Distinctive Historical Lodges & Hotels in New Zealand

 

When it comes to having a New Zealand holiday, there is travelling - and then there is time travelling. Escape your day-to-day with a look back into New Zealand's rich past and a stay in a historical lodge or hotel, experience the one-of-a-kind architecture, ambiance, and historical integrity that is unique to each of these accommodation options.

Huka Lodge

DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH HOTEL 

Almost 200 years ago Johnny Johnston's Grog Shop opened on the Russell waterfront, and as the titular Johnston rose in stature, he elevated his establishment with a more noble name: The Duke of Marlborough. The ex-con was a prominent figure in the area, assisting in the translation of The Treaty of Waitangi into Maori, and hobnobbing with the colonial treasurer, who granted him the country's first liquor license — which still hangs in the bar.
 
The hotel has burnt down twice; during the town's sacking in the 1845 Battle of Kororareka, and again in 1931 in an accidental fire (when the publican had the foresight to hastily move the alcohol stores so he could continue trading); but each time it has risen from the ashes. Its numerous owners have each left their mark on the two-story wooden building, but whether interested in the striped marlin, caught in 1932, on display or the provocative artwork of Lester Hall, visitors here are immersed in two centuries f lives richly lived.

THE CONVENT BOUTIQUE HOTEL 

"If only the walls could talk" certainly rings true in this Auckland building that has walls covered in religious iconography and fine art, and is daubed with graffiti. An elegant Spanish mission-style building complete with stone facade and classic arches, The Convent, as the name suggests, began life in 1921 as a home for the devout women of St Joseph's. Wandering past doorways featuring gold-painted inscriptions or gazing out of the steel windows at the Italian cypress trees, you could well believe the nuns had only just departed. You'd be wrong. For more than two decades after they left, the building was one of the city's most notorious boarding houses, ultimately having its historic status removed and in danger of being bowled. It took two years to bring it back from the brink, and since opening in late 2020 it has quickly established itself as a unique, characterful, lively destination in the heart of Grey Lynn. 

OAKURA BAY VILLA

You wouldn't expect a graceful villa slumbering in front of its own private beach on Waiheke Island to have a history peppered with references to major wars and the space race, but Oakura Bay Villa has a Forrest Gump-like capacity to channel notable 20th-century events. Owned for many years by the well-to-do O'Brien family, who lost a soldier son in the final days of  World War I, it was later purchased by wealthy Americans Maurine and Robert Rothschild, who wanted a bolt hole during the Cuban missile crisis. It also caught the attention of aeronautical engineer Dr. John Bollard, one of the first Kiwis involved in   NASA's space program. He stayed there after becoming stranded at sea on his honeymoon in the 1950s and returned to buy it three decades later.

Given it spent the 1970s as a hippie hideaway, it needed an overhaul, but the Bollards honored its history when they tamed the wild gardens, planted a vineyard, rebuilt the chimneys with brick found on the land, added a sunroom, and modernized throughout.

HUKA LODGE

Aotearoa may not boast palaces, but if anywhere has the royal stamp of approval it's the fishing camp that welcomed both the Queen Mother and the monarch herself. Century-old Huka Lodge was the brainchild of the enigmatic Alan Pye, a man who led everyone to believe he was Irish, but who may or may not have had links to the Emerald Isle. What he did have was a world-renowned talent for hospitality, and by the 1930s international visitors were flocking to his collection of canvas-draped huts to fish on the banks of the Waikato River. The huts were clustered around a communal dining space, and even through extensive upgrading, the Lodge Room has since remained a space for guests to mingle in 11( )711 c ly yet opulent comfort. 1 hr jewel In the property's crown is the 364 sqm four-bedroom Alex van kleeren Cottage. It juxtaposes rustic antique furniture with all the indulgences today's pest might expect, including four bathrooms, an infinity pool, and spa.

MANGAPAPA

You don't have to spend long at Mangapapa to understand why descendants and former employees of its esteemed one-time owner return time and again to capture some of the magic of days gone by. One of the oldest buildings in Hawke's Bay, it was long known as Wattie's Place, and Sir James, of canned food fame, was a congenial host who filled the property with guests.

Generations of visitors have propped themselves at his bar, against the leaning rail, which is held in place by two elegant brass horseheads, serving as a reminder of the homestead's equestrian connections. Not only did Wattie's racehorse triumph at the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups in 1962 but, when the estate was owned by William Wordsworth's great-niece Dorothy, she too kept horses on its more than 20ha. Extensive renovations ensure a modern luxury experience, and whether being pampered in the Spa Retreat or wandering through Lady Wattie's rose garden, guests enjoy the best of past and present.

THE MARTINBOROUGH HOTEL

When The Martinborough Hotel opened in 1882, owner Edmund Buckeridge announced in the Wairapara Standard his establishment boasted, "every convenience and comfort for gentlemen, families, shooting parties and commercial travellers". And while the definition of its visitors may have changed over the 140 years this elegant old girl has been continuously operating, the importance placed on an exemplary guest experience hasn't. Current owners Tim Smith and Jacinda Cole have not only been passionate about delivering all the conveniences and comfort of 2022, even employing a Michelin-starred chef in their eatery, they are also fervent about honouring what has gone before. As well as naming each suite after a local founding family, complete with photos at the door, they also delight in sharing stories, such as the one about the time in 1902 when the hotel was packed with bounty hunters hoping to claim a £400 reward for tracking down a missing deerstalker. It's not known if the tale had a happy ending. 
 

