Musterer’s Rest at Hawke’s Bay is a quaint and atmospheric farmhouse hideaway amidst ancient native trees. Photo / Provided
If you’re looking for more of a log cabin vibe than a brand new hotel, you’re spoiled for choice. Ewan McDonald has found the most comfortable chalets and hotels in the country, where you can have an alpine vibe whether you’re hitting the slopes or not.
Aaah in the winter, when the must-packs are parka, gloves and thermal underwear, skis or snowboard if you feel like it, and rather than swimming to the pool bar for a daiquiri you huddle around the fireplace with mulled wine.
If you’re looking for a getaway with that alpine vibe, we’ve found plenty of places to, uh, relax. Have you spotted the obvious flaw? Not all of Aotearoa is alpine. We have therefore unearthed comfortable accommodation where you will be delighted to go from log cabin to resident.
The (ahem) Winterless North doesn’t rise too high above sea level, but Paheke Boutique Lodgebetween Hokianga and the Bay of Islands, is a New Zealand heritage listed farmhouse built from pit-sawn kauri in 1862 and filled with antiques, set in gardens with a stream and huge old trees. Waipoua Lodgeon the edge of the kauri forest, is a gem.
It’s only 120km away, but Aotea Great Barrier feels a million miles from Tāmaki Makaurau, more so when nestled in Accommodation at Glenfern Sanctuary inside a nature reserve fenced against predators. Fitzroy Houseone of the oldest farms on the island, and Glenfern Cottage are independent houses with log fires. Views of Kaipara near Kaukapakapa is an off-grid solar-powered eco-lodge overlooking Kaipara Harbor.
COROMANDEL, WAIKATO, BAY OF ABONDANCE
On the northeast coast of Coromandel, Upper cabin is a one-room cabin on a hill in the bush, overlooking the Mercury Islands, with electricity but no Wi-Fi – and a fireplace on the deck for roasting marshmallows.
Bordering the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park near Waihi, the Log cabin sits in 5ha of farmland, olive groves and riverside walkways. Able to accommodate up to 12 people, its open-plan living room is warmed by a wood fire, flowing onto a terrace with dining table and spa.
The house without nails (think about it), 10 minutes from Matamata, was built by hand from wood salvaged from Cyclone Bola using methods dating back to the 10th century. In the “barn living room”, enjoy a roast dinner by candlelight and then a sunset around the fireplace.
Waikato Options: Te Tiro pioneer style cottages; Kamahi Cottage independent farmhouse B&B.
Real mountains now. Tongariro Lodge at the foot of Tongariro National Park and New Zealand’s largest ski area, Ruapehu, lies refined luxury, best experienced over a four-course meal served in front of an open fire.
As close as possible to the slopes, Powderhorn Castle exudes old-world charm and après-ski vibe in Ohakune, and Tongariro Castle at Whakapapa Village preserves the elegance and opulence of the Roaring Twenties. Skotel Alpine Resort is the tallest hotel in New Zealand: accommodation ranging from backpacker rooms to cozy cabins.
The Ruahine range dominates and divides the lower part of the North Island. On the western flanks of Central Hawke’s Bay, Mangarara Eco Lodge features a spacious, tranquil lakeside living area with open fire and outdoor fireplace; The Gatherer’s Rest is a quaint and atmospheric farmhouse hideaway amidst ancient native trees.
Through the mountains of Manawatū – a region too much traveled – is Makoura Lodge, with an exceptional view of the beach and the valley. The McIntyre family offers country hospitality on their fifth-generation farm; relax by the fire while eating lamb and vegetables from the farm. Go for horseback riding, shooting, cocktail lessons or piloting a 4×4 under the guidance of experts. Rathmoy Lodgefive minutes from State Highway 1 in Hunterville, home to the white cliffs and sparkling water of the Rangitīkei River.
Taranaki’s ultimate alpine accommodation is Mountain house Ngati Ruanui Stratford, boasting an award-winning restaurant, tracks and trails and a cozy fireplace in the communal lounge. Luxurious Patuha Lodge enjoys a unique location under the Kaitake and Pouākai Ranges.
Taranaki Options: Pouākai Cabins, mountainside boutique accommodation; Kapuni Lodge, alpine club hut; Tahurangi Lodge, above the bush line; Mangorei Heights, luxury chalet with private stone bath; Pukeiti Studio Lodge in native rainforest and gardens.
