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.
Unlike a "holiday", retreats are designed to provide people with the opportunity to reassess and sometimes restart. They're typically dedicated to both disconnecting — often from work and technology — and reconnecting with ourselves and our loved ones.
But that process will look different for everyone. Where a spa vacation will do the trick for some, an adventure through New Zealand's backcountry and bush might be the answer for others. So, from beach escapes and wellness weekends, to active relaxation holidays and luxurious foodie experiences, we've rounded up 24 of the best retreats across the country.
Sanctuary Hill, Taranaki
Sanctuary Hill is a yoga and wellness retreat on the outskirts of New Plymouth in the heart of Taranaki. Don't know the difference between an up dog and a down dog? It doesn't matter—all you need to know is that shavasana (a pose that involves lying prone on the floor) is everyone's favourite part of any yoga class.
But just because the emphasis is on yoga, it doesn't mean that's the only thing on offer. Sanctuary Hill's weekend workshops include March's "Cooking and Wellness", where you'll learn to prepare fresh meals using ingredients from your home garden, and May's "Mantra, Sound and Yoga", an exploration of sacred sound vibration. Sanctuary Hill will also design custom retreats for individuals and small groups, starting at $680 for two nights plus meals.
Kauri Cliffs, Northland
Of the three Robertson Lodges spread across New Zealand, staff will tell you that Northland's Kauri Cliffs near Kerikeri is the owner's favourite. You don't have to look at further than the three new residences to see evidence of this favouritism.
The four-bedroom villas — each boasting a private pool and individual decoration by designer Virginia Fisher — were built for his three sons and are designed for family or group getaways. Much like the resort's individual suites, you can expect all-inclusive daily drinks and meals prepared by your own chef on-site, and access to Kauri Cliff's golf course, spa and other amenities.
You don't have to break the bank to go on a retreat. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Karioi with views out to the Tasman Sea, Raglan's Solscape Eco-Retreat has accommodation for a broad range of budgets, from shared dorms in repurposed railway cabooses, to bell tents and self-contained family cottages.
You can create your own surf retreat with the assistance of Solscape's surf school (this is Raglan, after all), bliss out at the yoga centre, get a massage, or experience ecstatic dance. All that activity sound exhausting? You'll have no problem refuelling with sustainably sourced food at the on-site Conscious Kitchen. Three-night retreats start at $943 for private accommodation, two massages and two yoga classes—but can be tailored to your timing, needs and interest.
Retaruke Country Estate, National Park
At most retreats there seems to be an emphasis on getting clean, whether it's in a swimming pool, sauna, or hot pool. But at Retaruke Country Estate, you'll find it's difficult to keep the dirt off. Set in 1600ha of farmland, bush and streams in the heart of National Park, this farm stay's packages are designed with families of all ages in mind.
What kid wouldn't love riding horses cross-country, swimming in the creek, shooting, or trying their hand at mustering sheep? Retaruke also runs guided fly fishing and hunting excursions for free-range red and fallow deer, e-bike rides and SxS adventures. Every stay comes with all-inclusive home-cooked meals.
Treetops Lodge & Estate, Rotorua
Only a 20-minute drive southwest from the bustle of Rotorua, Treetops Lodge and Estate somehow still has the capacity to feel completely wild. Hidden in 1000ha of native bush, the luxury lodge is probably best known for its hunting and fishing experiences. But where it really excels is with its Wild Food Retreat. Here, you'll learn more about how to forage for native edibles and their traditional use, before preparing them alongside a professional chef at the Wild Food Cooking School.
In addition to sumptuous meals, you can expect all other standards of a luxury experience, like the on-site spa, along with added surprises and perks, like the private tramping trails leading to Treetops' guest-access-only Bridal Veil Falls.
Falls Retreat, Coromandel
If you arrive at the Falls Retreat with the expectation that you're checking into a luxe resort with heaps of amenities based on name alone, you're bound to be disappointed. But if you're looking to sample some of the most unique cuisine in the country in an idyllic location, then you're in the right place.
