Sustainability is more than just a buzzword. It is a guiding principle for many within the tourism industry, especially accommodation providers keen to do their bit to keep New Zealand's clean, green reputation intact.
Here are our picks for some of the most interesting eco-friendly options around the country, ranging from luxury lodges to more accessible campgrounds.
The Flying Fox - Whanganui
How many places can you stay that are accessed only by boat or cable car? Tucked away in the Whanganui National Park, The Flying Fox offers a range of options, from a seven-person lodge to character-filled cottages, lush glamping tents and simple campsites. Much of the accommodation is built from recycled and natural materials from the wider area, and the site is off grid for everything except electricity, but even that is supplemented by solar panels. The toilets are compostable, and the surrounding heritage fruit and nut trees are largely organic. And thanks to the pest control programme in place, you'll be waking up to the sound of native birds each morning.
Camp Glenorchy - Glenorchy
Just a short walk from the lakefront and that famous red shed, Camp Glenorchy is New Zealand's only net positive energy accommodation, generating 105 per cent of the energy it uses each year. Choose to share your sleeping quarters in one of the bunk huts, park up at one of the powered motorhome sites or take in the mountain views from the veranda of your well-appointed eco cabin (one, two and three bedroom options available) where purified rainwater fuels your shower, and solar power is your energy source (yes, there is still Wi-Fi). The camp celebrates our natural and cultural environment, with native planting and local artists both in abundance around the site, and yoga classes and sustainability tours run during the week.
Mahu Whenua - Wānaka
Translated, Mahu Whenua means "healing the land" - and that's just what this luxury accommodation is trying to do. Approximately 1.36 million native plants have been added around the high-country homestead, with 25 hectares of predator-proof fencing erected around the property. More than 90 per cent of the land was placed under protective covenants in 2015, making it the largest conservation undertaking on private land in New Zealand's history. Inside, the Ridgeline Homestead is pure luxury, with five suites sharing a farmhouse kitchen, living areas, dining room, library and a sheltered outdoor pool and spa. Oh, and a helipad. Your stay includes meals - plus afternoon teas, pre-dinner canapes and picnics - and it's all hosted by a dedicated concierge team.
Mangarara Eco Lodge - Hawke's Bay
Embrace the pace of country life, whether you fancy lounging in the sun or mucking in to help collect free-range eggs at this environmentally minded farm stay. Mangarara is a family-run working farm, transitioning into a farm of the future, restoring balance to the environment through regenerative farming systems, tree planting and education for visitors. The lodge sleeps up to 17, with local and natural materials creating a tranquil retreat with all the mod-cons, plus a wood-fired boiler for hot water and solar panels. Even the linen and furniture is thoughtful, supplied by local businesses or upcycled from beloved treasures. Guests can explore the farm, meet the animals, and help themselves to the lodge vege gardens.
Kimi Ora Eco Resort - Kaiteriteri
Tucked away in the bush with panoramic views of Kaiteriteri beach, and close to the Abel Tasman National Park, Kimi Ora chalets offer true seclusion, with the knowledge you are doing your bit for the environment. The resort is fully equipped, with an onsite restaurant and access to an aqua centre, day spa and walking tracks. Rooms range from studios through to four-bedroom escapes, and for every room night sold, $1 is donated towards the Abel Tasman Tree Collective to fund the planting of native trees in the area. Additional sustainable steps include solar water heating, energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the resort, and buildings constructed from a renewable timber source. Resort staff have also planted more than 2200 trees and worked with the Department of Conservation to re-establish wetlands near the estuary.
Magic Cottages at Takou River - Kerikeri
It's suggested staying here is as decadent as it is eco-friendly. And it's hard to disagree. Boutique, self-catering cottages are dotted around the property, discreetly hidden within the sub-tropical botanical gardens and native bush lining the river, and a four-bedroom lodge and stunning home that sleeps 12 sit within the expanses of the working farm. There is also riverside glamping for two. During your stay you can swim in the river, kayak to the nearby secluded beaches, or just soak in one of the claw-foot bathtubs while you gaze at the stars. More than 50,000 native trees have been planted around the property, and wetland habitats have been created, along with pest-control programmes. The farm is certified organic, while back in the accommodation, solar and wind energy is put to good use, along with composting and recycling.
Sherwood Hotel - Queenstown
Tucked into the hills high above Lake Wakatipu, this former motel has been transformed into something cool, modern and above all, at one with its environment. Motivated by the Māori concept of Kaitiakitanga - that we are a protector of our land, sea, and sky - Sherwood has been stylishly refurbished using low-impact materials, including carbon-negative cork wall linings, carpet tiles made from recycled fishing nets, and curtains from up-cycled woollen army blankets. When it was installed, the hotel's solar panel fit out was New Zealand's largest, and these days any unused electricity is fed back to the grid. Free electric car charge stations are also available to guests, and bikes can be hired. In the hotel's highly regarded restaurant, almost half the green produce is grown in the kitchen garden, and waste is composted. The bar has even managed to get down to zero-waste - something the kitchen and wider hotel is also aiming for.
