When travelling in Europe, with its rich history, you can spend hours exploring ancient streets and will likely stumble upon a historic building on every corner. In New Zealand, the appeal is a little different, and travellers gawp at every turn at the spectacular natural landscapes and vistas. But that’s not to say that we don’t have any history to enjoy, and we are delighted to share some historical luxury accommodation options with our guests.
So, if you are looking to add a touch of history and culture to your holiday, and want to experience some of New Zealand’s most interesting sites that delve deep into the stories of the past, these historical homes are full of character and a great choice for unique accommodation to experience New Zealand.
Famously, The Bay of Islands is home to the treaty of Waitangi, which is the agreement made between Maori Chiefs and the British Crown in 1840. This treaty founded modern day New Zealand, making New Zealand a colony of Great Britain. But the Bay of Islands is also home to the first European settlement in New Zealand, and the location of this historic settlement is where you will find The Landing.
Positioned on such a historically significant location, the development of The Landing has been done with the blessing of local Maori tribes. Maori have lived in the area for around 700 years across numerous settlements including established Maori settlements in both Wairoa Bay and Rangihoua Bay. Where The Landing is currently located, the Maori Village of Te Puna was previously described in 1807 as ‘the capital of the country’ and New Zealand’s first European settlers arrived and settled in the this location on the Purerua Peninsula in the early 1800’s.
These days, guests can choose from four stunning villas, taste beautiful wines from the on-site vineyard (which happens to be the northern-most vines in New Zealand), explore the waters by boat or paddle boards, and delve deep into the history of the area with a guided tour, which will take you to the location of the old mission house which dates back to 1830, old Maori village sites and early settler graves. The Landing is also home to a collection of artefacts and rare books which are of historical interest.
Enjoy a taste of modern history in the making at Mahu Whenua – NZ’s largest privately funded conservation project, covering 130,000 acres of land.
The owner of Mahu Whenua bought the first of the four adjoining high country stations in 2003, continuing to acquire neighbouring sites through until his latest purchase in 2012, with the goal to develop a conservation project which was large enough to really make a difference to the environment. The unprecedented scale of this project in New Zealand has also resulted in a collaboration with the University of Otago, which studies the success of the conservation projects, to apply knowledge to future environmental restoration projects.
Not only is the property building its own historical conservation storyline, the land is rich in cultural history; a Kaik (Maori village site) is situated on the lower Motatapu which was occupied over a long period on a seasonal basis and Maori would actively hunt birds in the valley with numerous Moa remains found in the vicinity.
In the late 1800’s through to 1930’s there was a gold rush on surrounding rivers, and whilst not as prominent as the Arrow River or Shotover River, some gold mining occurred in the Motatapu Valley, with some interesting sites and remains dotted throughout the property at Mahu Whenua.
In years to come, the land on this property will continue to be enjoyed in its beautiful native state with 90% of the property placed under covenants to ensure its ongoing protection. Guests on site can learn more about the rich history on the land with a guided site tour by e-bike, horseback or 4WD.
Otahuna Lodge was built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes, a member of New Zealand Parliament, a military officer, stockbreeder and keen horticulturist and noted person in the history of the region.
Sir Heaton travelled extensively throughout his life, studying in the UK, serving in the military in South Africa, taking up appointment as Special Commissioner to Egypt and Galilee in 1912, and then acting as Commissioner of New Zealand in Europe in 1916. When he returned to New Zealand in 1920, he was appointed minister of defence, and in 1922 he also held the title of Commissioner of State Forests. With such a huge contribution to his country, it is not surprising that he was knighted for his services twice.
Sir Rhodes took great pride in the design and creation of the beautiful gardens on site at Otahuna, and the property was a popular venue for garden parties and polo for the social elite back in its heyday. The homestead sits atop a small hill, between the rocky outcrops of the Banks Peninsula, providing commanding views of the gardens and across the plains to the Southern Alps, and the name “Otahuna” is Maori and popularly translates as “little hill among the hills.”
The homestead is considered one of the finest examples of unspoiled Queen Anne era architecture in Australasia, and is well regarded for its unique shape, beautiful rooflines, use of New Zealand timber, and elaborate architectural detail and is protected under the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Guests at Otahuna will be treated to an indulgent and luxurious stay, with the finest food and a taste of history in this unique luxury lodge.
The Marlborough Lodge was designed by Thomas Turnbull who was one of Wellington’s most important 19th century architect, actively advocating structurally sound methods for building to resist earthquake forces. The lodge was originally built in 1901 as a Victorian Convent for the Sisters of Mercy, in an alternative location in Blenheim, next door to St Marys Church. The property provided nineteen bedrooms, a library, music room, sewing room, office and a beautiful chapel upstairs on the first floor for the nuns use.
The building work took advantage of native materials, with extensive use in the construction of Matai, Rimu and Kauri. One of the many exceptional examples of Victorian craftsmanship is the substantial beautiful carved staircase, constructed entirely from Kauri.
In 1994, the Convent was transported to its present location in Rapaura in Marlborough, on 16 acres of parkland surrounded by vineyards. The task of restoration was guided by noted architect Sir Michael Fowler (who 11 years prior to this was just finishing a 9 year stint as the Mayor of Wellington).
In its new location, the property operated as a B&B until May 2016 when it was bought by a new owner, who was passionately dedicated to its restoration and extensively refurbished before opening in November 2016 as The Marlborough Lodge.
Guests can now enjoy staying in one of 10 suites, dine on gourmet food and wander the immaculate gardens of this beautiful luxury lodge.
The Homestead at Lake Hayes is rich in local history, with links to many influential people throughout its existence. The homestead was built in 1909, one of very few homes of this scale in the district in this era, and one of even fewer remaining to this day.
Robert McDowell, was an important figure in the development of Arrowtown, Macetown and the wider Wakatipu area providing the essential service of supply of provisions through his successful carrier business, but just one year after it was built, the homestead was sold on to local miner Robert Lee.
Lee was an important figure in the district at that time, and his standing in the community is commemorated to this day with the Robert Lee Memorial still standing close by to the Homestead on Ladies Mile. The next family to own the property were the Strain family, who, in 1993 divided the property, selling 200 hectares of the farm, and retaining 40 hectares, then in 2005, the remaining farm area and homestead was purchased and held by businessman and current mayor, Jim Boult.
The current owners (who were only the fourth family in 100 years to live in the homestead) took ownership in 2015 and spent 3 years lovingly restoring and extending the home to its current glorious state. This delightful dwelling has retained many of its beautiful historic features, and guests can enjoy wandering through the orchard to the gorgeous Lake Hayes which is just a very short distance away.