If you're after more of a log cabin vibe than a box-fresh new hotel, you have a lot of choice. Ewan McDonald has found the cosiest cabins and hotels around the country, where you can get an alpine vibe, whether or not you're hitting the slopes.
Aaah winter, when the must-packs are parka, gloves and thermal undergarments, skis or snowboard if you're so inclined, and rather than swimming up to the pool bar for a daiquiri you're snuggling around the fireplace with a mulled wine.
If you're looking for a getaway with that alpine vibe, we've found plenty of places to, um, chill out. Spotted the obvious flaw? Not all of Aotearoa is alpine. So we've found comfy accommodations where you'll be only too happy to go from log cabin to resident.
The (ahem) Winterless North doesn't rise too far above sea level but Paheke Boutique Lodge, between Hokianga and the Bay of Islands, is a Heritage NZ-listed homestead built from pit-sawn kauri in 1862 and filled with antiques, set in gardens with a stream and enormous old trees. Waipoua Lodge, on the edge of the kauri forest, is a gem.
It's only 120km but Aotea Great Barrier feels a million miles from Tāmaki Makaurau, more so when snuggled into Glenfern Sanctuary Accommodation inside a predator-fenced nature reserve. Fitzroy House, one of the island's oldest homesteads, and Glenfern Cottage are self-contained houses with woodburning fires. Kaipara Views near Kaukapakapa is an off-grid, solar-powered eco-lodge overlooking Kaipara Harbour.
COROMANDEL, WAIKATO, BAY OF PLENTY
On Coromandel's northeastern coast, Top Hut is a one-room cabin set on a hill in bush, overlooking the Mercury Islands, with electricity but no Wi-Fi – and a chiminea on the deck to toast marshmallows.
Bordering Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park near Waihi, the Log Cabin sits in 5ha of farmland, olive groves and riverside walkways. Sleeping up to 12, its open-plan living is warmed by a wood fire, flowing on to a deck with dining table and spa.
The House with No Nails (think about it), 10 minutes from Matamata, was hand-built from timber reclaimed from Cyclone Bola using methods dating from the 10th century. In the "barn stay", enjoy a candlelit roast dinner and then a sundowner around the firepit.
Waikato options: Te Tiro pioneer-style cottages; Kamahi Cottage self-contained farm B&B.
Some real mountains now. Tongariro Lodge at the foot of Tongariro National Park and New Zealand's largest ski area, Ruapehu, is refined luxury, best experienced over a four-course meal served in front of an open fire.
Closer to the slopes, Powderhorn Chateau oozes old-world charm and apres-ski vibes in Ohakune, and Chateau Tongariro at Whakapapa Village preserves the elegance and opulence of the roaring 20s. Skotel Alpine Resort is New Zealand's highest hotel: accommodation from backpacker rooms to cosy cabins.
The Ruahine Range dominates and divides the lower North Island. On the western flanks in Central Hawke's Bay, Mangarara Eco Lodge has a spacious and tranquil lakeside living area complete with open fire and outdoor firepit; Musterer's Rest is a quaint and atmospheric farm refuge amid ancient native trees.
Across the mountains in Manawatū – a region too many blat through – is Makoura Lodge, with exceptional range and valley views. The McIntyre family provides country hospitality on their fifth-generation farm; relax beside the log fire, eating the farm's lamb and vegetables. Rouse yourselves for horse treks, shooting, cocktail courses or piloting a 4x4 under expert guidance. Rathmoy Lodge, five minutes off State Highway 1 at Hunterville, shelters beside Rangitīkei River's white cliffs and sparkling water.
Taranaki's ultimate alpine accommodation is Ngati Ruanui Stratford Mountain House, boasting an award-winning restaurant, tracks and trails and a cosy fireplace in the communal lounge. Luxurious Patuha Lodge has a unique location beneath Kaitake and Pouākai Ranges.
Taranaki options: Pouākai Cabins, boutique mountainside accommodation; Kapuni Lodge, alpine club hut; Tahurangi Lodge, above the bush line; Mangorei Heights, luxury cottage with private stone bath; Pukeiti Studio Lodge in native rainforest and gardens.
Artisan delicacies and beverages (much more than wine), boutiques, galleries, spectacular coastline, wildlife, cycle trails and the world's most accessible dark sky attractions: it's no wonder Wairarapa weekends have taken off.
