In a world that has challenged us in ways we never imagined possible, self-care has become more important than ever. Our poor frazzled brains have been doing overtime for so long it might take more than some deep breathing and a bubble bath to restore any kind of equilibrium. Add to this some of the less-than-healthy habits COVID has brought – eating and drinking more than usual, spending more time on the sofa than outside and overthinking absolutely everything – and many of us really need some kind of reset. This is where a wellness retreat is ideal, an opportunity to step off the merry-go-round of madness for a few days and concentrate solely on what your body needs: some calming scenery (fortunately New Zealand does that very well), movement, mindfulness and nourishing food. But don’t picture lumpy kale smoothies, carrot sticks and cereal that tastes like sawdust. Many wellness retreats have varied and creative culinary options that will delight your tastebuds as well as your body. Here are some we love.


Whether you’re headed to a wellness retreat or not, there’s something magical and healing about Kawau Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. Its clear waters, native bush and uncomplicated vibe incite a feeling of relaxation the moment your city-weary feet disembark the ferry. Parohe Island Retreat only opened in 2021, but is already incredibly popular for the serenity provided by its lush, dense mānuka bush, beautiful green spaces and Scandinavian-inspired accommodation. You can do sunrise yoga on a floating pontoon, take the kayaks out, explore the hiking trails, take a dip in the pool or enjoy an outdoor bath and you may even hear kiwis fossicking around at night. Food is vegetarian and many of the ingredients come directly from the spray-free gardens on the 20-hectare property. The menu changes seasonally but includes dishes such as whole charred cauliflower with coconut chickpea curry and mango chia seed pudding with raspberry (in season berries come from their own bushes). Everything is carefully considered for its health-giving properties and taste.

A Relax Retreat for one person will set you back $1400 for three days/two nights and includes accommodation, sunrise yoga, relaxation yoga in the evening, a mindfulness practices workshop, plant-based meals, snacks and juices and access to all outdoor activities (all sessions are optional). There are plenty of other packages including longer stays and specific courses such as Ayurveda or detoxing.


If what you need more than anything is to move your couch-addicted body and get out in nature, look no further than Haurata in Gisborne. This isn’t a fancy-pants luxury resort, it’s more like a giant hug of an experience at a time when we all need a bit of that. Hosts Jane and Warwick Tombleson will welcome you onto their farm like family, but also give you all the space you need to explore the invigorating hill-country walks that this area is known for. This is rugged backcountry at its best, with waterfalls, bluffs, fascinating flora, gorgeous birdlife and rivers. It’s like having your own piece of Kiwi paradise all to yourselves, a true disconnect from the suburban juggle and the tight grip technology has on so many of us. You can self cater but why would you when there’s such great food available? From home baking when you arrive, to the hearty, nourishing dinners that cook Rachel Sanson prepares, it’s all part of true Kiwi hospitality of this beautiful part of Tairāwhiti Gisborne. Meat for meals is often from the farm itself, veges from the garden and everyone raves about the incredible salads full of varied flavours and textures. There’s always a decadent dessert to finish off, before you sleep like you’ve never slept before.

The Farmhouse is $180 per night (two people for 2–3 nights) with a $40 surcharge to heat the outdoor hot tub. Breakfast, lunch and a two-course dinner is just $80 per person (and as we said, portions are generous). You can also purchase meals separately.



Cape South retreats take place in a grand-looking French colonial-style homestead in 6.5 hectares of gardens and grounds just 20 minutes out of Havelock North. While it’s all very luxurious and gorgeous-looking, hosts Cam and Kate McLeay are extremely down-to-earth, maybe because they spent more than 10 years living in Uganda with their three kids, running tourism adventures and building schools. In fact, when Kate is not running the Cape South wellness retreats, you might find her delivering mindfulness and meditation training to a marae, a school or even the local prison. On the food side, it might be hard to imagine that meals that are plant based, dairy free, gluten free and processed-sugar free could be delicious, but when you realise this means warming curries, huge fresh salads packed with ingredients from their own organic gardens, Italian bruschetta or even a vegan version of a Snickers cheesecake, you’ll definitely change your mind.

