Need to give yourself a restart? Here's where you can do it, writes Jessica Cameron
If you, like many, are breathing a sigh of relief that the hectic summer holiday period is over, you might just be in need of a retreat.
Whatever you're looking for when you're 'away from it all' - we've rounded up the best retreats across the country.
Taking full advantage of the location of their family's sheep station in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Preserve, Bridget and Bevan Newlands were inspired to build accommodation that would feel like "lying in the tussocks and gazing up at the stars". The result was SkyScape, an architecturally stunning structure constructed almost entirely of glass that allows you to stargaze from bed.
The first iteration was so popular that the Newlands had to construct two more units, which opened in 2020. Each is entirely private and secluded high in the Ben Ohau range, with an outdoor tub. Apart from the twinkling lights of Twizel in the distance, the only light you'll see is those of the constellations, made easy to interpret with the seasonal charts provided in your room.
Mt. Cook Lakeside Retreat, Lake Pukaki
There are few places to stay this close to the brilliant blue waters of Lake Pukaki, but that's not the only thing that makes the all-inclusive Mt. Cook Lakeside Retreat unique. It's entirely possible to spend days here without seeing another soul, particularly if you hunker down in the 195sq m Ashley Mackenzie Villa. Then again, it's the kind of place that you'll (maybe) want to share with family or friends. The two-bedroom luxury house has its own gym, massage studio, sauna, and private spa overlooking the lake, complete with views of Aoraki.
Make it a full retreat with the two-night wellness package, which includes two nights' accommodation, a massage and a private yoga class. Packages for the main lodge start at $2280 for two nights.
The Henley, Cambridge
From the moment you turn down The Henley's sweeping driveway, until you ascend the grand staircase to your room, you'll have a hard time not saying, "I've arrived." A hotel that plays homage to the country estates of the United Kingdom, this is the place to live out all your Bridgerton dreams. Known for hosting weddings, The Henley sits on 12ha of private grounds, and includes an on-site chapel with stained-glass native New Zealand birds. Amenities for the rest of us include a new spa with beauty treatments, an indoor heated pool in a sun-drenched atrium setting and a cinema screening room.
You can take your Regency period fantasies to the next level with the "Touch of England" package. It includes meals (a full cooked English breakfast, picnic lunch, traditional cream team, and dinner), tennis (complete with Pimm's), croquet and two nights' accommodation, starting at $995.
Makahika Outdoor Pursuit Centre's Arete Retreat, Levin
Retreats are meant to be a time to reset and reconnect—but that doesn't mean they can't be productive. At the foothill of the Tararua Ranges, 15 minutes from Levin, Arete Retreat was purpose-built for groups and executive teams to offer space, minimal distractions and the gift of time. For work teams, the isolation is perfect for strategic planning sessions or skills training, with programming provided by Arete's world-class facilitators.
It doesn't have to be all about work, though. Arete is set within the wider Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre property, which means you'll also have access to all the fun stuff, including the centre's high ropes and zipline course.
Anahata Yoga Retreat, Golden Bay
With residents keenly interested in alternative therapies and ecological living, Golden Bay is the quintessential go-to for yoga retreats. Perhaps that's what has made Anahata Yoga Retreat a destination for yogis; the non-profit is known for its community-minded principles. Taking part in a retreat here isn't just a chance to reconnect with yourself—it's a chance to connect with other like-minded people.
Set in lush native bush about 30 minutes from Takaka, Anahata offers regularly scheduled meditation and yoga retreats, including yoga teacher trainings. However, private retreats—with personalised yoga and healing sessions—are also available. Accommodation is off-grid and includes eco-friendly lodging such as straw bale yurts.
Te Arai Lodge, Mangawhai
A midweek retreat is do-able when the resort is this close to Auckland. Near Mangawhai, the family-owned Te Arai Lodge is an eco-friendly oasis of hospitality. Surrounded by ancient forest and native bush, it has panoramic views of the Brynderwyn Ranges and nearby beaches, islands and coastline.
This getaway can be whatever you want it to be, whether that means taking advantage of nearby hiking or cycling trails, relaxing at the lodge's pool, or stretching it out at the on-site yoga studio. Or you can take advantage of the three-night Wellness Package (starting at $4995) which includes a guided hike or bike ride, a personal yoga class, a massage and garden-to-table meals with paired wines. Be sure to ask about Te Arai's autumn specials, which run through April and May.