Te Ngahere is a new couple's luxury pod above a rural valley minutes from Martinborough Square with bush views, starry nights and barby on the patio. Cosy and fireside, then.
Options: Whitimanuka Retreat, Martinborough farm stay; Greytown Hotel, possibly NZ's oldest hostelry; Kaituna Riverside Cottages and Ranginui Retreat, Masterton; Palliser Ridge, off-grid accommodation; Wai Ngaio Retreat, private ex-hunting and fishing lodge.
Where better to stay than wine barrel cabins, tucked between vineyards and olive groves. Cab-savvy, huh? Omaka Valley Hut is nestled in hill country, 20 minutes from Blenheim, a secluded retreat where you'll wake to views over farmland, vineyards and valleys.
More: Tawa Cove Cabins, private self-catered cabins at Endeavour Inlet; Fossickers Hut, cabin with kids' loft, coal range and fire-heated outdoor bath at historic Canvastown.
Some 640m above sea level in the St Arnaud Range, Nelson Lakes Alpine Lodge is a family escape with accommodation from apartments to backpacker. Open-fire bar, restaurant and playground onsite; bonus mountain views and winter sports.
For hardy hikers and cyclists or laid-back bookworms, Maitai Whare Iti cabins snuggle into Matai Valley's native forest; Rabbit Island's "bunny huts" in Nelson city are made from local timber, painted with eco-products, and the honesty shop supports nearby tree planting and wetlands. Gather at the communal campfire for an evening chat.
Inspired by our Glacier Country feature? Ribbonwood Retreat at Franz Josef is a Scandi-style timber cottage with uninterrupted views of glaciers, peaks and forests, surrounded by a produce garden, orchard and native trees. Kahere Retreat is a boutique eco-resort, five hand-built timber chalets with Franz Josef mountain views at Lake Mapourika, where there's guided boat and kayak eco-tours and fishing.
Mt Lyford Adventure Park, a family-run hiking and winter sports mecca near Kaikōura, offers on-mountain accommodation at Lake Stella. Sleep above the clouds, close to the stars; wake for hiking, skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, climbing. There's a main hut with dining and bar area and four cabins. "Like glamping in a mountain environment in beautifully built, insulated cabins," they say.
When it comes to the Southern Alps, and we have, the sky's the limit. Off-beat options include MenardsNZ Ecosanctuary, a 6ha property in a valley near Twizel with a two-bedroom cottage (wood-fired hot tub, log burner); "sleepout" converted from a shipping container with streaming TV and other necessities; the "garage hangout" retro lounge with big screen, old-school gaming consoles, vinyl turntable and board games. Close by, Alpine Cubes is a 50sq m architecturally designed cabin with quality interiors and furnishings, sleeping up to six.
Sherwood is definitely – and defiantly – not a chain hotel. It's styled for independent travellers to unwind, reconnect with self and nature and enjoy a community. Recently renovated accommodation runs from lakeside studio to communal bunk room; there's a sheltered central garden with fire; bike track, kitchen gardens, orchard; fresh, seasonal food; craft beers, natural wine and rare spirits. For the soul, yoga, pilates, meditation, massage; plus live music, film, writers and resident artists.
Fair to say you can't get any more alpine – or more remote - than comfortable, secluded Milford Sound Lodge on the Cleddau River's banks under the Darran Mountains in Fiordland, our largest national park.
Dunedin may be Scarfie City but we'll head out of town for a winter break. Hereweka Garden Retreat's architecturally and eco-designed accommodation, built with sustainable materials, lies in Otago Peninsula's last valley of native forest. Share the peace with native birds and marine wildlife at nearby Hoopers Inlet. Road's End Cabin, 20 minutes south of the city at Brighton, is a three-room cottage among mature mānuka, overlooking the coastline. Hunker down and watch a winter storm roll in from the sea: better than Netflix.
Cascade Creek Retreat is five-star, eco-friendly boutique accommodation on a 2000ha, private and remote Otago farm. The handcrafted oregon log chalet uses solar and hydropower, gas for hot water and cooking, has a large open fire and private walking tracks into bush. Dine on gourmet self-prepare meals or avail yourself of a personal chef; finish the day with a soak in steaming outdoor baths. Now, who's for a mulled wine?
For more travel inspiration, go to newzealand.com/nz.
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