My fondest memory of New Zealand was a family trip when I was in my teens; I was awed by the grandeur of Lake Wakatipu and the backdrop of rugged mountains as we gathered for breakfast every morning. Taking a leap of faith at bungee jumping made the trip a core memory, solidifying New Zealand as a must-return destination.
Today, New Zealand — Aotearoa (“land of the long white cloud”) in Māori — sanctions a third of its land to national parks, which easily explains why several Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed there. And it’s also no surprise that all three Robertson Lodges properties I visited — Rosewood Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay, Rosewood Matakauri in Queenstown, and Rosewood Kauri Cliffs in Northland — possess stunning, sweeping views as far as the eye can see.
With the first property in Kauri Cliffs opening in 2001 by Julian and Josie Robertson, Robertson Lodges properties have all kept in line with sustainability, conservation, and sharing a deep appreciation for the region’s natural beauty with guests. Both Rosewood Cape Kidnappers and Rosewood Kauri Cliffs sit on expansive working farms where guests are able to experience multiple facets of wildlife — from observing protected species to interacting with the farm animals and learning about the flora that inhabits the land and how the team manages intrusive species.
On December 1, Robertson Lodges joined the Rosewood portfolio, marking Rosewood’s entry into Oceania. Sonia Cheng, CEO of Rosewood Hotel Group expressed, “It is with great respect and admiration that we seek to honour the Robertson family’s original vision by further elevating the guest experience offered at each resort with Rosewood’s singular approach to ultra-luxury hospitality.”
Looking forward to the week ahead, I was excitedly anticipating all the activities organised by the Robertson Lodges — seamlessly bookable via their in-house concierge team.
After some challenging weather flying in, we were ready to explore the first stop, Rosewood Cape Kidnappers. Its luxurious Owner’s Cottage greeted us with exactly the warmth and comfort we needed after travelling for almost 24 hours.
The cottage accommodates up to eight people, with the entire property standing on 2,428 ha of working farmland and on a private peninsula at the end of the renowned Hawke’s Bay wine trail. On a clear day, the outdoor patio of the cottage looks out to unforgettable vistas of farmland as well as the Pacific Ocean.
This is one of the only places on the New Zealand mainland where wild breeding has occurred for over 200 years.
As the largest accommodation on the property, it has a spacious living room with a stone fireplace, an open kitchen and dining area, cooking facilities for a chef, two sitting rooms with fireplaces, a stone terrace and an outdoor jacuzzi (one that we gleefully soaked in for two hours on our last night). Our single-day itinerary included a Can-Am property tour, bypassing fluffy, bleating sheep and statuesque grazing cows.
More poor weather blew our way, but it also meant we’d have Black Reef beach all to ourselves — an ideal backdrop for moody shots. Getting up close to nesting gannets on the cliff was also a treat, complete with an opportunity to feed milk to calves and lambs.
Another highlight of Rosewood Cape Kidnappers was the Cape Sanctuary Experience which involved a unique three-hour tour — we embarked on a condensed version in the interest of our limited time there — covering the history of the project and the conservation work involved, followed by off-road travel to key habitats within the sanctuary.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot the tuatara, one of the world’s oldest living species that has been reintroduced into the sanctuary, making it one of the only places on the New Zealand mainland where wild breeding has occurred for over 200 years.
Over in Queenstown, the landscape shifts from vast farmland to mountainous peaks. Rosewood Matakauri’s Grand Lake View Suite provides a full-window view overlooking Lake Wakatipu and a panoramic perspective of The Remarkables, Cecil, and Walter Peak mountains.
Knowing that I’d be greeted by this stunning view every morning encouraged me to get up at 6.15am just to catch the first rays of sunrise hitting the mountain slopes — and for this non-early riser, that does require significant willpower. The bathroom shares the same view, so taking a relaxing soak in the oversized tub was a must.
The most thoughtful touches were his and her sinks and the capacious shower with dual shower heads — ideal for tandem showering without having to stand in the cold waiting on your turn for a rinse — as well as heated flooring.
Our single-day plan in Queenstown took us on an exhilarating 1.5-hour helicopter tour of Milford Sound, followed by a 2.5-hour Dart River Jet experience. The chopper took us over numerous valleys and peaks in an attempt to find an appropriate (and safe) glacier for us to land on.
Unfortunately, low cloud cover made landing a challenge, settling instead on a flat edge of a mountain where we could truly take in the views and briefly stop for photo ops.