Kokohuia Lodge - Hokianga
If you are looking for environmental exclusivity, here it is. Accommodating just one couple at a time, Kokohuia Lodge is the ultimate in escapism, with its stylish design and killer views of the Hokianga Harbour. Nestled in a site packed full of organic orchards, gardens and native bush, the trip can be as hands-on as you want it to be, with restaurants and cafes nearby, or if you don't want to leave, meals can be delivered to you, made from produce sourced from the owners' biodynamic farm. The property is entirely off grid, utilising the power of the sun, and the Wi-Fi can even be turned off if you want to truly escape. And for an added luxurious treat, there's even a selection of pillows to choose from, depending on your taste/mood/fussiness.
Eco Villa, Christchurch
Rising from the rubble of the Christchurch earthquake, this sustainably-minded villa has been brought back to life - and then some - with an eye to creating a boutique space that encourages guests to make kinder choices, and establish a greener future because of it. The refurbishment, which includes eight individually crafted rooms suiting travellers of all ilk, budgets and needs, has reused and recycled as many materials as possible. Hot water heat pumps, and grey-water reuse is already in place, and solar-power energy is next on the to-do list. Each room has access to a shared kitchen, bike hire and communal spaces, including the edible gardens and (private) outdoor baths. Closed for winter, the property will reopen on October 1 and is bookable now.
Valley Vista Eco Retreat - Kaiwaka
Whether you call it an eco-retreat or a holiday park (the owners call it both), this Northland gem is an ecological treat. Choose between a luxurious night spent glamping, going old-school in a traditional onsite caravan, getting cosy in a tiny house BnB or to do-it-yourself in a self-contained container cottage. No matter what, you can sleep well, knowing around you, the environment is being looked after. The retreat uses solar power and has a bio cycle sewage system. There are shared shower and laundry facilities, complete with eco-friendly toiletries and washing powder.
Criffel Station Farm Stays - Wānaka
Like many farms, Criffel Station is rethinking the way it operates. Visitors to the deer farm are hosted in a way that is in harmony with the environment, as the farm works to provide optimal health of water, environment, animals, and people. The Station has two accommodation types. Secluded and authentically restored, the property's three cottages are self-contained and hint at a chance encounter with one of the resident deer if you are lucky, while two glamping options offer a different, more social way to soak up the rural landscapes, with just as much comfort.
Marahau Beach Camp - Abel Tasman
This is a classic Kiwi campground - with an eco-friendly twist. Located in Marahau, regarded as the gateway to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, the camp features tent and powered campervan sites, dorm rooms and cabins with kitchenettes. It is also certified carbon zero, alongside other local operations including kayaking tours and the town's water taxi service making it easy to be kind to the planet while exploring one of its most stunning natural landscapes.
Manawa Ridge - Waihī
Hand-built by its owners, this truly eco-friendly lodge sits high on a Coromandel peak, giving panoramic views of some of the most breathtaking hill country and coastal views you could hope to find. Made from recycled timbers and energy efficient materials, including hay bales and mudbrick, the boutique lodge (there are just three suites) lovingly reflects its environment. Each room has a private courtyard, and meals are made using produce from the lodge gardens and henhouse, and often home-farmed meat. And the underground wine cellar is home to carefully selected local wines.
The Bird Hide - Waikouaiti, Otago
This shepherd's hut is tiny, but perfectly formed. Overlooking the Hawksbury Lagoon wildlife refuge, the Bird Hide is indeed a bird-watcher's paradise. Guests can get cosy beside the fire, before relaxing in a queen bed with luxury linen - a bit different to what the real shepherds had to deal with. The hut has a separate bathroom and kitchenette, and breakfast and Wi-Fi are provided. Off the beaten track, but just a 30-minute drive from Dunedin, the hut is located within the boundary of the Department of Conservation reserve and a percentage of the room rate goes towards regenerative plantings in the area.
DOC huts - various locations
Aside from camping on the side of the road, there is perhaps nothing as eco-friendly as staying in a Department of Conservation hut in New Zealand's backcountry. First, you have probably used your feet to get there, and then when you do arrive, there are very few mod cons to suck power and leave much of a carbon footprint. Located around the country, the more than 950 huts can sleep anywhere from two to 80-odd people. Some are old, and some new. Some have lights, some have candle holders. Many are off grid, lots use bore water. All have something special about them, given the location.
Mt Heale hut in Great Barrier Island's Aotea Conservation Park is a serviced 20-bed hut with gas cooking facilities and views across the Hauraki Gulf, Little Barrier Island (Hauturu) and the summit peaks on Great Barrier Island.
Down south, Aspiring Hut in Mt Aspiring National Park is a historic stone hut deep in the Matukituki Valley. With 29 bunks and a woodburner, the serviced hut is a good option for families or people new to tramping. Like most huts, you'll still need a lot including your own pots and pans, toilet paper and rubbish bags.
And ignore the name of the historically rich Asbestos Cottage in the Kahurangi National Park. Built in 1897 by prospectors looking for asbestos in the area, it went on to be home for Annie Fox and Henry Chaffey for nearly 40 years after Annie and her lover escaped her abusive husband. These days, some of the plants and flowers the couple planted remain, including currants, gooseberries, and daffodils and past the grassy bush clearing are views over the valley towards Tākaka.
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