Candles, a mystery location, sleep-ins, and good wine – you can’t beat a little romantic escape with your significant other, especially with Valentine’s Day fast approaching.
We’ve tested some of New Zealand’s most romantic experiences and the following come with Cupid’s official seal of approval:
1. Romance in a rainforest: West Coast
When you think of a romantic retreat, I doubt the first place that comes to mind is the West Coast. Te Waonui Forest Retreat is nestled in an ancient rainforest at the foothills of Franz Josef glacier. Start the night with a ‘forest dining experience’ – a five-course degustation that’s served next to a waterfall, surrounded by candles and outdoor heaters.
The romance doesn’t end there – after dinner, head over to the neighbouring Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools for a soak in a private cave before retiring to your luxury room immersed in the rainforest. Yes, the West Coast has a romantic side and it’s seriously good.
Cost: Prices start from $710 per night, including a five-course dinner and breakfast. An additional $375 applies for the forest dining experience. See tewaonui.co.nz.
2. Un-wine-d in style: Napier
The Hawkes Bay revealed an unexpected romantic side on a recent visit – thanks to its vineyards.
The region has more than 70 wineries dotted around its countryside, and cellar door tastings can be found on almost any road heading out of the city.
Our favourite was Craggy Range; the incredible architecture of their winery is only matched by the stunning scenery: nestled at the base of Te Mata Peak.
Cost: A standard tasting at Craggy Range starts from $10 per person. See craggyrange.com.
3. Spa with the birds: Waikane
What can get more romantic than a tree house? Well, a tree house spa!
Nestled in the rolling hills of the Kapiti Coast, in private native bush, is Te Nikau Forest Retreat. The main chalet sits so tightly in the forest, it feels like it’s been there for centuries. Then walk outside to find the real gem: the candle-lit tree house spa. Turn the jets on, grab a glass of bubbles and soak the evening away. One night is not enough!
Cost: A night starts at $295 per couple. See tenikauforestretreat.co.nz.
4. Seduced by the North: Russell
New Zealand’s most seductive adults-only retreat can be found in the Far North, quite literally underground.
Donkey Bay Inn is a three bedroom ultra-luxury bed and breakfast hidden in the side of a hill in Russell, overlooking the Bay of Islands. And I mean hidden – it’s been built under 330-tonnes of soil, with a big flax plantation on top.
This hotel is designed to challenge your expectations – you enter via a bright yellow tunnel, into a mystery courtyard filled with plants. It’s not until you’re right inside the house that the true magnificence is revealed: uninterrupted views across the Bay of Islands. Don’t miss the hidden peninsula with a ‘his and hers’ outdoor bath.
There are also plenty of opportunities to get fizzical, with a winery on-site.
Cost: Prices start from $450 per night including breakfast. See donkeybayinn.co.nz.
5. Picnic on your own island: Kerikeri
It’s not often you get to call an entire island your own – although this one is a small empire – it’s just big enough for your picnic rug.
New Zealand’s first floating glamping can be found in Kerikeri, three hours north of Auckland. The off-grid ‘ark’ at Cottle Hill Creek sits on a large man-made lake, complete with a tiny island in the centre, that you can row out to for a romantic picnic.
Cost: Prices start from $270 per night. See canopycamping.co.nz.
6. Waiheke with a difference: Auckland
Ziplining and vineyards seem like an odd mix – unless you’re on Waiheke Island, then it’s a must-do.
The ‘zip wine and dine’ package starts in central Auckland – just board the ferry and the rest is taken care of. You’ll be whisked to one of the highest points on the island to go ziplining over vineyards and native bush – all overlooking the Hauraki Gulf. Then it’s time to wine down.
You’ll spend the afternoon touring three of the best vineyards on the island – with tastings, lunch and transport between wineries all taken care of.
Cost: $284 per adult including ferry and all island transport. See fullers.co.nz/experiences-tours.
7. The lodge with the best view: Mackenzie Region
Lakestone Lodge is one of the best views we’ve ever woken up to – overlooking a glacial lake and our tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook.
The six-suite retreat is a masterclass in simple luxury: the room is all about celebrating the view. The bed and bathroom both have huge glass panels, overlooking Lake Pukaki and the Southern Alps.
Cost: Prices start from $565 per night + $85 pp for a three-course meal. See lakestonelodge.co.nz.
8. A night to remember: Auckland
Auckland’s most well-known hotel, The Langham, recently had a big facelift and was rebranded as Cordis.
The new hotel – with their ultra-comfy ‘dream beds’ – is a land where sleep-ins seem compulsory. When you manage to lift your head off the pillow – don’t worry, you’ve probably missed breakfast. So head for the hotel’s indulgent High Tea, then spend the afternoon at the spa where you’ll find an enormous bubbling Jacuzzi, heated pool, saunas, herbal steam rooms, and plenty of massages on offer.
Cost: Room specials start from around $195 per night. See cordishotels.com.
The writer was supported by the providers mentioned, but each experience was included in this list on its own merit.