The "wilderness lodge" here has been elevated to a high art form, with a price to match, though the cost is often offset somewhat by the inclusion of meals. The offerings range from classic genteel oases to slick 21st-century adventure hubs, with square-jawed guides, 500-bottle wine lists, and heli-everything.
The North Island's Huka Lodge is the archetype of the former category. What started out as a fishing camp in 1924 has become so discreetly luxurious, with its private suites on the Waikato River, 17 perfectly manicured acres, and alfresco five-course dinners, that Queen Elizabeth II and Barbra Streisand have been known to relax here (suites from $590 per person, including breakfast and dinner; hukalodge.co.nz).
Across the North Island and at the opposite end of the taste spectrum is Ahu Ahu Beach Villas, on the Taranaki Peninsula. This is actually a cluster of rustic villas set right on a black-sand beach with a killer view of 8,261-foot Mount Taranaki and immediate access to the local café scene and exhilarating wilderness walks. A handful of New Zealand's best surf breaks are within a 20-minute drive (villas from $160 per night; ahu.co.nz).
On the South Island, the adrenaline-sport scene in Queenstown has spurred a proliferation of lodges. One of the most consistently recommended is Blanket Bay, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, 45 minutes north of Queenstown. Fly-fish, flight-see over Fiordland National Park, and dine in the wine cave while drinking local varietals (doubles from $750; blanketbay.com).
Or go ape on the South Island's Pacific coast in the Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses. The one-bedroom retreats, 30 feet off the ground in a manuka grove, are quintessentially Kiwi—chic, stark, and ecologically correct—and each features a wood-burning fireplace and a couples bath. The Tarzan & Jane Tree House Retreat includes a one-night stay, a bottle of champagne, dinner, and breakfast ($1,015 per couple; hapukulodge.com).