Photo: Kokohuia Lodge

New Zealand’s reputation for sustainable practices and environmental awareness has prompted growth in eco-tourism as more travellers seek eco-friendly activities and accommodation.

Acclaimed five-star lodges in dramatic natural settings through to self-catering eco-lodges and basic ‘trampers’ huts in the wilderness are among the options throughout New Zealand for environmentally-conscious travellers.

Here are five to check out, as recommended by Tourism New Zealand.

#1: Kokohuia Lodge, Hokianga

In northern New Zealand, the Kokohuia Lodge is a luxury eco bed and breakfast lodge offering spectacular, panoramic views of the Hokianga Harbour in the sub-tropical Northland region.

Sitting high above the native New Zealand bush of kanuka, manuka and cabbage trees, the lodge caters for just one couple at a time and offers guests their own piece of private paradise.

The lodge offers luxury in a sustainable and ecologically responsible manner and, as such, has achieved New Zealand’s highest industry recognition with Qualmark Enviro-gold status.

All timber used to build the lodge has been sourced from sustainably managed forests, and the lodge uses solar power.

Breakfast and dinner at the lodge are sourced as much as possible from maturing orchards and organically managed gardens on the property.

#2: Takou River, Bay Of Islands

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On the opposite coast, at Takou Bay in the Bay of Islands, three self-catering cottages on five acres of sub-tropical gardens, surrounded by 150 acres of organic pasture and native bush are another eco-friendly accommodation experience.

Takou River’s Magic Cottage is perched on the banks of the river nestled among pohutukawa trees.

The two-bedroom timber cabin, and larger River and Garden cottages nearby – each completely out of sight and earshot – are made of recycled timber and rely on solar power.

More than 10,000 native trees have been planted around the property with the aim of increasing the biodiversity of the area and to create a ‘kiwi corridor’ joining surrounding zones for the native birds.

Owners Ian and Anna Sizer have put their environmental and community beliefs into practice while developing the holiday cottages and organic beef farm.

Their own six-bedroom, three-bathroom cedar weatherboard home operates completely off-grid.

It is not connected to any electricity supply or water mains and there is no local waste collection service.

Like the holiday cottages, the lodge uses solar power, is constructed of recycled timber, and rainwater is distributed from concealed tanks via a pump system pioneered in African villages.

#3: Spray Point Station, Marlborough

Photo: The New Paper

One of the largest farm properties to concentrate on eco-tourism is Spray Point station in Waihopai valley, in the South Island region of Marlborough.

While the 2,000ha farm was carrying 3,000 stock when Roland and Jenny Mapp took over in 2004, the Mapps realised that diversification was essential for long-term viability.

The land was overgrazed and eroding, invasive weeds were gaining a foothold, fencing was inadequate and an iconic musterer’s cob cottage was on the verge of collapse.

About 20km of walking tracks have now been established, using existing stock and wild game routes.

Native New Zealand falcons fly over Spray Point, and nests on the property have recently been under video surveillance as part of a research project in partnership with the University of Canterbury.

The Mapps have restored a cob cottage that was built in 1910 for shearers and drovers travelling the main stock route through the valley.

A gas water heater camouflaged in an old-fashioned meat safe supplies an outdoor rock-face shower.

Guests can also relax in two companionable outdoor claw-foot baths, perched on a cliff-top with views of snow-capped mountains.

#4: Little Greenie

A remote holiday cottage on the northern end of the Abel Tasman track, on the South Island, is New Zealand’s most energy-efficient house.

The Little Greenie cottage was awarded a 9/10-star rating by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority – the highest-ever rating – for its design, materials, water and energy efficiency.

The design of the house was kept simple so every extra dollar could go into materials.

A solar system provides most of the heating and hot water, and a composting toilet sucks fresh air in each time the toilet is used.

Double-glazing, wool insulation and a polystyrene break between the concrete floor and the ground keeps heat in.

Sun-warmed air is directed into the walls for storage and to release heat.

#5: Kaimata, Otago Peninsula

Further south, Kaimata Retreat – in a pristine coastal environment on the Otago Peninsula – provides a getaway that’s minutes from Dunedin but a world away.

The peninsula’s coastal hills, tidal estuaries and rugged sea coast harbour some of New Zealand’s great wildlife experiences including albatross, penguin and seal colonies, rich native birdlife and several eco-expedition opportunities.

Hosts Rachel and Kyle have created an intimate contemporary sanctuary echoing their passion for the environment. Luxury on a small scale, the three-bedroom retreat overlooking a private estuary is available either self-catered or with in-house chef.

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