Whale-watching, exotic birdlife and luxury romantic retreats

The Sounds Retreat, Marlborough

This exclusive one-suite retreat opened in the easternmost arm of the Marlborough Sounds in July. Owned by Anne and Tony Brooker, it has an outdoor hot tub, fully equipped gym and private live-in chef. All of New Zealand's landscapes are here: there's hiking in the forest behind, dolphins darting in the waters in front, wine-tasting in Blenheim and whale-watching offshore at Nelson. Guests are free to explore the area using mountain bikes and a convertible Mini Cooper S.

The Sounds Retreat, Picton, South Island (00 64 3 574 2965; thesoundsretreat.co.nz). Suite starts at NZ$1,250 (£671), all inclusive.

Atahuri, Peka Peka

This white cube-shaped lodge stands amid the dunes of the Kapiti Coast. Each of the four suites is named after indigenous plants that grow in the immediate area, with Maori furnishings and outdoor patios that have views of the Tasman Sea. Spend days relaxing beside the pool, strolling along Peka Peka beach or exploring the nature reserve on Kapiti Island, which is home to exotic birdlife such as the flightless takahe and diminutive little penguin.

Atahuri, 51 Pingao Lane, Peka Peka, North Island (00 64 4 293 5555; atahuri.co.nz). Doubles start at NZ$500 (£267), including breakfast.


Otahuna, Tai Tapu

This century-old residence was built for the prominent politician and lawyer Sir Heaton Rhodes. It's now a listed country house hotel that's set in rural splendour outside Christchurch. There are rolling lawns in front and a range of palatial suites with open fireplaces, wood-panelled walls, oak furniture and classic houndstooth fabrics. Memorabilia that nods to Sir Heaton's favourite pastimes – polo clubs, stag horns and botanical prints – add a sense of history.

Otahuna, 224 Rhodes Road, Tai Tapu South Island (00 64 3 329 6333; otahuna.co.nz). Doubles start at NZ$1,100 (£592), including half board.


Kokohuia, Hokianga

A romantic retreat for those with the environment at heart. This off-grid B&B opened above a scenic swathe of Hokianga Harbour a year ago. Powered by solar panels, it offers just one luxury treehouse-style suite, with a pre-stocked fridge that's filled with organic and fair trade products. Guests are treated to a two-course breakfast on the sweeping balcony each morning, with scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and free-farmed bacon all on the menu.

Kokohuia, 101 Kokohuia Road, Hokianga, North Island (00 64 21 77 9927; kokohuialodge.co.nz). Doubles start at NZ$280 (£151), including breakfast.


Tin Tub, Wanaka

Tin Tub opened above the waters of Lake Wanaka in July. Run by Trish (who cooks the breakfast) and Barry (who handles the excursions), it has upmarket suites with Jacuzzi baths and outdoor patios, and some simpler rooms with balconies and views of the jagged peaks. There's a large pool for warmer months, a tennis court for active types and a communal lounge for sociable souls. Wanaka is also a gateway to the walker's paradise of Mount Aspiring National Park.

Tin Tub, 41 Peak View Ridge, Wanaka, South Island (00 64 3 443 1662; tintubwanaka.co.nz). Doubles start at NZ$325 (£173), including breakfast.


The Oyster Inn, Waiheke

Andrew Glenn worked as a marketing director for Topshop before leaving London with his partner in 2011. Craving a lifestyle where they could "put their feet on the sand every day", they opened Oyster Inn on Waiheke Island in November. Located on Oneroa Beach, it has the feel of a clapboard summer cabin, albeit with a cocktail bar, seafood restaurant and three whitewashed rooms. A vintage Volkswagen camper-van is on hand for excursions.

The Oyster Inn, 124 Ocean View Road, Waiheke Island (00 64 9 372 2222; theoysterinn.co.nz). Doubles start at NZ$285 (£153), including breakfast.