Queenstown, New Zealand

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Whether visiting during New Zealand’s summer (December through March) or winter (June through September) months, your clients will be astounded by the country’s raw beauty upon the dramatic curved landing approach between peaks into Queenstown Airport, exiting their aircraft to views of 50-mile-long glacier-formed Lake Wakatipu, framed by the Remarkables mountain range.

Just a 15-minute drive from the airport lies chic Azur Lodge (www.azur.co.nz), where “privacy” and “discretion” are words often used by owner and General Manager Anthony Ross (jross@azur.co.nz; 64 3 409 5088). Ross, a 20-year industry veteran, and his vivacious wife, Joanne (aross@azur.co.nz; 64 3 409 5088), welcome direct contact, however travel advisors may also notify concierge Tim Ogle (togle@azur.co.nz) to arrange in-room dining or spa treatments. 

Azur Lodge guests are welcomed with a complimentary bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc upon checking into one of nine elegant 970-square-foot private villas—constructed of local schist stone and South Island silver beech timber—each with a cozy fireplace. If you’re booking a family trip, choose two adjacent villas with a king bed and a pair of twin beds, respectively. All have the same awe-inspiring, unobstructed views of the lake and jagged mountains. If your clients want to set the stage for romance, advise them to light the aromatherapy oil burner with a favorite relaxing scent, fold back the bathroom windows and fill up the Jacuzzi tub; they’ll gasp at the canopy of stars seemingly within reach.

Suites here feature 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens and hypoallergenic goose-down pillows, and duvets from PLOH. Linden Leaves bath products in shades of green are the perfect final touch (we loved the glossy lip balm).
For off-site adventures, check out South Island Guides (www.southislandguides.com), which offers personalized hiking, biking, fishing and helicopter outings.
For those seeking a luxury experience in town, we suggest Eichardt’s Private Hotel (www.eichardtshotel.co.nz) on the Marine Parade, a truly historic structure harkening to Queens- town’s gold-rush days of the 1860s. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Eichardt’s showcases contemporary provincial elegance in five 700-square-foot super-king-bed suites with fireplaces and interior touches by native designer Virginia Fisher.

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As each suite here features a king-size bed, we say Eichardt’s is best-suited for adults-only getaways, however hotel staff will happily set up a proper bed (no rollaways or cots) for children upon request. When booking, be sure to request a lake view. Cozy ambiance prevails in the upstairs parlor, where guests enjoy made-to-order breakfast, and in the intimate House Bar, where they can indulge in complimentary pre-dinner drinks.

General Manager Victoria Shaw (gm@eichardtshotel.co.nz; 64 3 441 0450) welcomes contact from travel advisors; she and her attentive 12-person staff will arrange in-room massages and helicopter flights to stunning Milford Sound, or direct your VIPs to nearby shopping at Angel Divine (Kiwi designer clothing) and Untouched World (merino and possum goods). Book months ahead during Winter Festival (June 23 through July 2; www.winterfestival.co.nz) and the Central Otago Wine & Food Festival (www.winetastes.com) in February, and for Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day.
A spectacular property in placid Glenorchy, Otago at the north end of Lake Wakatipu, Blanket Bay (www.blanketbay.com) bespeaks solitude. Here, guests choose from five lodge rooms and three suites (suites feature immense stone fireplaces and rustic lodge décor), or, our favorite (and the hotel’s most lavish), the Chalet Suites; each features a lake deck and private courtyard. For families, opt for two suites with a connecting living room.

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Hosts Philip Jenkins (pjenkins@blanketbay.com; 64 3 442 9442) and Judy Bartlett are at the ready to make special arrangements for your clients, including heli-mountain biking, a romantic picnic on a mountaintop or a trail-riding excursion. Jenkins and Bartlett recommend booking lodging at least eight months out for Christmas and New Year’s, but suggest booking activities upon arrival, as availability depends upon the weather.

Blanket Bay’s tariff includes breakfast, dinner, pre-dinner cocktails, after-dinner liqueurs and ports as well as use of the well-equipped gym. A billiards and game room and quiet Internet facilities are also available. We recommend dining outside in warm summer months, or, for a totally intimate dining experience, in the Private Dining Room or romantic Wine Cave (Blanket Bay maintains a superb New Zealand wine collection). Recommended dishes here include the sweetcorn, coconut and lemongrass soup and fine-herb-crust tuna appetizers; salade composée; Stewart Island Blue Cod; and buttermilk pannacotta for dessert.

For relaxation and rejuvenation, a two-room spa offers massage therapy by Susannah Simms (her holistic therapies are very popular; massages include aromatherapy and deep tissue, plus  uplifting and rejuvenating). Insiders suggest reserving treatments when booking accommodations to avoid disappointment. Advise your clients not to miss the sparkling swimming pool, which melts into the landscape, or a soak in the spa pool, near the indoor gym. Furthering your clients’ fitness options, mountain bikes are available for guests’ use (nearby Rees Valley National Park is the ideal place to ride). Tip: Dart River Safaris (www.dartriversafaris.co.nz) is also a perennial favorite of adventurous Blanket Bay guests.
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Former U.S. president Bill Clinton favors Millbrook Resort (www.millbrook.co.nz), where he brushed up on his golf game. If you’re catering to a client for whom golf is a must, or who is traveling with family in tow, recommend this member of Select Hotels & Resorts International near historic gold-mining Arrowtown. Your most discerning clients will likely want to stay in the newest Fairway Homes (not yet available via GDS), as the rest of this extensive resort is best-suited for families in search of a traditional vacation. Ask for homes on Malaghan’s Ridge; the mountain views are outstanding. Families can indulge in the resort’s health club, swimming pool and on-site spa, which houses 13 treatment rooms. Book well in advance and consider Millbrook’s Steam Infusion treatment, a favorite (as are the products of its Yon-Ka line).

On site, guests can choose from four dining spots: the most elegant, the Clubhouse Restaurant, combines classic and traditional European concepts with New Zealand flavors; the Japanese-inspired Sala Sala is also a winning bet.

Newly appointed General Manager Jan Hunt (jan.hunt@millbrook.co.nz) oversees all aspects of the hotel and works with travel advisors to meet their VIPs’ needs. Guest services can also set up winery tours and hot-air-balloon rides. If your clients plan to wed at the resort, contact Alison Thompson (weddings@millbrook.co.nz), who can assist with their every nuptial need. 

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For golfers, the18-hole par-72 championship course at this “Lord of the Greens” property was designed by renowned professional and master golfer Sir Bob Charles with four different tee positions to accommodate all skill levels. Contact the pro shop (proshop@millbrook.co.nz; 64 3 441 7010).

Note: None of these boutique resorts welcome pets or offer formal private butler service; Azur, Eichardt’s and Blanket Bay all have high staff-to-guest ratios, and Millbrook’s guest services staffers are at your clients’ beck and call for all arrangements.