Queenstown, on the South Island, is a small town nestled beautifully in the Southern Alps.
Queenstown airport is easy both in an out. I picked up the car and since it was early I decide to explore the area before heading to Blanket Bay in the town of Glenorchy; a 1 hour drive north of the airport. I went south.
It took me a little while to teach my brain to how to drive on the left side of the road, especially the multiple roundabouts and their exits.
I drove along the side of Lake Wakaipu, an inland lake shaped like a dog leg and New Zealand’s longest lake. Highway 6, the road I took, placed along the Southeastern edge where the mountain range lies with many peaks covered with snow. I was able to witness majestic views of the lake, the crystal blue water reflecting the spectacular alpine peaks like a mirage.
After an hour or so I decided to come back to Queenstown, and take the northern route, driving towards Glenorchy, Otago.
The Blanket Bay Lodge is located directly overlooking Lake Wakaipu. The driveway of the lodge is carpeted by a deep green grass where dozens of sheep are grazing without a care in their lives, in the horizon the blue of the lake and the peaks of the Humboldt Mountains covered with perpetual snow make for a majestic welcome to the lodge.
The construction of the lodge is a grand style of the finest alpine lodges with elegant luxury. The design of the lodge with vaulted ceilings and walls of glass opening out to the lake and mountain views, make you see the grandeur of the landscape, a thrill welcoming. Mr. Butler explained to me how the beams were recycled beams from old bridges in the area and was incorporated in the design and you can find them in doors frames, chimney mantels, and supporting the roof. Beautiful local stone stacked one on top of the other, form the walls of the lodge, along with schist fire places and super comfortable soft furniture. The lodge blends seamlessly with Blanket Bay’s landscape.
The intimate den where the pre-dinner drinks and canapé are served is cozy and with great décor. There are several small scale yachts and sail boats displayed on the top shelves of the perfect polished wooden bookcases. I enjoyed coming to the pre-dinner drinks, as you’re able to meet interesting people and the waiters and bartender were amicably attentive and full of stories about the lodge. Drinks were perfect and the canapés well served in preparation for the upcoming dinner.
Dinner is chosen from an a La carte menu which changes nightly, prepared by incredibly skilled and imaginative chefs and great wine selections of Marlborough vineyards and the Otago vineyards.
The staff is wonderful from the moment you check in I was made to feel extremely important, as was every guest staying at the property. Every staff member came and introduced themselves to me, and all immediately knew my name for the remainder of my stay.
The lodge has 7 magnificent villas and, soon, a new four-bedroom villa will offer commanding views to both the north and the south.
The open fire place is perfect especially for the cold nights, there is a nice patio in the back with two chairs and a table, perfect to go outside and drink your coffee in the morning waiting for the twilight to change to day and realize how fortunate you are, to be part of this experience.
You can also organize a guided visit to all the film sites used on the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and other movies.
Fly by helicopter and see the majestic Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most spectacular destinations, the eighth wonder of the world.
Guided fly fishing, horse riding, paragliding and mountain biking are other great activities at the lodge.
If you are looking for that unforgettable experience, then you can't pass up Blanket Bay Lodge. It is a place to relax and absorb the goodness of the Alpine environment, and its cool and cozy climate. You will enjoy the exquisite accommodations and sitting at the table with new friends to enjoy a perfect meal paired with the best wines of the region.
Blanket Bay is part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World
I flew from Queenstown to Christchurch, a 45 minute flight. The Peninsula is on the east coast of the south island. I drove away from the Garden City, as Christchurch is known, towards Akaroa Just 75 kilometers from the city of Christchurch.
Akaroa is historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano, tucked alongside a deep and sheltered harbor.
On the far side of the Peninsula the 4,000 acres of Annandale awaits for me.
The working farm has 7,000 sheep and 700 cattle, so wherever you are you will see them grazing peacefully in their majestic grounds.
The other three properties are outside and only accessible by 4WD or helicopter.
First, is the quaint, historic, yet luxurious Shepherd’s Cottage. It is set high on the hill with an uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean. About 30 minutes drive from the homestead.
The other two properties are Scrubby Bay and Seascape, both designed by award-winning Auckland architect Andrew Patterson.
Scrubby Bay is a luxury cedar clad beach house about a 45-minute drive from Homestead, but the drive offers some of the most spectacular views imaginable so it's no hardship.
Seascape is truly the show stopper on the property. With its mix of slate, concrete, pine and an abundance of glass, an ultra modern one bedroom, steel and glass retreat. It looks like something James Bond and Sir Norman Foster co-designed. Although the property is certainly comfortable and offers every luxury, it is what it is on the outside that really matters. The property is situated in a picturesque private bay with the dreamiest landscapes. Once the car of the Manager disappeared up the steep rocky driveway, I was keenly aware just how remote from any civilization I was, and I felt at peace with that. I said to myself “if the world would end today I would not know and I would not even care.”
