• Te Whau Lodge (Waiheke Island; tel. 09/372-2288): Every time I visit Te Whau I'm convinced all over again that Gene O'Neill and Liz Eglinton give you the best of everything - winning personalities, fabulous food, great rooms, and views you won't believe. There's something quintessentially Kiwi about the whole experience that I'm proud to recommend.
  • Ridge Country Retreat (Tauranga; tel. 07/542-1301): The generosity and style of rooms here leave many more expensive stays in the shade. Joanne O'Keeffe and Penny Oxnam are some of the best (and funniest) hosts I've met. I'm confident your expectations will be exceeded at every level. The food is divine!
  • Millar Road (Hastings; tel. 06/875-1977): Waking up to staggering views over vineyards, orchards, and rolling green hills is only part of the pleasure of this exquisite stay. Somewhere between lodge and B&B, these two modern, self-contained "cottages" are divine. I can't get the memory of them out of my head. It's a classy, unexpected gem filled with contemporary New Zealand art, and I know you'll want to stay at least a week!
  • Ohtel (Wellington; tel. 04/803-0600): I couldn't believe my luck when I found this small, chic, ecofriendly, waterfront hotel packed to the gills with collectible mid-century modern furniture. It's unbeatable value, a total sensory experience, and one of my top picks for something unique and memorable.
  • Arrowtown House (Arrowtown; tel. 03/441-6008): This boutique hotel is the third brainchild of seasoned travelers and hosts alike, Steve and Jeanette Brough, who are two of the best hosts in the country. Located in a pretty, tree-lined residential street, it's an understated haven within a short walk of the village.
  • River Birches (Turangi; tel. 0800/102-025): This is one of my favorite recent discoveries. Transplanted New Yorker Jason Bleibtreu and his wife, Rebecca - both former journalists covering the world's hot spots - have spent years living in hotels, so they know exactly what it takes to create a restful haven. They've imbued this special place with an extra level of professionalism that's hard to fault. And the location? Right beside one of the best trout-fishing rivers in the world!
  • Remarkables Lodge (Queenstown; tel. 03/442-2720): Brian Savage and Colleen Ryan sailed the world for 10 years chartering their yacht. We can be thankful they came ashore in Queenstown and took this well-established lodge and shook it by the scruff of the neck. With new life and an understated level of class that puts it above many, it's a top retreat tucked into the foot of the very remarkable Remarkables mountains.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.