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New Zealand: Where to Stay and What to Do

By Eliza Pickering
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Cape Kidnappers

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture, cape kidnappers the cliffs at cape kidnappers in new zealand The cliffs at Cape Kidnappers, above the South Pacific.

Cape Kidnappers Gannets

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture a gannet colony at sunrise at cape kidnappers A gannet colony at sunrise on Cape Kidnappers.

Great Mercury Island Bay

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture a sunlit bay off great mercury island A sunlit bay off Great Mercury Island.

Great Mercury Lounge

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture, new zealand hotels great mercury's communal lounge Great Mercury's main communal lounge.

New Zealand Fishing

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture a crayfish recently caught off great mercury island A crayfish recently caught off Great Mercury Island.

New Zealand Map

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture, map of new zealand map of new zealand

Guernsey Cattle

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture guernsey cattle by the roadside on the north island Guernsey cattle by the roadside on the North Island.

Great Mercury Island New Zealand

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture great mercury island in new zealand Great Mercury Island, a private resort off the coast of New Zealand's North Island.

Otahuna Lodge Hotel

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture, new zealand hotels the queen anne style main building at otahuna lodge The Queen Anne-style main building at Otahuna Lodge.

Otahuna Lodge

new zealand pictures, new zealand culture otahuna lodge on the south island of new zealand The author with his daughter, Eliza, in the wine cellar at Otahuna Lodge, on the South Island. The cellar holds 1,000 bottles.
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When calling the telephone numbers below from the United States, except for those that are toll-free, first dial 011-64.

When to go

New Zealand's closest continental neighbors may be Australia and Antarctica, but the country has neither the former's suffocating heat nor the latter's deep freeze; it's hot enough for swimming in the summer and cold enough for skiing in the winter. Dad and I caught the tail end of summer, in March, when we could still eat Pinot grapes off the vine and gaze at the stars while wearing light sweaters.

Getting there

Air New Zealand (800-262-1234; airnewzealand.com) has two fourteen-hour flights a day from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city and an international flight hub. The carrier also offers in-country flights (and there really is no other way to get around), which are refreshingly straightforward, with none of the long waits endemic to U.S. airports. Flying from Napier to Kerikeri, in the North Island's Bay of Islands, was a little like taking a bus; we strolled across the tarmac, tossed our bags into the bottom of a twenty-seater and took off with a distinctly Kiwi lack of fuss.

Getting around

Organizing an itinerary in such a rugged and sparsely populated country, whose most exciting properties are often the remotest, can pose a challenge for even savvy travelers unless they book through Seasonz Travel (9-360-8461; seasonz.co.nz). The outfitter has exclusive access to Great Mercury Island and a roster of iconic hotels and lodges and can organize both the mundane and the remarkable, including airport pickups, private chefs, behind-the-bar wine tours and helicopter day trips. Sam Porter, Seasonz' owner and a former director of Abercrombie & Kent's Around the World private-jet tours, stayed with us for two days on Great Mercury Island, going on an early-morning trail run with Dad and teaching me to catch my first fish. If that isn't personal attention, I don't know what is.

Where to stay

After I'd been thirty hours in transit from New York, pastoral, intimate Otahuna Lodge felt like paradise to me; a night spent on a down-soft bed in one of its seven suites didn't do anything to change my mind. Dad and I stayed in the Rhodes Suite, the house's former master bedroom, which includes a private veranda, an octagonal sitting room, a fireplace and stained-glass windows that turn the sunset lavender. Be sure to wander the lodge's potager garden and orchard to inspect the heirloom tomatoes, herbs and fruits before enjoying them during one of chef Jimmy McIntyre's grand five-course dinners. If you can't visit in New Zealand's summer, when the produce is at its best, try for September — the beginning of spring there — when the property erupts in thousands of daffodils. Suites from $1,100, master suites from $1,560, including breakfast, dinner and drinks. 224 Rhodes Rd., Tai Tapu, Christchurch; 3-329-6333; otahuna.co.nz.

An acclaimed Tom Doak–designed golf course occupies much of the prime cliffside real estate of the 6,000-acre Farm at Cape Kidnappers. Non-golfers (like Dad and me) have numerous other ways to experience the jaw-dropping scenery, however, such as hiking, horseback riding and, my own favorite, rough-and-tumble four-wheeling. An activities coordinator circulates during cocktail hour to arrange the next day's expeditions; oenophiles shouldn't miss the chance to book a vineyard tour to sample the world-renowned Hawke's Bay Sauvignon Blancs. Suites from $1,380. 448 Clifton Rd., Te Awanga, Hawke's Bay; 6-875-1900; capekidnappers.com.

On the helicopter flight from Auckland, ask your pilot to circle Great Mercury Island before landing so you can choose which of its fourteen white sand beaches to sunbathe on first. Snorkeling, fishing and water-skiing are just a few of the myriad aquatic activities available, while landlubbers can tour the working Black Angus farm and hike through stands of untouched bush. The compound's two houses are dug into the hillside, like hobbits' dens — though they're far more luxurious than anything J.R.R. Tolkien or Peter Jackson could have imagined. More like a private country than a hotel or lodge, Great Mercury Island is booked for only one party at a time and is ideal for reunions or extended-family vacations. From $23,000 a night, all inclusive, for up to sixteen guests. Contact Sam Porter at Seasonz Travel to reserve, sam@seasonz.co.nz.

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