I headed back towards Christchurch and about an hour drive from the city, I arrived at the most splendid house. Otahuna Lodge was built in 1895 and designed with the best Queen Anne architecture. Once the gate opens you drive through sweeping striped lawns, colossal, strong beech and mature pine trees, daffodil fields and perfectly manicured gardens. Flowers of all colors are planted throughout the estate. I felt like I just entering a painting done by Thomas Kinkade. It is Absolutely spectacular.
Jimmy also prepared a Salmon confit, fresh mozzarella with Otahuna Salami, Tai Tapu Duck and, Kumara ginger puree all very different but created equally well. Star quality. The wines perfect: Sauvignon Semillon from Waipara Valley, a rose from Martinborough, and Pinot Noir from Canterbury. It was a wonderful evening.
In the morning, the garden awaits to be discovered.
The gardens are very well kept with an architectural Dutch Garden, a lake, intimate walks, and great vistas.
I felt a sense of peace and comfort at Otahuna; which today, thanks to the hands of the new owners, the house remains a testament to Sir Heaton Rhodes’ passion for the finer things of life.
My next property was in Nelson, a short flight from Christchurch of about 50 minutes
Split Apple Retreat is situated facing the Abel Tasman National Park on a ridge overlooking uninterrupted panoramas of the Tasman Bay. This unique place is super exclusive and not visible from the road. It is on a cliff near the end of a narrow road. I was surprised not seeing any signs for the house that is in a residential neighborhood.
The name of the retreat comes from a rather unusual rock formation in the bay that looks just like that - a perfect split apple.
At the other site of the gate was the beautiful oriental garden and the welcoming smile of my hostess waiting for me, her name was Anne Pen and she is Dr. Lee Nelson’s wife; both owners of the well-being center.
His meditation technique is one that I will never forget. It was effective and super relaxing. The meditation was conducted in the home-made cinema. Also I heard by another guest it has the best acupuncture and reiki.
Pen, is the heart of this home as she is the nurturing mother who prepares all your meals with a nutritionally tailored gourmet cuisine. Dr. Lee’s vision of food healing comes alive in the wonderful and skillful hands of the artist that is Pen; every dish is prepared from delicious local ingredients. She even made a chocolate mousse tart without sugar or flour and it was perfect.
Pre-dinner came with gourmet, bite sized food, filled by explosions of flavor. Pen’s talent and the qualified physician that is Dr. Lee made the perfect combination for a truly rejuvenating well-being experience.
The only drawback here is that I didn’t spend enough time. I would recommend 3 days here to enjoy the special creations coming from Pen’s kitchen. Go to the Abel Tasman National Park, including a helicopter trip to see the green carpet of the land and view from above the clear water of The Waikoropupu Springs. The spring keeps giving life at 14,000 liters of water per second, making a beautiful clear river along the way. There is also kayaking, hiking and sailing.
My cottage was roomy with lots of fresh morning light, comfy under floor heating and a warm gas fire. Big tub and shower with a very comfortable bed. Delicious homemade cookies wait in the room.
The meals are prepared in an open kitchen and you can see the chef at work preparing the wonderful meals with fresh food locally sourced.
The area is full of great vineyard less than 30 minutes from the lodge.
Wharekauhau country state is outstanding in the New Zealand Lodge experience.
The drive from Palliser Bay to Hawke’s Bay was the longest drive at around 4 hours, but I think I have accomplished something very wonderful by driving both islands. I know helicopters are the quickest form of transportation in New Zealand for tourism. It generally takes just a few minutes to reach the lodges and farms from the airports, whereas driving it could be a couple hours or more. But driving is a completely other world and I was able to see the pastoral rural communities along the roads I took. To absorb the lush landscape, visit great wineries, and see how the locals live.
My cottage was super spacious, with a large porch that opens to a breathtaking view. Great natural light everywhere, the decoration is all that you could expect in a luxury ranch; comfortable bed, spacious chairs upholstered with beautiful wools, and the television skillfully hidden behind a cowboy picture.
The drive is 3 and ½ hours through the most scenic views like the views you only read in fairy tales books. Vast green valleys, forests full of pines, tall rocky mountains and the sound of water always close.
Huka Lodge is located in New Zealand’s central region a high volcanic plateau with thermal activities, it is a thermal wonderland with spouting geysers, plopping mud pools with sulfurous smells, and medicinal baths.
The Lodge is immaculate. Founded in 1920 this beautiful property is one of the best lodges in the world. Queen Elizabeth has visited 4 times and that says it all.
The main lodge is the hub of the property and it is beautifully furnished in the typical style of an old Scottish fishing lodge. Dinners are legendary here with more than twenty very different and amazing dining venues, some outdoors, with the most romantic designs.
One of my venues was the cellar all light up with candles, even the chandleries had candles. Five- course gourmet, complimented by excellent wine.