Built in the 1840s as a sheep station that still operates today, Wharekauhau—meaning “place of knowledge” in Maori—pays homage to the area’s tradition of feeding the wise and the cultured. Thirteen cottage suites were positioned to take in this dramatic slice of North Island pasture that landslides into Palliser Bay southeast of Wellington. The cottages are unpretentious yet filled with such luxuries as four-poster beds with curtains, private terraces, separate lounge areas, writing desks, gas fireplaces, double baths, and walk-in showers. Each space is homey, cushioned by soft rugs and upholstery and enclosed by rustic wood panels and beams. The Edwardian main lodge, adorned with cream-toned furniture and antiques, invites guests to curl up by the fire, or chat with the chef in the open kitchen that flows into a charming country dining room. Outside, there’s inspiration all around, extending from the sheep herds to the Palliser Bay lighthouse.
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Wharekauhau is located in the rural coastal area of Wairarapa, about 40 minutes from the boutique vineyards of Martinborough. Guests can arrange private visits at established and emerging wineries—including Ata Rangi, Alana Estate, Palliser Estate, and Poppies—or rent a bike for a more spontaneous tasting tour. The dramatic coastline begs to be explored. The Cape Palliser lighthouse is a solid day hike, including an optional detour to the Putangirua Pinnacles, better known as the Paths of the Dead, to Lord of the Rings fans. For those who crave culture after a bit of seclusion, Wellington is only an hour and a half away by car.
Need to Know
Rooms: 13 cottage suites, 1 three-bedroom cottage retreat. From $324, all-inclusive. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options:Nearly everything served at the restaurant comes from the Wharekauhau garden, orchards, and livestock. The lodge even distills its own Lighthouse gin from the spring water that flows through the property. Breakfast pairs housemade breads and baked goods with a hot menu, and dinner is a four-course affair, accompanied by cool-climate wines from nearby Martinborough. Spa and gym details: The day spa and recreation center comprises an indoor heated pool, a gym, tennis courts, and a treatment room offering such specialties as hot stone and hot bamboo massages as well as facials and wraps infused with New Zealand’s famous manuka honey. Hidden behind a stone wall above the lodge courtyard, a croquet lawn is spruced up by an English garden.
Who's it best for: Those who like their luxury experiences dropped into stunning natural areas. Our favorite rooms: All of the cottage suites are identical, featuring water-view verandas within walking distance of the main lodge and the ocean. Daytime diversions: A number of add-on activities are offered, from fishing (free equipment is provided) and archery to touring the historic sheep farm.