When it comes to choosing where to stay in New Zealand, the choices are as vast as the country's landscapes. From luxury lodges to remote campsites, there are lodging options to suit all budgets and tastes. One general tip is to look out for the Qualmark symbol when booking, as this means a property has been independently assessed against a set of national quality standards. Below is a rundown of your options in New Zealand.
The great outdoors may beckon relentlessly, but that doesn't mean you have to rough it when you explore New Zealand. On the contrary, in recent years there's been a growing trend towards high-end lodges, offering luxury accommodation, quality service and gourmet cuisine in stunning natural environments.
On the South Island, in the popular tourist resort of Queenstown, the Rees is one example. A luxury lodge straddling the shores of Lake Wakatipu, highlights include panoramic alpine vistas, hotel rooms and apartments with private balconies, and fine dining by an award-winning chef.
On the southern end of the North Island near Wellington, Wharekauhau Lodge is another memorable option. Situated on Palliser Bay, this grand lodge harks back to the grandeur of Edwardian times, combining luxury accommodations with horseback riding, fine dining and a day spa.
Camping is a great way to explore on a budget, while traveling by campervan (motorhome) offers flexibility by providing transportation as well as accommodation. And there's another bonus for both: many of New Zealand's holiday parks and campgrounds are in the best and most scenic destinations, including major tourist sites.
Holiday parks provide powered and unpowered sites for tents, caravans and campervans, and some also have self-contained cabins and backpacker lodges. Kiwi Holiday Parks has prime sites nationwide within national parks, on beaches and even in some cities, while Top 10 Holiday Parks has 49 locations around New Zealand. If you're heading to Rotorua for its famous hot springs and to camp, for example, Cosy Cottage Thermal Holiday Park is situated close to the city center and the lake, with park-like grounds and unique heated tent sites.
Some holiday parks are exclusively for campervans, such as Picton Campervan Park. It has powered sites and is close to the town center, the inter-island ferry terminal and swimming beaches. Hooking up at a private home is another option, thanks to Native Parks Motorhome Havens, where registered hosts allow you to park overnight free of charge.
Major chains including Westin, Accor, Hilton, Hyatt, Rydges and InterContinental feature in major cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and in key holiday destinations such as Rotorua and Queenstown.
There are also locally owned boutique hotels such as the Museum Hotel in Wellington. It's by the harbor, close to New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, and fuses luxury accommodation and art with fine French cuisine at the Hippopotamus Restaurant and Bar.
Motels in New Zealand tend to be of a higher standard than those in other countries, and are worth considering for overnight stays on the road between destinations. Outside of peak holiday times you won't have to worry about prebooking. One brand name to look out for is Golden Chain, but many motels are privately owned. Accommodation ranges from studio to one- or two-bedroom units, usually with tea- and coffee-making facilities, and sometimes basic cooking facilities. Larger properties may also have a swimming pool, laundry room and restaurant.
Owning a holiday home is a tradition in New Zealand. In the North Island the local word for one is a "bach" (pronounced "batch"), while in the South Island it's a "crib."
For travelers, renting a privately owned holiday home is a great way to be self-sufficient, with options ranging from simple cottages by the sea to luxurious lodges in the mountains, some in New Zealand's most idyllic destinations. Check property listings carefully, however, to make sure you get the level of comfort and facilities you want. For more tips, see Vacation Rentals: Right for You?
New Zealand is a leading producer of quality wines, with more than 400 wineries stretching from one end of the country to the other. Marlborough is New Zealand's wine capital with around 40 wineries, while Hawke's Bay is the second largest, and the place to visit some of New Zealand's oldest wineries. In contrast, Central Otago is the southernmost winemaking region, set amongst spectacular alpine scenery, with some vineyards situated up to 1,300 feet above sea level.
Touring by car and staying at a winery is a unique way to explore the local landscape and sample some great wines. BEC Spa Resort in the Marlborough region is one example; a beautiful five-star property sitting on a hilltop, it has luxury accommodations surrounded by vineyards, with expansive views of the mountains and the ocean.
New Zealand is dotted with historic homes and estates built by wealthy early settlers. While some are only for sightseeing, others have been converted into luxury accommodation for travelers who enjoy a bit of history.
Bronte Country Estate is one example, located on the South Island. This historic homestead lies on the headland of Nelson's historic Bronte Peninsula, and was built originally for the Fraser family. Dating back five generations, it has five suites and villas surrounded by apple orchards.
Many historic homes do not have a lot of guestrooms; advance booking is always recommended, particularly during peak season. Some may not be suitable for travellers with disabilities, so check with your host.
Farmstays are ideal for anyone keen to experience an authentic taste of rustic Kiwi life. They're similar to bed and breakfast stays in that you're part of the family from the moment you arrive; this may include pitching in around the farm by helping to mend fences or feed calves. Standards of accommodation vary widely, and some properties will expect more input and engagement from guests than others -- so check carefully before committing.
For a few recommended farmstays, see 13 Best New Zealand Experiences.
When it comes to unusual places to stay, New Zealand has plenty of options, from old churches to traditional post offices, and a tiny boutique hotel shaped like a boot (the Boot Bed 'n' Breakfast in Tasman).
One of the most unusual is Woodlyn Park. Set in lush farmland near Waitomo Caves -- a subterranean world famous for glowworms in the North Island's Waikato region -- it has Hobbit-inspired motels set into a hillside, with authentic round windows and doors, as well as other accommodation in a boat, airplane and train carriage.
There's also Old West Town in Ruapehu, on the Central Plateau of the North Island. Mellonsfolly Ranch is set in 1,000 acres of remote backcountry, offering accommodation in traditional Victorian-style rooms. Activities include horseshoe pitching, gunslinging and trail rides.
--written by Joanna Hall