New Zealand – eighth happiest country in the world, inventors of the pavlova (sorry Australia) and land of the All Blacks, statistically the best rugby team in the world (sorry Australia).
It’s also home to some exceptional hotels, including a hotel dedicated to art and design, Oceania’s best hotel spa, some seriously luxe farmstays and a jail that you can check into (and out of) for the night.
QT Museum Wellington
The former Museum Art Hotel in Wellington has been taken over by the QT brand, who are best known for their quirky and eclectic hotel styles.
Rooms are styled under the guise of architect and designer Shelley Indyk in conjunction with Anna Roberts and Broadway costume designer, Janet Hine. Much of the original art from the Museum Art Hotel remains, with QT adding to the collection over time.
As with all hotels under the QT name, expect emergency bow ties, Nespresso machines and kitted-out minibars with much more than your standard beer and wine selection. QT hotels are known for their reinvention of the minibar, stocking it with treats like Patron XO café, Chivas Regal, organic snacks and an emergency intimacy kit.
New Zealand has bragging rights to some of the best landscapes in the world. Eagles Nest has embraced this, building a series of villas atop a ridgeline, overlooking the Bay of Islands. The Russell hotel took out the 2015 World Travel Award for the World’s Leading Boutique Villa Resort. With an accolade like this, you can visit Eagles Nest with big expectations.
Pictures of the villas speak for themselves – original artworks, infinity pools, home theatres and Jacuzzis are just a few features.
Resident personal chefs visit each villa every night to prepare a personalised meal. Think freshly caught fish, lobster, venison, and lamb, paired with some of the region’s best wines.
Kiwi’s know how to make do with what they’ve got. They literally built houses along the steepest street in the world. They are known to be able to fix anything with Number-8 fencing wire. In the same way, hotelier Stuart Wright-Stow knew that the town of Little River wasn’t home to any internationally recognised natural wonders when he set out to build his own hotel. So he made do, and created something truly unique that would attract visitors in its own right – SiloStay.
Each two-storey unit – modelled on a grain silo, can sleep two. Bedrooms are upstairs while kitchenettes and a lounge are on the ground floor. Glazed lids (roofs) give excellent views of the night sky from the queen beds.
SiloStay has a focus on environmental sustainability and providing a setting that is ideal for escaping from the everyday.
New Zealand’s only castle was built just outside of Dunedin in 1871 by the Larnach family. Today visitors can stay in the castle, and enjoy its expansive, award winning gardens and history.
Larnach Castle is no ordinary accommodation provider. The castle’s 140-year-old heritage listed stables have been converted into affordable rooms. Those looking for something a little more upper-class should opt for next door’s Larnach Lodge. The four-star lodgings consist of themed rooms like Scottish, Enchanted Forest, Gold Rush, and of course, New Zealand.
High tea is served daily in the 3000-square foot ballroom. Hotel guests can enjoy dinner in the Castle Dining Room, but don’t go expecting traditional restaurant service. The three-course table d’hôte is served at a communal table, giving guests the chance to get to know one another.
Capitalising on the success of the Lord of the Rings filming nearby, Woodlyn Park created a Hobbit Motel, where guests can sleep underground. You don’t need to be short statured to enjoy this novelty though – the interiors are scaled to regular heights.
Woodlyn Park is home to more than a Hobbit Motel. Guests can also spend the night in one of the last allied planes flown in Vietnam. The Bristol Freighter Plane has been converted into rather unique sleeping quarters among the cockpit.
The quirkiness doesn’t stop here – there are more rooms located in a WWII petrol boat, the Waitanic Ship. Larger groups can enjoy the entire boat to themselves.
SkyCity Grand Hotel
Auckland is home to Oceania’s best spa hotel – no easy feat considering the number of contenders. East Day Spa, part of SkyCity Grand Hotel, offers a fusion of eastern healing traditions with modern western spa and beauty therapies.
The hotel itself offers a vast range of facilities including an indoor pool, a sauna, a pillow menu and over twenty restaurants, bars, and cafes. Guests can venture across the road to New Zealand’s tallest structure, Sky Tower, which stands at 328 metres. From the top, visitors can enjoy 360-degree views in every direction over Auckland.
Over 50% of New Zealand is made up of farmland, so it makes sense that Annandale farm combines agriculture and luxury hospitality in a seamless fashion.
Scattered over 4000 acres of coastal farmland, Annandale Farm is home to 500 head of cattle, 14 000 sheep and four luxury guesthouses. Guests enjoy a dose of ‘gumboot luxury’ – the chance to explore the farm, while enjoying the perks of luxuries like a private chef preparing local, seasonal produce from the kitchen.
A range of activates are offered, including cooking classes, farm activates, scenic helicopter tours and kayaking among the local dolphins.
No two guesthouses are the same. The Seascape cottage provides a romantic, ocean-side getaway for two, complete with it’s own private bay. Scrubby Bay is located on the outer reaches of the property, taking the term isolated luxury to another level. Access to the cedar clad beach house is by helicopter or four wheel drive.
Jailhouse Accommodation Backpackers, Christchurch
From 1874 until 1999 Addington Prison was used as a jail, a women’s prison and a military camp. In 2006 it reopened as a backpackers hostel, becoming one of the top-rated, budget accommodation options in Christchurch.
Rooms range from communal dorms to private dwellings with shared facilities. Don’t go expecting lavish furnishings and a luxury experience – this is a jail after all. That being said, the facilities are well up to scratch considering the price – free unlimited WiFi is definitely a plus.
Several ‘Jail Escapes’ are offered. These include sightseeing and adventure activities around the Christchurch area, like Lord of the Rings bus tours and boat rides around Akaroa Harbour.