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Travel

Green with envy: 15 of NZ's most sustainable hotel stays

NZ Herald
By: Jessica Wynne Lockhart

A certain "C" word has disrupted countless international vacation plans over the last year. But it's had another unfortunate and unintended consequence—it's also lessened the focus on another "C" phrase: Climate change. Luckily, an increasing number of accommodation providers are excelling at embracing the concept kaitiakitanga. Where possible, they're not just protecting our environment—they're also using tourism as a way to give back to the land.

Ready to book your own green getaway? Here are 15 of the most sustainable accommodation options around the country, so that you can look after the environment while you look after yourself.

Piwakawaka Eco Structure, Auckland. Photo / Supplied, ATEED
Piwakawaka Eco Structure, Auckland. Photo / Supplied, ATEED

1. Piwakawaka Eco Structure, Auckland

There's no question about it: Camping typically has a lighter footprint when you stack it up against traditional accommodation. But if you're not already kitted out with all the equipment, it can quickly turn into a less sustainable option. That's just part of the reason why glamping sites, such as the Piwakawaka Eco Structure in Wenderholm Regional Park, are some of the greenest options out there. Managed by Auckland Council, the pre-erected camping tent overlooks the Puhoi River and is just a 45-minute drive from Auckland's CBD. With an outdoor solar shower, battery-powered lighting and worm containers for food disposal, it's also an affordable option, with nightly rates starting from just $145. aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/parks-recreation

2. Wanderlust Hostel, Tauranga

Think you've outgrown hostels? Tauranga's waterfront Wanderlust hostel will make you re-evaluate that. Rated by Qualmark as 5-Star accommodation, this historic hotel was extensively renovated by locals Sarah Meadows and Matt Young in 2020. The result is an eco-friendly — and surprisingly upmarket — spot to lay your head down at night. Sustainability was a key part of the renovation process, which is why all the beds are made with eco-friendly Vendella bedding, rooms are cleaned with green products and LED lighting can be found throughout the building. Double rooms with private bathrooms cost $116 per night. wanderlustnz.co.nz

The twin baths at Ruapehu's Nightsky Cottage. Photo / Supplied
The twin baths at Ruapehu's Nightsky Cottage. Photo / Supplied

3. Nightsky Cottage, Ruapehu

Hidden in native bushland on the edges of Tongariro National Park is one of Ruapehu's most luxurious self-contained cottages. But perhaps the thing that's most obscured is just how eco-friendly this two-bedroom accommodation is. Developed based on Zero-Waste principles, everything in the cottage, even the toilet brush, was hand-selected for sustainability and sourced from local suppliers, where possible. The result? In 2021, Nightsky Cottage won both Qualmark's coveted Gold Sustainable Tourism Business Award and the 100% Pure New Zealand Experience in 2021. Rates start from $650 per night. nightskycottage.co.nz

Hawke's Bay's Mangarara Eco Lodge. Photo / Supplied
Hawke's Bay's Mangarara Eco Lodge. Photo / Supplied

4. Mangarara Eco Lodge, Hawke's Bay

With a tagline like "farming that makes a difference", you can already guess that Mangarara — about a 45-minute drive south of Hastings — is unlike any other farmstay in the country. Mangarara Station's vision is based on regenerative agriculture, with a focus on soil health, carbon sequestration, and planting native and food-producing trees. Its on-site Eco Lodge mirrors this ethos, with every element designed to help people reconnect back to nature, food and farming. Sleeping up to 17 guests, the lodge, built from two repurposed former high school classrooms—can be booked for exclusive use, starting at $400 per night. mangarara.co.nz

Wairakei Resort, Taupō. Photo / Supplied For Travel
Wairakei Resort, Taupō. Photo / Supplied For Travel

5. Wairakei Resort, Taupō

Once the hallmark of sustainability, eco-friendly toiletries can now be found in hotel rooms across the country. Unfortunately, they can also be an act of greenwashing. Want to know what's truly the sign of accommodation that's committed to a greener future? One that goes so far as to have its own sewage and water treatment facilities. That's the case at Taupō's Wairakei Resort, which also relies on renewable energy generated by its geothermal landscape. Just something to think about as you hit up the resort's nine-hole golf course or relax in one of the six outdoor hot tubs. Rooms start from $126. wairakei.co.nz

6. Hidden Lake Hotel & Apartments, Cambridge

This is a classic case of not judging a hotel by its location. Although Hidden Lake Hotel is, well, hidden in Cambridge in a new shopping complex among takeaway restaurants, it's one of Waikato's most forward-thinking accommodation providers. You won't find a scrap of single-use paper or plastic on-site, while appliances are energy-efficient. The location also isn't necessarily a bad thing. Hidden Lake's modern apartment-style rooms are set up for self-catering (doubles are also available from $218), but if you're feeling lazy, Cambridge's restaurants are just a short walk away, reducing the carbon footprint of your stay even further. hiddenlakehotel.co.nz

MenardsNZ Ecosanctuary, Canterbury. Photo / Supplied, Christchurch NZ
MenardsNZ Ecosanctuary, Canterbury. Photo / Supplied, Christchurch NZ

7. MenardsNZ Ecosanctuary, Canterbury

Just think of Menards as your own personal wildlife sanctuary. In 2018, the 10-acre property received funding from Environment Canterbury to install rabbit-proof fencing. The result is an oasis of native plants, birds, and lizards now thriving within a protected natural environment. Guests at the sleepout (from $60) or two-bedroom cottage (from $125) have the freedom to explore the property, which sits at the foot of the Ben Ohau Mountain Range just outside Twizel, or hang out in the garage, which features a drum kit and dartboard. menardsnz.com