Artisanal delicacies and drinks (much more than wine), shops, galleries, dramatic coastline, wildlife, bike paths and the world’s most accessible starry sky attractions: it’s no wonder Wairarapa weekends have taken their flight.
Te Ngahere is a new luxury couples pod above a rural valley just minutes from Martinborough Square with bush views, starry nights and barby on the terrace. Cozy and by the fireside, therefore.
Option : Whitimanuka Retreat, farm stay in Martinborough; Greytown Hotel, perhaps New Zealand’s oldest inn; Kaituna Riverside Cottages and Ranginui Retreat, Masterton; Palliser Ridge, off-grid hosting; Wai Ngaio Retreat, former private hunting and fishing lodge.
Where better to stay than wine barrel cabins, nestled between vineyards and olive groves. Cab-savvy, huh? Omaka Valley Hut is nestled in the hills, 20 minutes from Blenheim, a secluded retreat where you will wake up to views of farmland, vineyards and valleys.
After: Tawa Cove Cabins, self-contained private cabins in Endeavor Inlet; Fossickers Hut, cabin with children’s loft, charcoal stove and fire-heated outdoor bath in historic Canvastown.
At an altitude of 640m in the Massif de St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes Alpine Lodge is a family getaway with accommodation ranging from apartments to backpackers. Open fire bar, restaurant and playground on site; bonus mountain view and winter sports.
For enduring hikers and cyclists or laid-back bookworms, Maitai Whare Iti cabins nestle in the native forest of the Matai Valley; Rabbit IslandNelson City’s “bunny huts” are made from local wood, painted with eco-friendly products, and the honesty shop supports tree planting and nearby wetlands. Gather at the communal campfire for evening conversation.
Inspired by our Glacier Country feature? Ribbonwood Retreat at Franz Josef is a Scandi-style wooden house with breathtaking views of glaciers, peaks and forests, surrounded by a produce garden, orchard and native trees. Retreat from Kahere is a boutique eco-resort, five hand-built wooden chalets with views of Franz Josef Mountain on Lake Mapourika, where there are guided boat and kayak eco-tours and fishing.
Mount Lyford Adventure Park, a family-run hiking and winter sports mecca near Kaikōura, offers mountain accommodation by Lake Stella. Sleep above the clouds, near the stars; Wake for hiking, skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, climbing. There is a main cabin with dinette and bar and four cabins. “Like glamping in a mountain environment in beautifully built, secluded chalets,” they say.
When it comes to the Southern Alps, and we have, the sky is the limit. Offset options include MenardsNZ Ecosanctuary, a 6ha property in a valley near Twizel with a two-bedroom gite (wood-fired hot tub, wood-burning stove); “sleepout” converted from a shipping container with TV streaming and other necessities; the retro “garage hangout” lounge with large screen, old-fashioned game consoles, vinyl turntable and board games. Close to, Alpine Cubes is an architecturally designed 50m² cabin with quality interiors and furnishings, sleeping up to six people.
sherwood is definitely – and defiantly – not a chain hotel. It is designed for independent travelers to relax, reconnect with self and nature, and enjoy a community. Newly renovated accommodation ranges from lakeside studios to shared bunk rooms; there is a central sheltered garden with fire; cycle path, vegetable gardens, orchard; fresh and seasonal foods; craft beers, natural wines and rare spirits. For the soul, yoga, pilates, meditation, massage; as well as live music, films, resident writers and artists.
It’s fair to say you can’t get more alpine – or more remote – than cozy and secluded Milford Sound Pavilion on the banks of the River Cleddau below the Darran Mountains in Fiordland, our largest national park.
Dunedin may be Scarfie City, but we’ll be leaving town for winter break. Hereweka Garden Retreat‘s architectural and eco-designed accommodations, built with sustainable materials, sit in the last valley of native forest on the Otago Peninsula. Share peace with native birds and marine wildlife near Hoopers Inlet. Cabin at the end of the road, 20 minutes south of the city of Brighton, is a three-room cottage amongst mature mānuka, overlooking the coast. Hang on and watch a winter storm come from the sea: better than Netflix.
Cascade Creek Retreat is an eco-friendly, five-star boutique accommodation on a private, remote 2000ha farm in Otago. The handcrafted Oregon log cabin uses solar and hydro power, gas for hot water and cooking, has a large open fire, and private bush walking trails. Dine on self-prepared gourmet meals or enjoy a personal chef; end the day with a steam bath in outdoor baths. Now who’s for a mulled wine?
For more travel inspiration, visit newzealand.com/nz.
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