Rimu Lodge, the West Coast
With vast swathes of native virgin bush and massive rivers that run out to sea, there's a particular serene quality to the West Coast region that you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the country. It's also where you'll find Rimu Lodge, the area's only Qualmark-rated five-star bed and breakfast.
Offering luxurious yet sustainable accommodation, the lodge doesn't any organised "retreats" per se — this is the place for "choose your own adventure" style getaways. It's just 10 minutes from Hokitika, so you can spend your days fossicking for jade at the beach, cycling along the West Coast Wilderness Trail, exploring the new loop track at the Hokitika Gorge, or watching birds at Lake Mahinapua.
Split Apple Retreat, Abel Tasman
On the doorstep of Abel Tasman National Park, normally we'd say it's all about the location at Split Apple Retreat. But quite frankly, this luxury retreat could be just about anywhere and still be worth the trip, with its saltwater infinity pool, detoxifying sauna, and private pathways leading down to the beach, including to the eponymous Split Apple Rock.
Run by a chef and a doctor, it comes as no surprise that health and food are central to the experience, with its all-inclusive multi-course meals created to promote wellness. The retreat has yet to announce the launch of its new wellness packages, which will be coming in April 2021, but you can expect massages, yoga, acupuncture, meditation, and cooking classes thrown in for good measure.
Tarawera Glamping, Rotorua
Only accessible by bushwalk or boat, Lake Tarawera's two glamping sites are among the most remote in New Zealand. The first — the Te Rata glampsite — is designed with families in mind. The bedroom and kitchen tent are set within steps of the lake's edge, where you can try cooking in the geothermal waters and ground. Camping for two adults and four children is $250 per night, with a two-night minimum.
Or, leave the kids at home and check in to the secluded Kanuka tent. A kayak is provided to explore the lake, while a natural bush hotpool is only a 90-minute walk away along the Tarawera Trail. Also a two-night minimum, it costs $295 per night. Regardless of which tent you choose, you'll be fully immersed in the native bush and Māori culture.
Cape South Holistic Health & Wellness, Hawke's Bay
After spending a decade running rafting expeditions and building schools in Uganda, Kate and Cam McLeay returned to New Zealand to put their passion for tourism and wellness into practice. The result is Cape South, a high-end wellness retreat in Hawke's Bay with herbal medicinal gardens, an on-site apothecary, treatment rooms, a yoga studio, and an infrared sauna. You can find all the standard beauty treatments here, along with more specialised offerings, such as reiki, sound healing, naturopath consultations and polarity energy healing.
Individuals can sign up for the scheduled retreats. Ten are already booked for 2021, including April's Mindfulness & Meditation session, an adventure retreat in May (be sure to ask Cam about his experiences as a rafting tour guide for Prince William), and July's Mindfulness for Harnessing Resilience.
Ahu Ahu Beach Villas, Taranaki
Sitting along the Taranaki coastline and handcrafted using upcycled materials — including clay roof tiles from a hospital, hardwood timber wharf piles, and materials from a community hall — it's easy to see why the Ahu Ahu Beach Villas is award-winning accommodation. Luxury without the pretension, the property has three family villas and one studio villa (starting at $295 per night) and a two-bedroom self-contained lodge for larger groups (starting at $550).
Here, it's all about taking in the best of the Taranaki region. Ahu Ahu Beach Villas is only a 20-minute drive to the gardens and art galleries of New Plymouth and a 45-minute drive to the start of many tramps within Egmont National Park. Of course, if you're just looking to relax, the beach is only a short stroll away, from which you can see the "green flash"—a small green light that appears just as the sun hits the horizon in the evening.
Te Awa Glamping, Taumarunui
If you start to search for glamping stays, you'll notice they all start to look a bit same-same — most bell tents, safari tents and even yurts come straight out the box. That's not the case with Te Awa, on the banks of the Whanganui River near Taumarunui. This off-grid glamping tent was custom-designed for its surroundings on one of the river's only natural terraces, set within a working sheep and beef farm.
Enjoy your morning coffee from a deck overlooking the river and plan your Ruapehu adventure for the day. Whether that's a jetboat ride to the Bridge to Nowhere, a canoe over the Whanganui's gentle rapids, or angling for rainbow trout, Te Awa is ideal for active relaxation. The tent starts at $440 per night, with adventure packages — including boat rides and meals — are also available for an additional cost.