On International Women's Day, we are recognising the women whose creativity, hospitality and dedication shape New Zealand's most exclusive accommodation experiences and whose attention to detail ensure guests leave with exceptional memories and return time and time again.
They're a hard working team; while some are found front-of-house, others are more behind-the-scenes, but they each know how to provide the finest of touches.
Ellie Nesbit at Minaret Station Alpine Lodge
A day job in an alpine wilderness looks incredibly exotic from afar but for Ellie Nesbit, Guest Services Manager at Minaret Station Alpine Lodge, it’s become the place where she feels most at home.
Having grown up on a large South Island high country station, Ellie was already familiar with farming lifestyles when she began following Minaret Station’s social media channels. A natural with people, Ellie was intrigued by the idea of sharing these remote raw landscapes with guests searching for the ultimate get-away outdoor adventure so when a job opening popped up 18 months ago she was keen.
Ellie’s day-to-day involves just about every aspect of lodge life from hosting guests and ensuring they’re relaxed and comfortable to guiding them into the stunning alpine landscape on day walks, wildlife spotting, and educating them about the local environment.
Ellie says: “I love giving our guests this quintessential Kiwi experience in such a beautiful remote location. The landscape does the talking while we ensure that guests can really relax and enjoy. This environment is where I feel at home and being able to share it with guests is truly special.”
Anna Corinne at The Landing
When she’s picking flowers for floral arrangements, The Landing Residence Manager Anna Corinne enjoys the excuse to wander through the colourful flower gardens and vineyards on The Landing’s sprawling coastal property in the stunning Bay of Islands.
After learning the ropes working on super yachts, Anna has landed on treasured terra firma at The Landing — an historic meeting place of land, sea and cultures, now transformed into a contemporary sanctuary with four stunning private villas, each a unique design statement filled with wonderful works of art and expansive sea views.
No day is ever the same at The Landing. While Anna’s fastidious side thrives on keeping the housekeeping humming to ensure the residences are always in sparkling condition and well provisioned, it’s adding the little welcome touches like arranging fresh flowers gathered from the gardens that feeds her creative side.
Anna says: “I love working in this amazingly beautiful place, alongside supportive owners and an awesome team. I love that the role challenges me, but the creative outlet also gives me a real sense of satisfaction.”
Lisa Hayden of Piwakawaka, Cairnbrae & The Homestead at Lake Hayes
With dream properties at her fingertips, Lisa Hayden feels enormously privileged to be working side-by-side with the owners of some of New Zealand’s most stunning homes while marketing their properties to the luxury tourism market.
It all began 10 years ago when Lisa and her family moved back to New Zealand after a seven-year stint in Melbourne. A “short sabbatical” in Arrowtown developed into a regional love affair that never quite finished as she was drawn into researching holiday villa options for friends who also wanted to experience the delights of Queenstown and New Zealand. In the end it seemed like a natural business opportunity.
Lisa is Owner's Representative in the LVONZ portfolio for three of the most exclusive private luxury villas in the southern lakes region: The Homestead at Lake Hayes is an historic 5-bedroom lakeside home, Cairnbrae is an expansive contemporary residence surrounded by vineyards, while palatial Piwakawaka occupies a vast estate on a private peninsula beside Lake Wanaka.
Lisa says: “Each property has its own special personality and wow factor which guarantee a great base to curate exceptional guest experiences. I love that my job is based on relationships with owners and guests that become deeply personal.”
Bobbie Martin at Edenhouse
If legendary hospitality comes naturally to Bobbie Martin, it's also an art form that she's perfected with dedication and hard work over the past two decades at Edenhouse — her personal, little piece of six-star paradise in the heart of the gorgeous Nelson Tasman region.
As owner/hostess, Bobbie's vision for Edenhouse has always been as a welcoming haven offering fine country hospitality for friends, family and guests. It began with discovering a personal place of sanctuary, then putting her artistic talents to work designing and creating the house and gardens of her dreams (with husband and co-owner Peter alongside).
When guests arrive at Edenhouse, they're welcomed into a family home where the attention to detail and care is matched by the genuine warmth of the hospitality.
Bobbie says: “We love our place and what we’ve achieved here but what makes it really special is being able to share it with others. Our hospitality comes from the heart … we’ve made friends from all around the world over the years, and welcoming them back is the best reward.”
