Inside Te Kahu, the most luxurious Airbnb in New Zealand possibly the world. And why you will never visit

When New Zealand was chosen as the face of Airbnb Luxe, it was emotional.

Like watching the Black Caps, I was filled with an irrational moment of national pride.

When the rugged South Island view of from Te Kahu's perfectly framed decking was chosen as the backdrop for this new luxury website, it was a vision of pure Aotearoa.

The Face of Luxury: The New Zealand bach was chosen as the backdrop to launch Airbnb Luxe. Photo / Supplied
The Face of Luxury: The New Zealand bach was chosen as the backdrop to launch Airbnb Luxe. Photo / Supplied

Dazzled by the crystal blue waters of Wanaka, it was a quick reminder of New Zealand's place in the world.


This is what we do. We, New Zealand. The regal 'we'.

But this view is not for everyone.

Just like watching a cricket international this moment is followed by the realisation that, short of childhood fantasies about winning the lottery or batting in the NZ first XI, the players concerned are in a different league.

That's not to sound bitter.

But, in short, this is the kind of Airbnb you will rarely see the inside of.

These Kiwi "luxe listings" might as well have been on one of Neptune's moons, or wherever else the ultra-wealthy are planning their holidays this year.

Te Kahu is not your average holiday home. Beyond the price tag of $3900 per night, the property on the side of Lake Wanaka is secluded, luxurious, and almost desktop-screensaver beautiful.

It is for these reasons that the New Zealand property was chosen from 2000 worldwide as the homepage of Airbnb Luxe – the part of the website used to browse and book luxury holiday accommodation.

So close, yet so far: The Cedere wood interiors of Te Kahu Airbnb in Wanaka. Photo / Supplied
So close, yet so far: The Cedere wood interiors of Te Kahu Airbnb in Wanaka. Photo / Supplied

It seems almost cruel to have the Kiwi mega mansions for rent on the same website as someone's converted loft space.

Yet, this is essentially the same app that allowed you to rent out the spare bedroom of a family in Brizzy, or accommodation for a last-minute break to Whangamata. All that has changed is the properties listed.

Last year the website launched Airbnb Plus. For this properties - and owners - were vetted to give them "Plus" rating, and guests some assurance on quality control.

In the scattergun shared economy market, the website realised quality assurance was something people are willing to pay for.

Like Airbnb Plus, Luxe has taken this concept of vetting properties further to refine an elite tier of houses for the one-per-cent.

As well as the entry price of $1000-a-night and over, there are additional checks in place.

There are 300 criteria points considered to reach this highest stage: Airbnb Nirvana.

Nirvana might be a good way to describe Te Kahu.

On this list of Luxe must-haves are "premium materials and finishes" and "rare and unique features". Te Kahu has these in droves.

Its cedar woodwork and geometric wood-clad ceilings lead out the "vanishing doors", into a courtyard on 50 acres of Lake Wanaka shoreline. This is no ordinary Kiwi bach and deck.

Jacqui Spice, whose company Touch of Spice has been arranging luxury experiences for travellers in Australia and New Zealand for the past two decades, embraced the Airbnb Luxe platform from the get go.

They were voted one of Conde Nast's Luxury Travel Specialists for 2019.

Although Spice has been letting luxury holiday properties for the past 14 years she said the "new global recognition [via Airbnb] is fantastic."

As well as the increased profile, the relaxed Airbnb approach really suits the New Zealand properties.

"True to Kiwi form, most of these homes aren't commercial enterprises, but are homes to real people, open to sharing their own private space with travellers," she said.

"Some were hesitant to begin with," Spice said, regarding the owners' attitudes towards letting their houses out via Airbnb but they eventually saw what she called the "'bright side' of this listing".

While Touch of Spice wouldn't let on much more about the owners, they did say that they were really lovely (quite private), down to earth Kiwis who were brave enough to open their homes to the world.

One presumes they aren't the kind of Airbnb host that try to sell you fresh eggs or leave passive aggressive post-it notes around the house.

Te Kahu is one of two New Zealand properties managed by the company now on the platform.

The other, grander property is Lodge at The Hills near Arrowtown. This is a fully-staffed six-bedroom compound, complete with a "multi-tier infinity pool".

At $38,000 per night, Lodge at The Hills makes Te Kahu's $3,900 Airbnb fee seem quite reasonable.

Top of the lake: Lodge at The Hills is on Airbnb for $38000 a night. Photo / Supplied
Top of the lake: Lodge at The Hills is on Airbnb for $38000 a night. Photo / Supplied

To put that in perspective, a night at the Lodge is more than double the cost of a wedding at Mudbrick Vineyard on Waiheke. (And, by the way, house rules say no parties or events. We checked.)

There is also plenty of availability, for July. In fact - at time of writing - it appears there are no bookings for the Lodge for the rest of the year.

Free house: So far there are no takers for the $38000-a-night Airbnb. Photo / Supplied
Free house: So far there are no takers for the $38000-a-night Airbnb. Photo / Supplied

However, it seems that there is a growing market for ultra-high-end holiday accommodation.

The $200 billion luxury travel market is growing and one that the website is keen to tap into, saying that within the last year: "Airbnb bookings for listings worth at least $1,000 per night increased more than 60 percent."

"We couldn't agree more with the trends in increased luxury travel in recent years," said Jacqui Spice.

Airbnb Luxe has benefited from the original website's what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach with regards to property description and amenities.

However, Luxe guests are used to a certain standard of service, and have very specific expectations from a property:

"We get plenty of unusual requests! . . . Professional ping pong players to be on-call, only green M&Ms, no staff to look at the guests," she says - half seriously.

"50 burgers to be cooked every night for only 20 guests – the list is endless."

As for what is required of the guests, the expectations are far more relaxed:

"We don't have a huge amount of rules as we try to keep these reasonable – no smoking, no pets, no inviting all of Queenstown back to the property."

Spice's company, which has recently expanded into experiences in the South Pacific, sees Airbnb as a chance to boost exposure for luxury experiences.

"The world is beginning to sit up and take note of what New Zealand has to offer luxury travellers," she said.

This, one can argue, is great for the rest of the world. Particularly the ones that can afford it.

But like vicarious cricketing glory, this deluxe stay in an Arrowtown mansion is something most New Zealanders can only dream of.