Queenstown in New Zealand is a great destination for both adventure seekers and gourmets, travel editor Winsor Dobbin discovers.
It’s the birthplace of bungee jumping, the Kiwi capital of jet boating and a Mecca of adventure sports, making Queenstown a magnet for adrenaline junkies. Mountain biking, trout fishing and hiking are popular, as are water sports on Lake Wakatipu. While it is an internationally recognised destination with stunning natural landscapes, including several world-class ski fields, Queenstown is also the base from which to discover the gourmet destinations of the Central Otago wine region.
One the region’s finest hotels, the Rees Hotel and Residences, recently launched not only its three-bedroom luxury apartments overlooking the lake, but also a range of unique experiences that can be combined to create the perfect weekend for any wine and food aficionado.
Fine wine and food should certainly be part of any Queenstown experience, with the world-famous vineyards of Central Otago (there are 70 wineries in all) starting at Amisfield, just a short drive out of town.
The Gibbston Valley is the nearest wine region with Cromwell, Bannockburn and Alexandra all close enough for a morning or afternoon excursion or wine tasting. Visitors also gravitate towards the small, historic hamlet of Arrowtown, which is perfect for a day trip. The atmospheric former mining town has over 20 restaurants, cafes, bars & brew-pubs.But to really take in the breadth and depth of both the mountains and the vineyards, you need to take a helicopter ride, which is a key part of The Rees experience. After a luxury transfer (and a glass of bubbles) the Rees team will check you in at Queenstown International Airport for the flight of your life with The Helicopter Line.
Your exclusive six-seat helicopter will offer 180-degree panoramic views as you follow the renowned Gibbston Valley and Kawarau Gorge to Rippon, on the shores of Lake Wanaka, for a wine tasting.
A former high-country sheep station set against a backdrop of the western flank of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps, Rippon Vineyard offers one of the most beautiful cellar door views in the world. It is Wanaka’s oldest vineyard, planted in 1975, and a Central Otago pioneer, farmed by five generations of one family and now a leading biodynamic producer. Informal tastings of up to seven wines are available each day – usually of current releases – and there is no tasting fee. Groups of seven or more must book in advance for a private tasting. Next, another dramatic flight towards Mt Difficulty Winery for a second tasting and lunch.
The cellar door here is known as much for its dramatic views of rugged rock and thyme landscapes as it is for its stylish wine and food.
The mood is casual, and the chef produces imaginative regional cuisine featuring dishes like lamb cutlets with braised beetroot, couscous, wild-thyme-marinated organic feta and toasted pinenuts, or perhaps the Mt Difficulty platter – a selection of antipasti, charcuterie, cheeses, nuts, dips and ciabatta. After lunch, of course, a cleansing ale is called for, so we make a brief stop in the historic Cardrona Valley to enjoy a beer at the historic Cardrona Pub, a New Zealand icon.
Charmingly rustic, with a great beer garden, the Cardrona Hotel is rumoured to be the most photographed building in New Zealand.
Back at The Rees before dusk, there is time to relax in rare style in a luxury three-bedroom apartment overlooking Lake Wakatipu, admiring the first snow fall of the season on the top of the Remarkables ranges and enjoying a glass of Quartz Reef sparkling.
The apartments sit underneath The Rees Hotel and just about everything has been thought of from the aromas of a freshly-baked loaf of bread when you arrive to lakefront hot tubs, your own yoga mats, or (much more my style) – a private wine cellar in your apartment. The air-conditioned villas all offer lake and mountain views and are an ideal setting for families and multi-generational groups looking for private accommodation with space and independence (or somewhere for your bodyguards to sleep).
Unlike any other hotel in New Zealand, The Rees Residences offer the services of your very own luxury travel curator.
From the moment you check availability to the moment you leave Queenstown, your personal curator (the charming Richard in my case) will be with you every step of the way, to ensure your New Zealand experience is designed specially to suit your needs. The next day, why not arrange a private wine tasting in the hotel with one of its sommeliers? Perhaps do a comparison between wines from New Zealand and France in the comfort of the hotel’s Bordeau Wine Lounge.
Back in the apartment you’ll find a spacious outdoor terrace adjacent to the living area that’s the perfect setting for entertaining your guests – and there’s a fully equipped luxury kitchen as well. Your curator (a posh name for a butler) will be on hand to provide every luxury including welcome drinks, amenities and linen, fresh fruit, flowers and bottled water, evening turn down service, and daily servicing of your villa. In-villa dining from the hotel’s kitchen team can also be arranged or you can sample a degustation in the True South fine dining restaurant, cooked by award-winning executive chef Ben Batterbury. Your curator can liaise with the kitchen to create a menu of your choice, including freshly caught fish or local venison.
If all the eating and drinking has tired you out; your curator can arrange in-villa spa treatments, personal shopping and provisioning of your villa, personal trainers or even jet boat transfers back to the airport.
It’s all special, but what really helps to make the experience are the staff – welcoming and totally professional.
For The Rees Hotel and Apartments bookings and enquiries phone: +64 3 450 1100. www.therees.co.nz.