For the best classy New Zealand holiday place - it's Cloud9 in Russell; for the best lodge - it's Blanket Bay in Glenorchy; for the best small hotel - it's Eichardt's in Queenstown.
All three are among the best sexy romantic luxury hideaway destinations in New Zealand.
What's actually the best depends on the day; the weather; the time of year; the staff and mood on the day.
Having stayed at so many of New Zealand's luxurious getaways I can't separate Cloud9 above Russell or Blanket Bay down from Queenstown as New Zealand's best for 2009.
They are impossible to compare. But they equally gave me the most relaxed, recharged, motivated, inspired and chilled-out holiday feeling. It is expansive, unstaffed - if you want - and rather like the ultimate Kiwi bach!
For summer, I'd love to go back to Cloud9. The staggering view walking into Cloud9 lingers forever. This $1700 a night four-bedroom holiday haven is one of those must-stay-places before you die.
It is as close to heaven as you can get. You could sunbathe naked after an infinity pool swim and not soul would see you.
There is not much between the top 50 luxury getaways in New Zealand. The weatherboard, bricks and mortar; the velvet cushions, the free bottle of champagne on arrival and the great views can be irrelevant. What makes these places are the people, be they front desk, concierge, the cleaners or the manager.
In the last 12 months I explored more than 20 luxury lodges and hotels up and down the country. What made my stay at each place were the people; the staff. At Kauri Cliffs in Northland I drove my little Jucy rental car down the sunny dirt road to the lodge up to the hotel and concierge Peter opened my car door and said ‘hello Mr Brook'. How did he know? I never asked. I could have nattered all day to the local Matauri Bay cleaning women at Kauri Cliffs. I learned so much about beach life there.
At a price, Eagle's Nest in the Bay of Islands will have rare white lions or tigers greet a romantic couple arriving by helicopter. There is a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, chauffer, butler, personal chef, therapists, and personal trainer, and gourmet meals, and French champagne. Ok for some. Their ($1000 a night) villas have vanishing pools and the setting oozes romance and love-making. Make love in the upstairs shower in the Honeymoon Suite!
In winter, go to Blanket Bay. It is a place for romantic couples seeking a sexy winter's holiday. One couple were choppered to a mountaintop. He popped the question; she said yes and a cloud of live coloured butterflies were released into the air as they kissed. All of Blanket Bay is magic and was twice rated by Harper's as one of the two most romantic hideaways in the world. Manager Philip Jenkins says there's no dress code. I feel at ease straight away (jackets only for men in the Kauri Cliffs lodge). The Discovery Channel rated Blanket Bay as the best lodge in the world. It was named as one of the world's best hotels for food in last year's Conde Nast Traveller Gold List. The view of Lake Wakatipu and the snow capped mountains is quite breath-taking and the lodge is rich in a mix of heavy rough sawn and burnished wooden grandeur. Actor Robin Williams went fly-fishing and mountain-biking here. You only live once - make a note to visit here! It is worth every cent of the $nz950 (more in summer) for a stay.
Not far behind is one of the best small hotels in the world in Eichardt's in Queenstown -with their massive fur rugs sprawled over their sexy big beds. Mmmm. The staff are so bubbly and homely.
Eichardt's is the epitome of Victorian elegance and has been voted the best small hotel in the world. The No.2 suite is one of the plushest of all the luxury hideaway destinations in NZ. It is sexy romance, luxury and sumptuous elegance rolled into one.
If you are a romantic golfing couple go to Kauri Cliffs at Matauri Bay. It has grand elegant lodge, fantastic spa treatment and villas for the all the lovemaking you want. Clearwater near Christchurch Airport is great for golf too. They have amorous boathouse villas and their restaurant is among the best in the country. Great views at sunset while sipping a glass of award-winning Spy Valley sauvignon blanc.
Matakauri Lodge has ambience, especially while a couple make out on the bed looking out to the lake near Queenstown. They are under-stated and possess a majestic setting, superb service and a plush ambience that oozes adventure and romance.
Up in Auckland, picture it: sipping champagne listening to Mozart in the Governor's Suite at the Langham Hotel. The fabulous suite is all 83 square metres, seven plush rooms - and all the works! This is where celebrities and the rich and famous hideaway. A blind man could tell why the Langham in Auckland was named New Zealand's best hotel in 2007. It oozes opulence, quality and class.
Or try Cotter House, a suburb or two over in leafy Remuera. They have the most amazing eclectic, zany, sumptuous collection of antiques, china, porcelain, paintings, art and sculptures in Remuera. Cotter House is full of dramatic history but what makes this place is its effusive, charming and gorgeous owner Gloria Poupard-Walbridge, whose own story is worth a visit. To learn about life, travel, countries and history, Cotter House is great - let Gloria join you after dessert. It is a treat to behold.
It's not always the most expensive places that provide the sexiest environment. Google: Waimana Point near Warkworth, one of the most peaceful spots just out of Auckland. They have seclusion, tranquility, sea views, no neighbours, outdoor bath, quiet beach with no public road access. One visitor asked to deliver an engagement ring with dessert; another proposed in their outdoor bath after dinner. The Waimana Pt hosts Geoff and Gloria are as genuine warm Kiwis hosts as anywhere in NZ.
A ferry trip from Wellington is Picton and the only luxurious place to bed-down is Escape to Picton which has brought style, sophistication, charm and sexy romance to the town for the first time in years. There is ranking system for accommodation in New Zealand based on stars. Five stars and above being luxury; four stars and below being cheaper. They should scrap this idea and base the system on pillows. The Escape to Picton tiny hotel in New Zealand would be right at the top as a 13-pillow hotel.
The George in Christchurch has the best restaurant food and they give you a George teddy bear as a farewell present. Matuka Lodge looking up to Mt Cook is possibly one of the best examples of secluded luxury far from the madding crowd. Rosalie and Russell are the best kind of hosts. Their breakfasts are mouth-watering. They are having a makeover this year - watch The George in 2010.
The Walnut Block Cottages in Blenheim does not have the class or decadence of a Kauri Cliff or a Blanket Bay, but it is sexy - right next to the vines! Timara Lodge up the Waihopai Valley is as good as any exclusive lodge in the country - and it's right next door to the Spy Valley winery - a place in paradise.
For some of the best romantic, sexy getaways for lovers try some of these:
• Cavalli Island Retreat - Northland
• Kauri Cliffs - Northland
• Cloud 9- Northland
• Eagle's Nest - Northland
• Waimana Pt Lodge - Matakana
• Viaduct Landing - Auckland
• Cotter House - Auckland
• The Langham - Auckland
• Tree Tops Lodge & Estate - Rotorua
• Okareka Lodge, Rotorua
• Huka Lodge - Taupo
• Cape Kidnappers - Hawke's Bay
• Greenhill Lodge - Hawke's Bay
• Wharekauhau - Wairarapa
• Timara Lodge - Marlborough
• Escape to Picton - Marlborough
• Clearwater - Christchurch
• The George - Canterbury
• Otahuna Lodge - Canterbury
• Matuka Lodge, Mackenzie Country
• Corstorphine House - Otago
• Blanket Bay - Glenorchy
• Eichardt's - Queenstown
• Lourden's Apartment - Queenstown
• Matakauri Lodge - Queenstown