Whether you are a thrill-seeker, outdoor enthusiast or a lover of fine food and wine, Queenstown, deep in the South Island of New Zealand, has plenty to keep you busy.
Also known for its Hobbits - much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in the area - Queenstown is renowned for some of the best ski runs in the southern hemisphere, but also for kayaking, bungee jumping, jet boating, white-water rafting and hiking.
The less adventurous can enjoy a cruise through nearby Milford Sound, part of the Fjordland National Park World Heritage area, or maybe sample some Central Otago pinot noir from one of the region's 75 wineries.
From the Onsen Hot Pools to the Skyline complex - reached by a gondola cableway – or maybe white water rafting, or trout fishing, the leisure options are many, and varied.
At this time of year, skiing at resorts like Cardrona Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone takes centre stage, but the town is also known for its vibrant nightlife scene. There are two very different demographics; younger snow sports enthusiasts and an older, sophisticated crowd.
Queenstown and surrounding towns Arrowtown, Wanaka, Alexandra and Cromwell attract over one million visitors a year and the area is also home to several impressive resorts; the most spectacular, and exclusive, of which is Matakauri Lodge, a sister property to two of New Zealand’s best-known luxury lodges, Kauri Cliffs and the Lodge at Cape Kidnappers.
Matakauri Lodge (below), which sits perched above the waters of glacial Lake Wakatipu, is one of those places where nothing is too much trouble for the staff – as you’d expect from a member of the exclusive Relais & Chateaux group. It offers a range of activities, from golf to a helicopter tour of some of the region’s most stunning natural attractions.
Set off in a chauffeur-driven limousine from Black Cars to the heliport, where pilot Louisa “Choppy” Patterson and her Over The Top team offer a selection of options, maybe a flight over Coronet Peak, the Skippers Canyon gold mining sites and the Shotover River, or a buzz over some of the finest pinot noir vineyards in the world, stopping in for tastings at wineries like Mount Edward and Felton Road.
You can “drop in” and pick up a winemaker to be your guide for the Wine by Invitation tour (Duncan Forsyth from Mount Edward, if you are lucky) and then learn about the history, soil, wines, climate and the grapes as you ‘copter to a selection of local vineyards – and travel as far as your budget stretches.
Most visitors also take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the historic steam ship the TSS Earnslaw, which was built in 1912 and is the only remaining passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere.
Known as “The Lady of the Lake”, the Earnslaw makes several trips each day from Queenstown to Walter Peak High Country Farm, where visitors can enjoy dramatic scenery, farm tours, horse treks and heritage tours
Those looking for a more active afternoon can opt for a Shotover Jet ride on wild, raging Shotover River, an experience that is billed as “the world’s most exciting jet boat ride.”
Fishing is also popular and you can give your catch to the lodge's chefs to create a gastronomic feast.
Matakauri Lodge has been named by Tatler magazine as one of the world's 101 best hotels, also earned a spot on Conde Nast Traveller's 2011 Hot List.
After a sauna, jacuzzi or dip in the outdoor infinity pool, pre-dinner drinks and meals are served in the main lodge at Matakauri with dramatic views of Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped Remarkable, Cecil and Walter Peak mountain ranges.
Private dining can be arranged for couples seeking romance - think dishes like seared scallops and grilled scampi with garlic and parsley butter, crayfish thermidor or fillet of beef with roast shallots, potato puree and asparagus matched to a fine collection of New Zealand wines, including several choices from the owners’ own vineyards.
Matakauri Lodge has just 11 luxury suites, each with private terraces, and all tariffs include dinner, breakfasts and a complimentary mini bar.
Matakauri Lodge is at 569 Glenorchy Road, Queenstown. Phone: +64 3 441 1008.