, so they put their money where their mouths are and opened Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki. The luxury lodge is surrounded by coastal rainforest and guests can join Dr McSweeney for lessons in kayaking, star-gazing and feeding giant eels. The staff at the lodge have been heavily involved in protecting endemic Tawaki penguins and run guided penguin-watching tours from July to December, when the bushy-browed creature can be found nesting on Monro Beach. From NZ$450 (£235), includes breakfast, dinner, and twice-daily guided activities.
5. Timber Trail lodge
Best for: Fresh forest air
In the heart of Waikato’s Pureora Forest Park, at the halfway point of the 52-mile Timber Trail, you’ll find Timber Trail Lodge. Weary cyclists and hikers can unwind in cosy lounges flooded with natural light during the day and then lit by the glow of the hearth by night. The 20-room lodge was built in 2017 by cyclists as a model of sustainable design. Nearly all power is solar, rainwater is harvested and profits are invested in trail conservation. From NZ$390 (£205) a night, with shared bathrooms and all meals.
Published in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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