Once upon a time, the wildlife lodges of New Zealand’s north and south islands were only known by a select few.
Once upon a time, the wildlife lodges of New Zealand’s north and south islands were only known by a select few. They were destinations and encampments frequented by passionate anglers or hunters willing to travel to this remote country in search of game, authentic hospitality and some of the southern hemisphere’s most beautiful locales. As the expectations of these intrepid travellers changed, do did the offerings of the retreats, with simple hunting and fly fishing cabins lining remote rivers and secret edens offering degustation menus, wine pairing dinner, and culinary philosphys that appealed to a new generation of traveller. Today New Zealand’s lodges are on par with any in the world and have helped keep this southern-most land firmly on the luxury traveller’s map.
TREETOPS LODGE & ESTATE
Hidden away at the end of a long gravel road, within its own expansive working farm, home to 800-year old native forest, Treetops Lodge & Estate remains one of New Zealand’s most endearing luxury lodges.
Just minutes from the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, at the centre of the North Island, Treetops is the brainchild of passionate naturalist John Sax, and was built initially as a big stag hunting lodge, although many of its guests would rather pick up knife and fork than rifle. Treetops showcases the very best of the Bay of Plenty through homely-styled accommodation, sensational estate-driven dining, and a raft of unique encounters that infuse the region’s geothermal attributes with its distinctive Maori culture, its bucolic landscapes, and its world-class trout fishing and stag hunting legacy.
A pioneer of environmentally-managed design, Treetops, offers a variety of accommodation styles, including the recently-added Lodge Wing, a four-room enclave housed in the main lodge building that’s ideally suited for families and friends travelling together; and a clutch of secluded cottage-style villas. My suite styled cottage boasts custom furniture; fireplaces that keep the morning chill at bay; a king-sized bed dressed in high thread count linens; a voluminous bathroom with jacuzzi bath; and dramatic native forest views. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the roar of resident red stags.
At Treetops, you can do as much or as little as you like. The adventurous can explore the estate’s seven alpine streams, which are packed with brown and rainbow trout; explore the property’s 50 kilometres of adventure trails on geocaching hunts and 4WD experiences; or hunt the six deer species, bighorn sheep, pheasants or wild pigs with the experiences estate team. But most guests come to Treetops for its dining experiences, which include the lodge’s groundbreaking Maori Indigenous Food Trails, Estate to Plate Safaris, and, in my case, an intimate Wild Food Cooking School class with Chilean executive chef Felipe Ponce in which we used estate venison and indigenous herbs to create a spectacular dish – if I do say so myself. Be sure to leave time to visit the newly opened Spa, where a host of innovative treatments use locally gathered ingredients to soothe both mind and body. www.treetops.co.nz
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