Just outside Waihi, award-winning chef Brad King mixes-and-matches sustainably sourced ingredients in the most unexpected ways: Think lamb rump marinated with kimchi or crumbed oysters with sauteed tofu. You can learn from the master in the Falls Retreat's new cooking workshops, where King explains his paddock-to-plate ethos and how to achieve it at home. Also new is the retreat's latest accommodation option, the Log Cabin, which is set in the kid and dog-friendly grounds near Owharoa Falls.
Aro Ha Wellness, Glenorchy
If wellness means more to you than just a weekend retreat, Aro Ha near Glenorchy is one of your best options for deepening your breath, calming your nervous system, and improving your immune and digestive systems.
With multiple start dates each month, Aro Ha's six-day or eight-day Revive and Thrive Plus retreats are led by athletes, detox specialists, and educators, and incorporate yoga, mindfulness, and contrast hydrotherapy (a series of brief immersions in cold and warm water). The luxury retreat starts at $6125, inclusive of a plant-based menu.
Maruia River Retreat, Tasman
Maruia River Retreat opened in 2019. Yet in spite of a certain global pandemic — or perhaps because of it — it's quickly made a name for itself as one of the most destination-worthy spots on the South Island.
Not to be confused with Maruia Hot Springs (which is 45 minutes down the road), this 202ha nature estate takes a holistic approach to wellness. In addition to all the standard spa offerings, you can meet with a naturopath, detox in a riverside Chroma-therapy sauna, or take part in a meditation or breathwork workshop. Heck, even a gentle scroll through its Instagram feed somehow manages to soothe the soul. Upcoming special retreats include "Eat. Yoga. Love." from April 15 to 18 (reading Elizabeth Gilbert is not required) and a weekend retreat led by Rachel Grunwell, author of Balance: Food, Health + Happiness from September 16 to 19.
Hapuku Kitchen Rural Cooking School, Kaikoura
With a name that translates to "eating crayfish", it's due time that Kaikoura got its own cooking school. Launched early this year, Hapuku Kitchen delivers, with its farm-to-table school run by MasterChef NZ finalist Fiona Read and her husband Chris Sturgeon.
Bring your gumboots — you'll need them for this experience, which starts in Hapuku's farmyard, where you'll forage in the garden, collect eggs from chickens, and feed the pigs and cows, before heading into the kitchen to learn the tricks of the trade. The full-day workshop costs $295 per person.
Can't get enough Read's cooking? Make it the ultimate retreat by staying at the nearby Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses, where she's head of the kitchen.
Gravity Fishing, Stewart Island
"Retreat" doesn't have to be synonymous with fluffy bathrobes, spa appointments and yoga classes. Stewart Island's Gravity Fishing will lure you in with its fishing adventures for foodies. A chance to reconnect with both the land and the sea, Gravity's packages will see you diving for oysters or paua, spearfishing for flounder, or harvesting blue cod by hand line. Afterwards, a world-class chef will prepare your catch on the boat or on shore.
Three-day packages—which include waterfront accommodation, all-inclusive meals, and return flights from Invercargill—start at $825 per person.
Bay of Many Coves
If you're a firm believer that a retreat entails "getting away from it all", you can't get much further away than the remote Bay of Many Coves in the Queen Charlotte Sounds. There's no road access to the five-star boutique resort—you can only access your ultimate pampering session by boat, plane or helicopter.
Upon arrival, you'll be whisked away for a massage at Miritu Day Spa, which uses New Zealand-sourced botanicals in its treatments. Accommodation includes self-contained apartments, but don't worry about cooking; breakfast and three-course dinners at the resort's award-winning restaurant are included as part of the Back to Nature Spa Retreat, in addition to round-trip water transfers. bayofmanycoves.co.nz/
RiverRidge Retreat, Southland
Of all the health retreats on this list, Southland's RiverRidge Retreat offers one of the most systematic and customised approaches to well-being. Each individual's retreat is personalised using RiverRidge's patented "eight-step blueprint to guaranteed results", which includes tests to determine your personality type, cleanses, and take-home programme with holistic health tools.
What this all translates to is that it isn't a quick fix — this is the start of long-term results in your life at home. Retreats range in length from the "bronze" three-day programme, to the "platinum" 10-day programme, with accommodation ranging from glamping tents, to bunk room, to self-contained studios and suites in the Catlins.
This piece originally appeared in New Zealand Herald Travel here