Checking into the Ivory Tower

as published in Hong Kong Business

Beyond mere five-star, there exists a level of luxury that transcends any hotel rating system. A rarefied statusphere where the experience is valued and remembered long after the account is settled. Roderick Eime rose briefly above his station to glimpse life at the very top.

Long envied for their premium cachet and set amid dramatic, blockbuster locations, New Zealand’s ultra exclusive ‘Super Lodges’ continue to earn the praise of luxury travellers and hard-nosed critics alike. Not to be outdone, Australia has launched a counterattack and brought the battle right up to their transTasman cousins. We compare the “front row” from each side.

Grasmere Lodge Cass, South Island NZ

Playing heavily on their dramatic location near Arthurs Pass, Grasmere Lodge will always command the attention of those looking for quiet and comfort in a nostalgic colonial style. Set amidst the spectacular Southern Alps, you’ll be wondering which Hollywood epic you’re in.

The original homestead harks back to 1858 and, with gradual and tasteful modernisation, now presents the perfect complement to the natural grandeur of its surroundings.

Every guest room at Grasmere Lodge has one king or two single beds, two armchairs and a coffee table, CD player, minibar, a work desk with a modem plug and chair. Each private patio or deck has two outdoor chairs for enjoying the views and fresh mountain air.

A Lake View Deluxe Room is $NZ435.00 per person (dbl occupancy) and includes pre-dinner cocktail hour, a five-course table d’hôte gourmet dinner, and full cooked or continental breakfast. [ ]

Huka Lodge Taupo NZ

Widely considered the top lodge in New Zealand despite fierce competition, Huka continues to garner awards from the most prestigious judges including Travel + Leisure, Condé Naste, Andrew Harper and the Robb Report.

Ideally positioned in a private hideaway adjacent the sublime Waikato River and surrounded by virtual botanic gardens, Huka Lodge was originally a private fishing lodge in the 1920s, but its reputation for fine food and natural serenity spread far and wide.

Executive chef, John Allred, enjoys a substantial reputation thanks to his international schooling courtesy of lodge owner and multimillionaire banker and investor Alex van Heeren.

Instead of grandeur and opulence, the lodge is compact and snug and gives the impression of embracing its guests. Apart from the famed Owners Cottage, Huka Lodge provides 20 guest suites, all decorated in keeping with the main lodge.

Tariffs begin at NZ$730.00 per person, fully inclusive. [ ]

Maungatautari Lodge Lake Karapiro NZ

Unlike many of its contemporaries throughout the country, Maungatautari Lodge is a relatively recent construction, built by its owner-hosts, Peter and Christine Scoular, to their own personal design. This same personal touch extends to their exemplary hospitality, which makes guests feel like old friends visiting for an extended dinner.

Set on 30ha of park-like gardens, there are stud horses and sheep just beyond the colourful expanses of lavender, organic vegetable gardens and citrus orchards. The property is also part of an ambitious wildlife conservation program that aims to preserve and protect the many threatened NZ species such as kiwi, kereru, tui, korimako (bellbirds), kokako, kaka, kakariki, hihi (stitchbirds), toutouwai (robins), skinks, geckos, giant weta and tuatara.

The lodge itself is roomy, bright and airy assisted by broad picture windows with views all the way to Lake Karapiro. Christine does most of the cooking and even occasionally invites guests into the kitchen to share in the culinary experience.

A double occupancy suite is NZ$970 and includes dinner, bed and breakfast. [ ]

Also in the pack; Treetops Luxury Lodge, Rotorua; Peppers on the Point, Rotorua; Kawaha Point Lodge, Rotorua; Otahuna Lodge, Christchurch; Select Braemar Lodge & Spa, Hanmer Springs; Blanket Bay Lodge, Queenstown.

From Lord Howe – A…

Arajilla Retreat, Lord Howe Island

Discretely tucked away amid luxuriant kentia palms and banyan trees on World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, Arajilla Retreat is perfectly placed to deliver relaxation and rejuvenation.

Owned and operated by the Shead family, Arajilla is one of only two such premium properties on the tiny and remote island, in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. Resurrected from a tumbledown knick-knack and snack store over twenty years ago, Arajilla now offers international standard accommodation and cuisine along with Ayurvedic spa therapy and massage.

Despite its comfort and welcoming air, guests are more likely to find themselves cycling the few quiet roads, swimming in the turquoise waters of the lagoon or hiking the magnificent landscapes.

Rates begin at AU$470 per person and includes all activities, full breakfast, light lunch, selected pre-dinner drinks, three course dinner with menu changing daily, mountain bikes and return airport transfers on the island. [ ]

Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge Scenic Rim, Queensland

Perched imperiously atop its namesake mountain, Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge is one of the very few such regal properties on the Australian mainland that can match the reputation of the kiwi counterparts.

Built by travel industry entrepreneur and environmental advocate, Graham Turner and his wife Jude, the multi-award-winning, architecturally exquisite property regularly attracts the highest echelon of Australian and international business executives and celebrities seeking a brief, but intense dose of relaxation and sensory pampering. While some choose to explore the glorious bush environs by mountain bike or on foot, most are content to recline in the all-embracing lounge with a good book and a fine wine, just within earshot of the next dinner bell.

Rates begin at A$445.00 per person and includes full breakfast daily, morning and afternoon tea. Your choice of al fresco style lunch or gourmet picnic hamper on the day of arrival. Seven course degustation dinner. All beverages throughout your stay including wines with dinner. [ ]

qualia, Great Barrier Reef

Part of a new wave of Australian ‘ultra lodges’, qualia is located on Hamilton Island amongst the heavenly Whitsunday Group on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and creates a new stratum of premium accommodation.

An unabashed hedonistic resort, qualia claims to “immerse you in a relaxed atmosphere, offering personalised and intuitive service”. It’s open, breezy suites were designed by Australian architect Chris Beckingham for billionaire owner Bob Oatley with the objective of harmony with the delicate natural surroundings. Choose from Leeward or Windward Suites, or for that special occasion, grab the two-couple Beach House.

Rates begin at A$725 per person for a minimum two night stay and includes all on-island transfers, meals in both restaurants within qualia, non-alcoholic beverages, plus your own electric golf buggy. The Beach House? A$3100.00 per night. [ ]

Also in the pack: Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island; Bloomfield Lodge, Cape Tribulation; Cape Lodge, Margaret River; Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa; Voyages Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef; The Byron at Byron, Byron Bay

Elevate yourself – Watch this Space

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Small Luxury Hotels

Exchange rate:

HK$10 = A$1.30 = NZ$1.66
(as at 17 July 08)

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