John O'Ceallaigh, The Daily Telegraph, February 07, 2014
Voted our readers’ favourite country in the 2013 Telegraph Travel Awards, New Zealand has unquestionable appeal. Its dramatic Alpine scenery, Polynesian culture and spread of extreme-sports activities have long lured adventurers and backpackers, but a sweep of new luxury lodges are now providing British travellers reluctant to travel all that way – expect to spend 24 hours on a plane to get there – with new incentives to visit.
Opened to travellers in December last year, Annandale is a 4,000-acre sheep and cattle farm in Pigeon Bay on the Banks Peninsula, about an hour’s drive from Christchurch. At its heart is the five-bedroom villa Homestead, a 19th-century farmhouse complete with shaded verandas, tended gardens – guests are encouraged to pick fresh lemons for morning crepes from their trees – and a host of leisure facilities. An outdoor pool, spa pool, gym and all-weather flood-lit tennis court are all available to guests. A further four villas are spread across the land. Scrubby Bay is an intentionally isolated cedar-clad beach house that accommodates 14; Seascape accommodates one couple who might see dolphins and seals as they gaze at the property’s private bay.
The most impressive new luxury lodge in Queenstown is Matakauri Lodge, whose US$5 million Owner’s Cottage launched on February 1. On Lake Wakatipu, the four-bedroom property looks upon the wonderfully named Remarkable Mountains and its guests typically divide time between relaxing at the property and enjoying the abundance of adventure activities available in the surrounding region. Horseback riding, 4x4 canyon tours, speedboat “river jet safaris” and wine tours are all on offer. Back at the cottage, a private chef is on hand to create gourmet dinners or barbecues and guests have access to Matakauri Lodge’s spa, gym and pool. The property will soon be easier to reach too, with a private jet terminal set to open in Queenstown Airport this spring.
Keen golfers may prefer to visit the Lodge at the Hills, opening at the Hills Golf Course in March. Sleeping up to 12, set on a 500 acre site and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the fully catered lodge is stylishly finished but its residents will likely spend most of their time outdoors. Unlimited golf at The Hills is included – the course is a favourite of New Zealand prime minister John Key – and helicopter transfers to Oreti Sands, the world’s southernmost links golf course, accompanied by a pro golfer, can be arranged.
Perhaps the most restorative of all the new properties, however, is the all-inclusive Aro Ha . A 40-minute drive from Queenstown, this self-titled “wellness centre” offers tasteful accommodation in suites rather than individual lodges but there is no compromise to privacy or sense of agreeable isolation. With much of its energy needs provided by renewable sources and many of the staff living on site, the property cossets its guests with the expected rota of yoga and meditation sessions and a detoxifying vegetarian menu, as well as sub-Alpine hiking, lectures on wellbeing and nutritional classes.