Top luxury hotels and lodges in Australia & New Zealand
Business travel is a way of life for many, and whilst there are great city hotels that cater to business travellers, it’s a shame that many of us don’t take enough vacation time to really slow down and savour leisure. We thought we’d feature some of the finest luxury hotels in Australia and New Zealand this month to infect you with the travel bug.
Kangaroo Island lies just 15 kilometres off the coast of South Australia and is a short getaway from Adelaide, but it’s a refuge of unique wildlife and natural beauty that has earned a reputation as Australia’s Galapagos. Rather than being intrusive, Southern Ocean Lodge blends into the landscape whilst providing upscale dining and accommodations in addition to unforgettable excursions.
This adults-only luxury hotel on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays is a haven of tranquillity and a perfect gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The resort is divided into four distinct precincts, each emphasising a different aspect of relaxation, from sunbathing to dining to the library and spa. At qualia, you can be as active as you want — with diving and sailing excursions aplenty — or take pleasure in doing absolutely nothing.
Set at the highest point in Byron Shire, Gaia offers spa packages ranging from a two-night recharge to a full week of pampering and resetting. There’s personal training available for fitness, meditation, even art therapy. If you’re really pressed for time, you can take advantage of the day spa, though there’s much to be said for the sense of serenity that gets deeper the more time spent there.
A mere hour from Melbourne, this luxury hotel boasts its own vineyard and serves select vintages in its winery restaurant, Rare Hare. The surrounding Mornington Peninsula is a favourite destination for golfers and beachgoers alike, and art galleries and wineries abound. The 30-metre infinity pool overlooks the vineyard, so you’re never too far from a reminder to relax.
Tucked into the Greater Blue Mountains heritage area about three hours outside Sydney, the resort is a small part of a 2800-hectare conservancy. Experiences are tailored to couples and families, with horseback riding and bushwalks great ways to take in the teeming wildlife. After a day of activity, taste the house made 1832 Wolgan Gin, part of an Aussie gin movement.
Once a private escape for Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Australia cofounder Brett Godfrey, and their families, Makepeace is available for private hire, with its own chickens, bees, and wastewater purification. Activities from beer tasting to helicopter rides are available on a bespoke basis, and meals can accommodate just about any diet.
If qualia is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island is smack dab in it. An hour flight from Cairns, the luxury hotel is on the reef and sports a whopping 24 private beaches. Situated in a 1013-hectare national park, Lizard Island offers guided reef tours and hikes to the top of Cook’s Look. To protect the reef, the resort disallows plastic bottles and straws and recycles or reuses 60 per cent of waste.
Sisters Siobhan and Elisha Bickle purchased a former surf motel on Cabarita Beach and transformed it into a luxury hotel where each of the 21 rooms and suites is uniquely designed by Anna Spiro. Guests can enjoy the hotel’s signature beach picnic or cruise northern New South Wales in an Audi A1. Unsure of what to do? Halcyon House has suggestions for two-, three-, and seven-night itineraries on its website.
What New Zealand lacks in size, it makes up for in gorgeous landscapes and luxury hotels to accompany them. Kinloch Manor on Lake Taupo is one such place. The trails around the lake are just as bountiful as the fishing on it, and Maori culture is on full display from the art on the walls to the food on your plate.
Not only is a working sheep and cattle farm about 90 minutes outside Christchurch, Annandale welcomes guests in luxury villas from the 19th-century Homestead to the ultramodern two-person Seascape. With 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables grown on-site in addition to the livestock, it’s the ultimate farm-to-table experience.
Ride horses, encounter rare kiwi birds, herd sheep, or visit a gannet colony. There’s loads of animal-related activities, and that just scratches the surface of what there is to do at the south end of Hawke’s Bay. The Cape Sanctuary stretches more than 10 km along the coast as the largest private preserve of its kind in New Zealand, and the cliffside Tom Doak-designed golf course will take your breath away.
A luxury hotel perfectly suited for exploring Milford Sound and the Southern Lakes region, Blanket Bay sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown, “the adventure capital of the world.” Once you’re sufficiently worn out from heli-skiing and fly-fishing, take a drive along the wine and arts trail before heading back out for bungy jumping, sky-diving, or river rafting.
The lodge grounds saw the landing of Captain Cook at Waiaua Bay and the resting place of one of the original Maori migratory waka hundreds of years before. You’ll learn about that and more on the guided heritage discovery at Kauri Cliffs, where the 6000-acre property abounds with natural wonders. Twenty-two guest suites are spread across several cottages to provide luxury and privacy.
The lodge is a Victorian mansion with perfectly manicured gardens just outside Christchurch but also minutes from Lake Ellesmere in one direction and a volcanic harbour in another. You can journey back in time on the TranzAlpine train through some of the South Island’s wildest terrain and visit the historic village of Akaroa.
Atop a ridge overlooking the stunning Bay of Islands, this luxury hotel lives up to its name. Of the five villas, four have heated infinity pools with private jacuzzis. The private chefs cook up fresh-caught fish, lobster, venison, and lamb from Eagles Nest’s 75 acres and surroundings. Personal trainers and spa therapists will help ensure proper digestion.
On a river upstream from waterfalls and a pristine lake; it sounds unbelievably beautiful, and it is. But it’s definitely real, and it’s where Huka Lodge is located. Any outdoor adventure you can think of, you can do, even getting behind the wheel in a single-seater race car.
If you’re looking for a luxury hotel that’s also remote, try one that’s accessible only by helicopter. In a remote valley surrounded by soaring mountains, you’ll have nothing to worry about but enjoying the great outdoors. Everything else is taken care of, including fine wines to go with first-class dining.
More than 2 miles of coastline greet a maximum of 10 guests at this secluded lodge. The Poor Knights Islands off the coast are home to the world’s largest sea cave, plus hundreds of orcas and dolphins. Bioluminescent glow worms light up the creek on property, and five Pa (Maori fortifications) sites dot the landscape.
Another working sheep station-cum-luxury hotel, Wharekauhau sits on Palliser Bay at the south end of the North Island outside Wellington. It’s the perfect spot for stargazing and a place where Maori tohunga (scholars) would come to learn their craft. Wharekauhau in fact means “place of knowledge,” and it’s also a place of beauty and wonder.
Sister property to Kauri Cliffs and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Matakauri provides panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains surrounding it, providing the perfect South Island complement to its North Island siblings. Combining the three Robertson Lodges, guests can experience the coast, the farm, and the mountains.
Nestled inside 2500 acres of private native forest, Treetops’ villas are cosy as can be. With stay four nights, pay three packages, you’ll be able to savour a family or romantic luxury hotel getaway at a significant savings, leaving money left over for a helicopter tour of a volcano rim or authentic experiences in nearby Rotorua.
Editor’s note: VENTURE was saddened to learn that Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island has closed after the main building and guest accommodations sustained significant damage on 3 January 2020 in bushfire. Guests and staff were safely evacuated, and there are plans to rebuild.