The Dart River Jet experience takes you from the head of Lake Wakatipu along the braided Dart River through 90km of green landscapes, towering mountain ranges, and ancient native forests — sprinkled with the occasional rapid 180-degree boat swivels for a healthy dose of exhilaration. Be prepared to get wet, but it’s all in good fun.
Given that our stays at each property only lasted two nights and a day, our meals were all enjoyed in-house. That didn’t affect the impressive food quality and outstanding service thus far, and if you do choose to do the same, the meats — steak and lamb — can do no wrong.
It was utterly bittersweet to leave Rosewood Matakauri, but as quickly as we fell in love with the Queenstown property, we were instantly swept off our feet by Rosewood Kauri Cliffs. Situated in the Bay of Islands, the Four Bedroom Villa comes with a large open-space kitchen, an open fireplace, a private laundry room, and a separate prep area for a private chef to whip up a hearty family meal. The balcony stretches the entire length of the villa, complete with a 7.6m saltwater swimming pool.
Rosewood Kauri Cliff’s golf course is a haven for golfers, with it being ranked 26th in the world by Golf Digest. Sadly, nobody in the group was proficient or a hobbyist, so we tried our hand at land-based fishing, where our guide attempted to teach us how to hook a fish (or two) for dinner successfully. The experience taught us it’s probably best we use our dainty hands to type rather than fish.
Soon after, we hopped into twin kayaks, rowed 45 minutes to a secluded beach, and had a light but delightfully tasty charcuterie spread of crackers, bread, cheeses, dips and spreads, and cured meats. Enjoying the sounds of lapping waves, this outdoor lunch by the shore was a welcome break from sitting at formal dining tables.
As quickly as we fell in love with the Queenstown property, we were instantly swept off our feet by Rosewood Kauri Cliffs.
Our final meal was a sumptuous private dinner whipped up by personal chefs who made it their evening’s mission to ensure nobody went to bed hungry — with a dinner spread that included salads, bread, appetisers, platters of mouth-watering beef and lamb, and, of course, dessert.
While we were admittedly fatigued, we could proudly say that we could confidently navigate our way around Auckland’s domestic airport like locals. Between a thrill-seeking river ride and a relaxing, serene sanctuary tour, Robertson Lodges’ experiential programming expresses true honour and respect for the environment and its wildlife.
Seamless connections via Air New Zealand
Hopping on a couple of Air New Zealand flights effortlessly connects you from Singapore to most regions of New Zealand (via domestic flights). Its Business Premier seats — fitted in leather and able to unfold to a flatbed (with an additional memory foam mattress) upon request — are arranged in a herringbone-like fashion, with three aisles running down the cabin, ranging from 18 to 44 passenger capacity (depending on the aircraft model).
In September 2024, however, new cabins will be available for ultra-long haul routes, starting with Auckland to New York and Auckland to Chicago.
The food options are lean but sufficient to keep you full for the duration of the 10-hour flight. While the in-flight entertainment selection was enough to keep my attention during dinner, it didn’t keep me glued throughout the flight, and I struggled to find an appropriate storage space for my cables and phones, leaving me tucking them down beside me in my seat for most of the flight.
Be sure to request the Bliss Sleep Ritual set with sleepy tea, sleep balm, and a light snack (I received a tiny bowl of mixed nuts), as I did — although not without a curt attitude from a flight attendant who didn’t quite appreciate me asking for a set right after my flight mate ordered one too. “Well, you could’ve told me you wanted one earlier,” she responded with a huff before begrudgingly returning to the galley for mine.
Additionally, while I understand the novelty of the cabin arrangement, I missed being able to look out the plane window occasionally. And having to face other passengers’ bobbing heads above headboards for 10 hours isn’t the most relaxing or pleasant sight.
The return flight proved much more pleasant (in terms of service and seat comfort), with Air New Zealand’s Premier Economy seats offering 50 per cent more recline than their Economy counterparts — complete with leg rest and foot support.
I could look out the window when I needed or wanted to — a much-needed visual break on a long-haul flight. In contrast, I couldn’t in good faith get excited about the food, considering “egg noodles” on the menu turned out to be udon noodles unfavourably drenched in an unidentifiable, too-salty, sticky gravy. However, the comfort of the seat and the fact that I managed to get a semi-decent nap (without having to lie flat) made the long-haul flight home tolerable.