There are hospitality charmers scattered across the countryside, guaranteed to charm your pants off.
When the nation entered Level 2, these hearty hospo nuggets were amongst the most nimble and responsive accommodation operators, swiftly reopening to overnight guests.
The West Coast is blessed with a slate of notable specimens, from the rustic charm of the Historic Empire Hotel in Ross and Formerly Blackball Hilton to the affordable boutique grace of Kumara's Theatre Royal Hotel, first built in 1876. It's one of my all-time favourites, where you can choose from a variety of artfully designed themed rooms styled in honour of local characters, blending timeless elegance and vintage pieces with all the expected mod-cons.
The Barbara Weldon Room is a saucy little heart-stealer. During the restoration, workers discovered sawdust in the wall linings, a primitive form of sound-proofing. Dancing girls were employed to "dance" with the miners — although Barbara's room took it to a horizontal level.
Across the road, a cluster of authentic cottages and the Old Bank of New Zealand have been transformed into accommodation suites and rooms, including the ravishing Seddon Suite.
Richard John Seddon was a regular at the hotel, taking to the stage and singing. It's a show-stopping hotel.
In the very deep South, cross Foveaux Strait on the one hour ferry from Bluff to pint-sized Oban on Stewart Island. The iconic South Sea Hotel anchors Oban, enjoying a dress-circle perch overlooking the seductive curve of Halfmoon Bay, just a two minute doddle from the ferry terminal.
Needless to say, the establishment's mojo has been rekindled with the shift to Level 2, the island's social hub is pulsing with vitality once again. Complementing the fully licensed restaurant and bar, the South Sea offers modern studio units in addition to the original hotel rooms.
It's Kiwi classic, where retired travellers, perky millennials and grizzled fishermen all converge.
If you know your Otago gold rush history, the mighty Maniototo's northernmost settlement of Kyeburn Diggings is now largely a ghost town with one notable exception — the sole gold rush survivor, Dansey's Pass Coach Inn.
Offering hearty fare, boutique accommodation and a superb bar packed with curios, the back-of-beyond frontier charm is unmistakable. The long and low-slung hotel, first built in 1862, still beckons like a roadside refuge.
As you'd expect with such an atmospheric inn, open wood fires, wooden floors and exposed beams feature prominently in the lounge and dining rooms.
Accommodations are elegantly furnished and magnificently appointed with plenty of heritage elements, like wooden joinery, brass fittings and copper piping.
This historic coach inn is an alpine treasure, accentuating the raw drama of a dalliance with Dansey's Pass and the Kakanui Mountains. They're offering some great winter deals.
Central Otago is spoilt when it comes to heritage pubs, and another striking Maniototo ghost town boasts a soul-stirring hospitality treasure, the Vulcan Hotel.
From SH85, turn off onto the lonely looping gravel road to reach St. Bathans. At last count, there were only six inhabitants left — but no shortage of reported ghosts.
Stay the night at the irresistible Vulcan Hotel, the only surviving pub in St. Bathans and one of the oldest mud brick adobe buildings left standing in New Zealand.
Room 1 is apparently home to "The Rose", who was strangled in the pub in 1880. Some guests vow and declare they felt grabbed and held down in the night — particularly male guests. Nocturnal visitations included? You never know your luck.
It's movie-set-perfect good looks have made the award-winning Cardrona Hotel a perennial Instagram darling. Situated in the Cardrona Valley, many Crown Range travellers, zipping between Queenstown and Wanaka, will breeze by this 1863 sweetheart, fleetingly stopping for a photo-op with its famous façade before rushing on.
Don't sell yourself short, it's a cracker place to spend a night. Echoes of the gold-rush proudly ring from its rafters, while the en-suite accommodations are top notch.
There's an expansive heritage garden, roaring open fires, a Stoked hot tub and superb dining.
You might plump for the blue cod, gourmet burgers, hearty soups and stew — but be sure to sample their cult-like signatures — their fried chicken and frickles, Canadian-style crumbed and deep-fried dill pickles. Bliss! The menu does a fine job in highlighting locally sourced products from Cardrona Valley like honey and locally grown venison and lamb, to the gourmet cheeses and Cardrona Pinot Noir.