A three day/two night retreat costs $1170 per person twin or double share (more for a solo occupancy) and includes accommodation, all meals, snacks, coffee, herbal teas, smoothies and homemade kombucha shots, yoga and qigong classes, mindfulness and meditation instruction, two educational wellness workshop sessions, food talks and a food demonstration, a guided walk and full access to the gym, magnesium pool, infrared sauna and hot tub ($750 non-residential). There are plenty of other specialised packages on offer, too.


If you want to splash out, Split Apple Retreat is where to head. Located very close to the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park, it belongs to Anne Pen Lee and Lee Nelson, whose love for Zen principles and Japanese art is evident in every part of this luxury property. It boasts views out over the water (look out for dolphins when relaxing on one of your two decks) and there are spa facilities, massage treatments, different types of yoga and meditation. Lee is a retired doctor and guests fill out a food questionnaire right at the start on which the talented chef Pen bases her meals. The couple is only too aware of the power of nourishing food (Lee suffered a major health crisis many years ago) but there is never a compromise on taste. Pen’s food is a mélange of Asian and Mediterranean influences and she handpicks all ingredients from their gardens or purchases from local suppliers. There’s no set menu, food is just based on the flavours the guests like and what their health requirements might determine. Guests have raved so much over the years that Pen has produced a cookbook so people can take a taste of Split Apple back home.

Split Apple is $5390 for a suite for two nights in the low season, which includes continental and cooked breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapés and gourmet dinners specially created by chef Pen. You’ll also have full use of the infinity swimming pool, Japanese spa bath, steam room, detoxifying infrared sauna and theatre.


If you’ve ever had that feeling of wanting to escape your day-to-day and be transported somewhere that feels like it’s a million miles away, Maruia River may be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s right on the Maruia River (funnily enough) with its beautiful clear waters and verdant beech forest surrounds. It’s a 3½ hour drive from Christchurch or two hours from Nelson, far from anything that looks like city life. The offering is all about connecting the whole experience – comfort, nature, good food, yoga – and even a bit of forest bathing with the hot tub located right in the rainforest. The food is a highlight and none of it would look out of place in a swanky restaurant (think options such as tender eye fillet, coconut prawns or fresh salmon for dinner or local bread, Nelson granola, fresh fruit, eggs from their chickens and coconut yoghurt as part of the breakfast offering). Everything is fresh, local where possible, or right from the kitchen garden on-site. They offer an omnivore menu but vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options are also available.

There are all kinds of packages to choose from but the personal restoration retreat is $3000 with solo occupancy accommodation for three nights, three-course dinners, continental breakfasts, packed lunches, daily private 60-minute yoga classes or 60-minute massage therapy sessions, a guided nature walk and a daily 60-minute private hot tub or sauna.


There’s something incredibly moving about being among mountains; maybe it’s that ancient towering stability, or the feeling of being dwarfed that makes you contemplate your place in the world. Whatever it is, this calming aura is definitely a wellness tonic and being able to see our tallest maunga (Aoraki) as well as Lake Pukaki and the Ben Ohau ranges from Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat is pure healing itself. But there’s a lot more than mountain views to nourish you at this restorative destination. All three villas have luxurious European-inspired interiors, open fireplaces and private outdoor hot tubs. There are massages and yoga and the icing on the cake is the on-site observatory. This area is part of The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve and guests can enjoy the beauty of a resplendent sky teeming with star radiance, minus the pollution of street lights or industry. The food here isn’t plant-based cuisine and juices, it’s more about nourishing yourself by celebrating the bounty that is all around – high-country lamb farmed locally, salmon from nearby lakes and rivers, vegetables from the garden – everything made with love by new head chef Paul Bryan and delivered to your room. There are cooking demonstrations available, too.

Retreat Wellness package prices start at $2990 for two guests for two nights and include a bottle of sparkling wine, a three-course meal each evening, breakfast provisions every day, a yoga session, a massage in your villa and access to the tennis court, petanque, and walking tracks.