THE MARLBOROUGH

It's native birdsong that wakes guests staying at The Marlborough, a former convent nestled amid Blenheim's world-leading vineyards. There is a remote chance you'll be roused by something more celestial, following a report of ghostly nuns singing Ave Maria at 3 am. Whether or not the ghosts of residents' past will serenade future visitors, there's little doubt the property oozes the spirit of its former inhabitants. Built-in 1901 for the Sisters of Mercy, this grand Victorian building, with a hand-caned kauri staircase at its heart, features suites incorporating the vaulted ceilings and stained glass of the nunnery's chapel. Alongside it sits a quaint Anglican church that, while serving as a guest bar and beauty treatment space, still offers quiet serenity with its arched windows and native timber beams. In the four decades since being moved to their current park-like surrounds, both buildings have been extensively upgraded, the latest addition being a European orangery-style extension to the restaurant, which further enhances the historical charm.

OTAHUNA LODGE

Listed buildings are needy beasts, demanding constant care and attention, but throw in a natural disaster and many an owner would have thrown in the towel. Not Hall Cannon and Miles Refo, custodians of what's said to be the country's largest private historical residence, Otahuna Lodge, just outside Christchurch. Having breathed new life into Sir Heaton Rhodes' former country estate, which since his death had variously been a Christian monastery, a commune and a guest house, the pair wasn't going to let an earthquake destroy his legacy. So following the 2010 seismic jolt that sent Victorian brick chimneys tumbling through the roof and sprinkler systems flooding its 115-year-old interior, they embarked on a mammoth restoration project. Within four months guests were again able to enjoy the extravagant veranda and the exquisite, gilded wallpaper sourced by Rhodes on his honeymoon in Japan. Even a pandemic hasn't diminished the spirit of the place created at a time when cutting-edge indulgence meant the installation of an electric system for summoning the servants: in 2020 the new Loft Suite was created in the rafters of the Queen Anne-style property. 

ANNANDALE

While many heritage hotels began life as family homes, an 1884 Banks Peninsula hideaway on the main track from Akaroa to Lyttleton was originally a guesthouse built for travellers and crew anchored at Pigeon Bay. But, when a landslide destroyed the neighbouring residence of the Hay family - stockbreeders who had spent the past half-century shaping the surrounding land - they bought the guesthouse's lease for £150 and moved in. Annandale remained in their family for almost 120 years. In 2005 the property and working farm caught the eye of ex-pat Kiwi Mark Palmer. Originally planning to restore the historic building and its gardens as a private retreat for his family, the project grew. There's now a collection of luxury villas including the homestead, with its magnificent entrance, original kauri staircase and elegant balconies, a fernery, infinity pool, spa and tennis court. 

PEN-Y-BRYN LODGE

This beautiful character-filled mansion was built in 1889 for Oamaru businessman John Bulleid and wife Fanny, and for several decades was the residence of mayor James McDiarmid and his descendants. One of Australasia's largest single-story wooden dwellings, its standout features go beyond the Italian plaster ceilings, English oak paneling and 18th-century circular card-table purchased by Bulleid during a buying spree in Europe. The original bathtub is so big children were taught to swim in it. Then there's the interior wall that features a curious door to the outside that doesn't open; the result of Bulleid changing his mind too late to cancel the carpenter. A feast for the eyes at every turn, Pen-y-bryn offers a gourmet dining experience in the newly renovated dining room, where a local craftsperson hand-painted the detail in the elegant oak floor. 

HULBERT HOUSE

When it comes to reinvention, Hulbert House, which has gazed loftily over Queenstown for more than 140 years, is the Madonna of the property world. It was commissioned by seemingly respectable Horatio Nelson Firth, who had come into an inheritance and wanted a 17-room villa "fit for a gentleman". Unfortunately, it transpired he couldn't live up to his surroundings and following his imprisonment for fraud, his wife - with seven children to care for - turned the property into a guesthouse. It went on to become a nursing home, maternity hospital, boarding school and staff hostel before being taken on by Japanese billionaire and arts patron Soichiro Fukutake. He spared no expense in restoring it to Victorian opulence, preserving many features including the original marble fireplace and a glass screen etched with Firth family crests. Fukutake imported wallpaper designed in the 19th-century, had carpet custom-made in England and sourced an array of antiques. 

45 SUNDERLAND

Even the most upstanding figures have skeletons that tumble out of the closet when you explore their homes, as is the case in the oldest stone building in the historical Otago town of Clyde. 45 Sunderland was commissioned by barrister Anthony Brough who, on paper, was well regarded and held public office but wanted this property for his mistress, a woman who joined him, his wife, and his 10 legitimate and illegitimate kids emigrating from England. Later an owner just as interesting; highly decorated nurse Christina McDonald served with Kiwi forces during World War II, attended Queen 

Elizabeth's coronation in 1953 and was friendly with General Douglas MacArthur. Today the picturesque retreat is in the hands of interior designer Louise Sinclair who, having admired the house since she was a child, bought it in 2020. She has embarked on a painstaking renovation, stripping back 150 years' worth of wallpaper and paint, and resurrecting the original hand-cut floorboards and stonework to create a cottage that is ready to weather another few centuries. 

Like what you see...

Did one of these Historical Lodges & Hotels tickle your fancy or are you looking for something different? Talk to our team today to help find the right lodge for you or have a look at our Culture and Heritage itineraries.

Elizabeth Marshall
By
Elizabeth Marshall
: 14 Mar 2022 (Last updated: 16 Mar 2022)

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