8. Lakestone Lodge, Aoraki/Mt Cook

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Being eco-friendly doesn't mean having to compromise on luxury. That's immediately clear when you first pull up to Lakestone Lodge, on the edges of Lake Pūkaki. Each of the six luxury rooms (from $625) features a soaker tub with floor-to-ceiling views of Aoraki/Mt. Cook. Yet, the family-owned accommodation is also fully off-grid, relying on solar power and rain and bore water, while the surrounding grounds have been planted with more than 1000 native trees, grasses and shrubs, attracting native bird life. lakestonelodge.co.nz

9. Tahi, Northland

Since 1888, Suzan Craig's family has lived in tune with nature and the land, as the owners of one of New Zealand's first honey-producing companies. In 2004, Craig returned to her family's beekeeping roots and purchased a run-down cattle farm in Northland, where she set about restoring nearly 30 hectares of wetlands, planting 349,000 native trees, and sequestering thousands of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. Now, visitors can experience this unique environment outside Whangārei by staying at Tahi's character cottage (starting from $200) or one of the two contemporary bungalows (from $350). tahinz.com

10. Mistletoe Bay Eco Village, Queen Charlotte Sound

Situated within DoC conservation land in the Queen Charlotte Sound's Onahau Bay, Mistletoe Bay Eco Village showcases our country's best qualities, including native bush, endemic fauna and clear water. With road-accessible cabins ($140), a cottage ($190), a six-person lodge ($160) and campsites ($18 per adult), sustainability practices are built into the village — quite literally. The buildings boast double glazing, high-grade insulation and solar panels in order to conserve energy. Meanwhile, recycled water is used to flush all the toilets and waste is carefully processed or recycled. What's more, Mistletoe Bay is run by a charitable trust, which supports visiting school groups, allowing school-age youth to develop an interest in environmental stewardship. mistletoebay.co.nz

Golden Bay Hideaway, Golden Bay. Photo / Supplied
Golden Bay Hideaway, Golden Bay. Photo / Supplied

11. Golden Bay Hideaway, Golden Bay

A quintessentially Golden Bay experience, the Hideaway offers five different types of accommodation, including a house truck (a lovingly restored 1950s Commer in a private bush location), the "hippie house" (which was first built by locals 20 years ago and has since been updated) and New Zealand's first European-style passive solar tiny house. What they all have in common is the goal of fostering "a high standard of environmental ethics" and a location that's just a short distance to Wainui Falls, one of the area's best short bush tracks. Stays start from $135 per night, with a two-night minimum. goldenbayhideaway.co.nz

Kimi Ora Eco Resort, Abel Tasman. Photo / Supplied, Nelson Tasman
Kimi Ora Eco Resort, Abel Tasman. Photo / Supplied, Nelson Tasman

12. Kimi Ora Eco Resort, Abel Tasman

When he set about building a health resort, founder Dietmar Glaser understood that the health of people and the environment will always be closely connected. The result was Kimi Ora Eco Resort, set in 12 hectares of native bush on the edges of Abel Tasman National Park near Kaiteriteri. Kimi Ora offers everything you'd expect from a wellness retreat — including an on-site spa, organic vegetarian food and mountain bike trails — but with some bonus features. For example, $1 goes back towards the Abel Tasman Tree Collective for every room sold (from $169), while Kimi Ora has also worked with DoC to re-establish wetlands nearby. kimiora.com

Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat, Central Otago. Photo / Supplied
Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat, Central Otago. Photo / Supplied

13. Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat, Glenorchy

There's a reason why every list of "eco-friendly accommodation in New Zealand" features this Otago property. Lauded by Time Magazine in 2019 as one of the World's Greatest Places, it's a favourite setting for family holidays, leadership workshops and yoga retreats owing to its rustic and comfortable setting. More importantly, its commitment to the environment is second-to-none. The campground, cabins, and bunkrooms were designed in line with the Living Building Challenge—one of the most stringent environmental building certifications in the world—and as a result, it's the country's only positive energy visitor accommodation. campglenorchy.co.nz

14. Catlins Mohua Park Eco Accommodation, Catlins

In the heart of the Catlins — about a two-hour drive from Invercargill — Catlins Mohua Park has four cottages (from $199), each of which has been designed to have minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. Owners Lyndon and Gill McKenzie are working towards a zero-waste approach, but they've already made tremendous headway in giving back with their predator-eradication programme and proper waste and water management. If you decide to go the bed and breakfast route (the cottages can also be booked as self-catered stays), expect your meals to feature local meat and fresh produce grown in the on-site garden. catlinsmohuapark.co.nz

Hotel Britomart, Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Hotel Britomart, Auckland. Photo / Supplied

15. The Hotel Britomart, Auckland CBD

For the moment your spot the live totara tree in the lobby, it's clear that Auckland's Hotel Britomart does sustainability differently. The rooms (from $289) might feel small even for a city hotel, but they've been intentionally designed that way for greater efficiency — and to get guests out and exploring their surroundings. No detail has been overlooked: The slippers are fully compostable, the staff uniforms are made locally, lights power off when you leave your room, and bicycles are available for use. All added in, these are just some of the qualities that make the Hotel Britomart the country's only 5 Green Star hotel. thehotelbritomart.com/our-guest-rooms

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