Claire Hall of Poronui Estate
Poronui Lodge is an enduring love story for Assistant Lodge Manager Claire Hall who first visited with her fiancé, a fly fishing guide at the lodge. Fast forward 21 years and two children later, and Poronui is very much their family home — a place where family fly fishing trips are all part of the lifestyle.
Over the years, Claire has done just about every job imaginable in this back-country Central North Island lodge famed for fishing, hunting and outdoor adventures. An accomplished horsewoman, she set up the stables and riding programme but is also no stranger to the kitchen, housework or organising a beautiful wedding celebration — which fits perfectly with her responsibilities for hosting guests and recruitment of staff.
With “creating special memories for guests” high on her list of priorities, Claire is very aware of the need to have a personable team who are as passionate as she is about Poronui and sharing this special place with visitors.
Claire says: “I want each guest to feel how Poronui embraces, nurtures and rejuvenates — whether that’s relaxing in a beautiful space with its people, deep in the forest, high on a peak or on a quiet river bank — and to leave with fond memories.”
History is well and truly repeating itself for Eagles Nest’s long-serving Housekeeper Betty Wynyard. Her family links to this place go back to long before this piece of paradise became a luxury property and carry on today with three generations of the family on staff.
There is quite some history to Betty’s connections with Eagles Nest. She grew up in Russell, and her forebears were some of the earliest residents on gorgeous Tapeka Point where Eagles Nest now sits in a commanding cliff top [hillside] position looking out across the Bay of Islands. But, if you want to hear the full story and learn about Russell from a real local, then stay at Eagles Nest is recommended.
Family values are important to Betty and that’s what brought her back to Russell after 23 years away. That was 14 years ago, and since then she’s been an integral part of the Eagles Nest team taking care of the five fabulous villas so they’re always in top shape for the guests. Through her quiet, caring and wise ways, Betty has become the unofficial team matriarch.
Betty says: “This place is very special to me. I enjoy every day I’m here and love working with family and friends in a place that I have a long history with.”
Pen Lee at Split Apple Retreat
Personal experience of the relationship between diet and wellness inspired Anne Pen Lee’s (aka Chef Pen) journey towards becoming owner/chef at Split Apple Retreat — a peaceful Zen-like retreat, set high above the shimmering blue waters of Abel Tasman National Park.
It’s 11 years since Pen and husband (and retired doctor) Lee poured their hearts into developing Split Apple into a beautiful, architecturally-thoughtful home that radiates tranquility and provides the canvas for their creative healthy eating and wellness programmes. These are based on Lee’s experience with prostate cancer, knowledge of healthy nutrition and a well-eating plan developed to help with his own healing and well being.
Naturally bubbly with a warm and caring manner, Chef Pen’s happy place is in the kitchen creating delicious breakfasts and gourmet healthy dinners for her guests.
Pen says: “I love this place and what we do, especially caring for our guests and their well-being with good, healthy food. Before they arrive, we ask them about any food likes/dislikes to get a real feel of what they might like (or dislike!). On meeting there’s more chat so I can really create something special.”
Nicola Moores, Te Arai
When Nicola Moores says she knows Te Arai inside out, it’s no exaggeration. The lodge, on the Mangawhai Coast just north of Auckland, is both her home and the realisation of a shared family dream for two generations of the talented and hospitable Moores family.
The planning, build and development of the property and family business was an incredible hands-on journey for Nicola, brother Doug and parents Vince and Kathy that began long before the lodge opened in 2018. Even today, looking out from the grand Tuscan-inspired sustainable luxury lodge over the lush and bountiful permaculture gardens to the coast, it’s hard to credit just exactly how far they’ve come.
As Head Chef and Lodge Manager, Nicola brings together an incredible skill- of creative talents combined with experience in the international food industry and university studies on the history of food and Italian gastronomy in Italy. She’s also worked in the kitchens and permaculture gardens at top wellness retreats and is passionate about wellness and sustainability.
Nicola says: “Dining at the lodge is definitely a highlight for our guests. I take pride in creating bespoke experiences from romantic private dinners in the glasshouse to convivial family meals shared around the table in our kitchen courtyard. Even the prep often turns into an informal cooking class! My mum grows a lot of organic produce in our permaculture gardens that I love to showcase in our garden-to-table menu that naturally reflects the season and our special microclimate.”
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