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Taking up around 10 percent of the country’s entire landmass, Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular attractions, with deep, blue lakes, jutting mountain vistas and glacier-forged valleys. The area’s headline act is the fiord known as Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Maori) and it is home to seals, dolphins, penguins and the camera-friendly Mitre Peak. To be at one with nature and soak up these spectacular surroundings from dawn to dusk, check out one of these ecofriendly accommodation options.
Milford Sound Lodge is the only accommodation provider in Milford Sound. As such, its room options are quite wide-ranging: there’s everything from upscale riverside and mountain chalets to budget-friendly backpacker hostels and forested campervan sites. Taking care of Milford Sound’s unspoilt beauty is just a part of daily operations; the lodge’s sustainability measures includes repurposing any food waste on a local pig farm, using old coffee grounds as fertiliser for the local school’s vegetable gardens, recycling as much rubbish as possible and only using ecofriendly cleaning products on its premises.
Fiordland National Park Lodge offers the perfect base for travellers keen to explore its namesake national park (including the famous fiord we all know and love) and the nearby town of Te Anau. Along with a selection of budget-friendly hotel, motel and backpacker-style rooms, the accommodation also offers special package tours so that its guests can truly revel in their natural surroundings. Sweeping views of Lake Te Anau are another bonus and the lodge is located quite close to the start of the Milford Track, too.
Knobs Flat is an eco-friendly accommodation that practically sits at the midway point on the road between Te Anau and Milford Sound. Whether you opt to stay in the serviced campground or you’d rather unwind in one of the six studio units, you can be sure that all facilities are going to be as sustainable as possible. Environmentally conscious travellers are even encouraged to partake in local conservation projects during their stay – its staff are directly involved with habitat restoration pursuits at the nearby Eglinton River – and the accommodation has its own recycling and energy reduction practices in place.
Here’s a nice, environmentally conscious option to consider if you’re spending some time in Queenstown before visiting Milford Sound. Sherwood Queenstown is a hillside retreat with incredible views of the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu. Everything here has been designed with sustainability in mind: LED lighting, furnishings made primarily out of upcycled materials and solar panels are among its notable features. Other highlights include a restaurant, a picturesque garden with picnic facilities as well as a peaceful space for yoga and meditation classes.
Set adjacent to a local park that’s within walking distance from Te Anau’s picturesque lake and the town centre, The Village Inn strikes the ideal balance between convenience and a peaceful setting. The hotel features studio rooms, superior rooms and self-catering family units; all of which are fitted with heating units and air-conditioning and have easy access to the property’s landscaped gardens. There’s also an on-site restaurant that’s open for breakfast and dinner, plus a lounge bar area with a fireplace where guests can unwind after a long day out.
Ecoscapes is an hour’s drive away from Queenstown, 25km (15.5mi) outside of Glenorchy. A spectacular location, with easy access to lots of hiking and water-based activities, is part of its appeal, but it’s in its sustainable practices that Ecoscapes truly thrives. The retreat’s two guest units are designed to blend with the surrounding environment; local contractors and suppliers were also at the forefront of the accommodation’s construction. On top of that, all water, waste disposal and energy systems are operated locally; and food prepared on the premises uses ingredients sourced from Ecoscapes’ own vegetable garden. Wine from local vineyards and craft beer are also on offer.
Nestled within a remote hillside just outside of Queenstown, Hidden Lodge is the ideal boutique accommodation for travellers wanting to immerse themselves in the region’s natural environment. The lodge’s very own rescue hens provide the eggs used in the complimentary breakfasts guests get to savour; locally sourced seasonal produce is also used for all meals prepared on-site (gourmet dinners are available at an additional cost). Along with comprising four luxurious guest suites with unobstructed lake and mountain views, Hidden Lodge also boasts its own wood-fired natural hot pool, sauna and gym facilities.
Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau is sure to impress with its verdant gardens and spectacular lake and mountain vistas. The hotel is not only handy to the local township, it is en route to many of the region’s incredible natural wonders: the Kepler Track is just 19km (11.8mi) away; while Lake Manapouri, the Glowworm Caves and Milford Sound are also well within reach. There is a bar and restaurant on-site, and 94 guest rooms available – some have adjoining beds for families travelling with kids.
If you like the idea of staying in a sustainable and fully self-contained apartment, Queenstown’s Element Escapes have got just the thing. There are two boutique holiday rental locations available (one right at the heart of the township and the other on the Frankton end of Lake Wakatipu), each featuring a range of studio, two- and three-bed suites with modern furnishings and all your living essentials. On the environmental side of things, the accommodation ensures all its cleaning products and bathroom amenities are eco-friendly and that its sustainable policies for staff and guests are being followed accordingly.
Take extra pleasure soaking in the outdoor hot tub knowing that Te Anau’s blistering rays have provided all the heat required. In addition to housing solar panels, the roof provides another eco purpose by funnelling rainwater into tanks that convert it into drinkable water. Be sure to ask owners Glen and Susanna about other sustainable elements of the property. Their passion will be immediately apparent as they discuss everything from 100 percent New Zealand wool carpets to the native plants in the garden.
Alexis James contributed additional reporting to this article.