New Zealand is blessed with an abundance of cinematic landscapes, awe-inspiring vistas and, best of all, royalty-worthy destinations to arrive at. With all that on offer, it poses the question of which is more important: the journey or the destination?
We at Concrete Playground are firm believers in both. If there is one thing that will surpass an incredible road-trip around our beautiful country, it’s having the ultimate luxury location at the end of your trip. To showcase the finest our nation has to offer, we have curated what we consider to be New Zealand’s top ten luxury getaways. Ideal for romantic escapes or stress-busting breaks, these destinations are all a scenic drive away from Auckland.
We’ve incorporated everything from sexy city stays to hidden lodge retreats, island hopping to some old classics. No matter what takes your fancy, this list will ensure you relax in style in a place and pace you (hopefully) deserve. So fire up the engine and make your reservations as we take you on a tour of the greatest getaways worth driving to.
Where:Bay of Islands Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 232 km / 3 hours 18 minutes
A luxurious estate atop a private peninsula overlooking the Bay of Islands, the Eagles Nest Hotel has five ultra-contemporary, individually designed villas with spectacular views. A location fit for a princeling, this North Island boutique retreat is the ultimate in exclusivity.
Considered to be a beyond-five-star experience, the estate encompasses 75-acres of sub-tropical native bush with secluded beaches and more than 144 islands to explore. With private chefs and infinity pools, time will proceed at your pace – leaving you to do as little or as much as you would like in this world class marine playground.
Where: Taupo Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 274 km / 3 hours 31 minutes
Prepare yourself for a life truly worth living, as a weekend at the luxuriously iconic Huka Lodge will leave you longing for more. One of the world’s top retreats, and a destination for international superstars, political heavyweights and more, the lodge sits astride the mighty Waikato, just upriver from the cascading Huka Falls.
No expense, detail or level of care is spared by the staff in ensuring your stay is perfection personified, and should your interests cover fishing, gastronomy or the great outdoors, you’ll find plenty to occupy your time. A truly scenic spot, Huka Lodge is the ideal location to watch a weekend drift by and unwind in sophistication – whether it be whiskey and cigars by the river, al-fresco dining under the stars or a spot of trout tickling.
Where:Bay of Islands Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 272 km / 3 hours 47 minutes
A very satisfactory four hours’ drive from Auckland, Kauri Cliffs overlooks Matauri Bay and is home to its very own PGA Championship golf course and a wealth of other outdoor pursuits. For those whose interests lay elsewhere, The Lodge offers luxury living, 180-degree vistas of the Bay of Islands and every facility that could be required.
The perfect location for a romantic picnic (which the staff are happy to provide), Kauri Cliffs offers a number secluded beaches, several waterfalls and acres of magnificent bushland to while the hours away.
Where:Waiheke Island Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 41.2 km / 1 hour 12 minutes including 40 minute Ferry.
The fun-loving Aucklander's home away from home, Waiheke Island offers a number of luxury getaway gems – most prominently The Boatshed. With a number of unique private areas to retreat to, it’s all about individualisation to suit your desires. No matter your choice of room, you’ll enjoy total privacy with panoramic views of Little Oneroa (our favourite local beach – within easy walking distance for a quick sea-side dip).
Combining nautical design with laid-back sophistication, The Boatshed has all the qualities of a 5 star resort, but in a relaxing boutique style. With nearby vineyards in abundance, it’s the ultimate island spot to hide away and unwind. Place this on the top of your list, and make the most of the city-based car ferry to experience all Waiheke has to offer.
Where: Wairarapa Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 711 km / 10 hours 8 minutes
Slightly further afield, Wharekauhau Lodge is a reward well worth the endeavour. While your trip takes you down the spine of the North Island, you’ll venture over hill and dale to reach this 5,500-acre working sheep and cattle farm set on dramatic coastline in the Wairarapa wine-growing region.
A hallmark of iconic Kiwi design and beauty, Wharekauhau offers a number of options when it comes to accommodation – while the team on-site take a personalised approach to each meal to ensure nothing but complete satisfaction. Exquisite living at its finest, the journey to Wharekauhau is not to be overlooked.
Where:Mount Ruapehu Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 342 km / 4 hours 43 minutes
A timeless classic, the elegant Chateau Tongariro Hotel Mt Ruapehu is located within Whakapapa Village - in the heart of the Tongariro National Park - and was constructed in 1929. To say it exudes class, style and sophistication would be an understatement.
Located in the newest wing of the hotel, the prestigious Te Heu Heu Suite offers an idyllic location to revel in this central North Island winter wonderland. Situated on the top floor, guests are afforded stunning views of the awe-inspiring local mountain range and access to all the outdoor adventures and pursuits this region has to offer – of which snow sports are only the tip of the iceberg.
Where: Hawkes Bay Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 434 km / 5 hours 46 minutes
What do you get when you combine a 6,000-acre working sheep and cattle farm with jaw-dropping Pacific Ocean views, a glam golf course and soothing spa? Luxe boutique hotel The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in the dramatic Hawkes Bay.
The Farm is a member of the exclusive Relais & Châteaux group of hotels, so expect only the best. Should time and resource permit, you could fly your helicopter between here and The Farm's sister property, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs.
Where: Queenstown Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 1552 km / 22 hours 35 minutes
While technically more than one day’s drive, Matakauri Lodge is well worth the effort. Located on the banks of, and looking out over, Lake Wakatipu, and nestled at the base of the surrounding mountains, you’d be hard pressed to find a more fantastic spot in the South Island.
Just a short drive from Queenstown itself, the decision is really if you’ll even make it into town. With a dedicated team of international chefs, all the usual indulgent trimmings including heated swimming pool, your own private bath overlooking the lake (a must do for every person in their lifetime) and a private beach – what else could you really need?
For those with a limited timeframe, Mollies offers the absolute pinnacle of indulgence and liveable extravagance while being conveniently located in nearby St Mary’s Bay. The perfect representation of ‘boutique’ style accommodation, it’s the epitome of glamour and the answer to every busy Aucklander's romantic getaway requirements.
With views of the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Rangitoto, Mollies is a regular long weekend trap and a popular residency for Auckland's rich and famous looking for that extra special place.
Where:Waiheke Island Driving Distance/Time from Auckland: 37.4 km / 0 hours 57 minutes including ferry
A little more expansive than The Boatshed, Delamore Lodge nonetheless offers yet another taste of luxury living on Waiheke Island (where the two go hand in hand). An elegant and exclusive resort, you’ll find Delamore away from the hustle and bustle of much of the island life, overlooking the beautiful Owhanake Bay.
With wise guests selecting a north facing suite overlooking the Hauraki Gulf, it’s as picturesque a view of the Auckland region as is ever on offer. With a cliff-top pool and waterfall to bask in, you’ll find no greater place to watch the sunset, local wine in hand, knowing you’ve found pure bliss.