This architectural, horticultural, and culinary masterpiece in the eastern New Zealand town of Kaikoura consists of a main lodge as well as five modern wood cabins stilted above the treetops. It’s no surprise that Hapuku’s owners, the Wilson family, have five generations of architecture experience. Not only did they realize their goal of helping guests stay among the birds, they placed the tree houses, each one named after a different local bird species, just right so the folds of the Kaikoura Mountain Range look almost superimposed in the background. On the same property, they also run a deer farm, an olive-oil producing orchard, and an ever-expanding collection of gardens that burst with native plants and trees.
The attention to detail seen in the architecture and design extends to every aspect of the guest experience. Windows are double-glazed to block out the sound of deer in mating season; the scratch kitchen cooks everything, including ice cream and peanut butter; and all the shrubbery around the main lodge mimics the natural landscape. The lodge also sets strict environmental standards, including the commitment to plant one native plant or tree for every night a guest stays on the property. A certificate is mailed to guests so they’ll know the name of the species planted and be able to track its growth on Google Earth.
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Kaikoura is famous for its marine life. The top things to do in the area are whale-watching and swimming with dolphins or seals. But the town is also dedicated to agriculture, fishing, and sustainability; it was the first town in the world to become Green Globe certified, and it aims to become a zero-waste community in the coming years. This is a wonderful region in which to eat, walk, and kayak.
Need to Know
Rooms: 1 lodge room, 3 lodge suites, 3 tree houses, 2 family tree houses, 1 Olive House apartment. From $608. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options:Seventy-five percent of the restaurant ingredients are produced locally. Most—including the free-range chicken, olive oil, vegetables, and herbs that come from the property—are organic. The dining team takes New Zealand wine as seriously as it does the food, often combining the two together into such dishes as local wild venison and blackberries in port, and hazelnut cake with wild raspberries in a pinot noir sauce. Spa and gym details:The lodge offers a sauna, Jacuzzi, and solar-heated pool. Walking and biking are popular around the lodge area.
Who's it best for: Outdoor lovers, foodies, and designers looking for a conscientious escape immersed in nature. Our favorite rooms: While the stone-and-polished-wood aesthetic is consistent throughout the property, it’s tough to beat the tree house views. They also have a unique open-plan layout where the bedroom blends into the glass-enclosed bathroom, and each has a wooden deck for bird-watching. Good to know: All the pottery that’s on display and used in the restaurant is made by a friend of the owners, Gill Gane, whose Neudorf Ceramics shop is based in Nelson, in the far north of the South Island. If guests are interested in purchasing a piece, the Hapuku staff is happy to put them in touch with Gill.