Five weeks have passed since I started working at Southern Crossings Australia, and as some would put it, what perfect timing to start! It was time to celebrate 30 years of business and what a celebration it was to be! A long weekend of luxury, incredible local food, adventure and perfect weather in Queenstown, New Zealand. Let me take you on our three day journey.
We arrive in Queenstown and from the moment I see the snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes and green pastures from the aeroplane window, I know this will be one magical getaway…
On arrival at Queenstown Airport we are met by our private vehicle and driver for a transfer to our accommodation at Eichardt’s Private Hotel. Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, this property is charming, elegant and sophisticated. Fireplaces with studded leather armchairs and cosy couches with complimentary brandy, cherry and scotch, presented in beautiful glassware by the fireplace in the parlour, with views of the lake and a real sense of history; welcome to Eichardt’s Private Hotel.
With spectacular views of the lake and surrounding mountain ranges from the suites, along with the warm fireplace, you almost don’t want to leave your room! But it’s time to explore and time to soak up the history and stories of Queenstown. It’s a crisp, fresh afternoon and the sun is setting, the lake and surrounding mountains are aglow with the cool yet warm tones of the sunset, the willow trees rustle in the chilly breeze and the ducks graze in the grass. It has a real gold-mining-town feel to it. Snowboarders and skiers are returning from a day on the slopes, some, actually a lot, enjoying the famous burgers at Furgburger in the town centre. I am told these would be one of the most delicious burgers to eat in the world, but its 5pm and I am heading back to the fireplace in my room to get ready for tonight’s dinner.
7pm and we gather in the parlour at Eichardt’s, bubbles and local wines are poured on arrival along with wild boar and goat cheese pikelets, pate, sourdough toasts and homemade relish, pork cheek croquettes in wild thyme breadcrumbs – all extremely delicious canapes.
Dinner at The Bunker follows: located in the heart of Queenstown down an alley way, behind a big old wooden door is a fireplace-lit bunker. We enjoy an array of local delicacies and game. Abalone (or as the locals call it, Paua) ravioli for entrée is the highlight for me, followed by the pork belly and crème brûlée for dessert.
This morning we enjoy breakfast at The Spire, a strong coffee and scrambled eggs on very delicious sweet and sour rye toast for me before boarding our transfer to the Shotover River. Waiting for us is a 25-minute ride, speeding through the towering, rocky canyons of the South Island’s river of gold – the Shotover. In 1862, gold was discovered in this river and so the history began. The crisp icy wind hits our faces that are already dampened by the fresh morning water sprays as the boat spins a full 360 degrees in its own length. It’s exhilarating, it’s thrilling and it’s almost a better wake up than my double shot latte.
It’s on to Arrowtown we go, a historic gold mining town in the Otago region. We meander through the township, which feels like we have been transported back in time. A strong short black and freshly baked winter apricot tart at a local Italian cafe, then it’s on to our next memorable adventure…
Over The Top The Helicopter Company take five of us, plus the pilot up, up, up above the fluffy white clouds, high into the peaks of The Remarkables, 2319m above sea level, where silence and stillness resides and the only sound being our boots crunching the fresh snow below our feet. This was followed by champagne corks popping out of the bottles, a celebration, a glass of bubbles and teeing off. We hit bio degradable balls off the side of The Remarkables, in the far distance green paddocks and turquoise waters run below the mountains – an incredible site.
Back in the helicopter, hands icy and faces frozen, the heated leather seats and sunshine beaming through the windows bring a sigh of relief. The chopper starts again, suddenly and quiet thrillingly we spiral downwards, 2319m over the green pastures and turquoise waters flowing from the glaciers, causing a blue-green sometimes milky water. Like a bird, we just glide easily and rather steeply down and over the lake onto Jacks Point Golf Club, yes helicoptered into one of the most spectacular, scenic courses in the world!
As we step out onto the green golf course, we turn back to see the incredible Remarkables, from which we were just on. Every direction reveals a new level of beauty: mountains one way, lakes the other. We walk into a warm and cosy building, with high ceilings and massive wall-to-wall windows.
A delicious lunch is served; an entrée of pates, deli meats, seeded crackers, truffle and cheese flat breads which are accompanied by Amisfield wines. Incredible local produce is showcased here.
Salmon with beets, radish and rocket along with lamb shoulder “from just over that hill” is served for our main course. The lamb just melts in our mouths, falling easily off the bone, served with simple seasonal greens and roasted garlic. I’m sure this is everyone’s favourite.
No helicopter flight home, but luxury transfers take us to our finals nights accommodation at Matakauri Lodge. Wow! This elegant property is located on the banks of Lake Wakatipu with breathtaking views.
We walk down the sand stone steps into the lodge, large glass windows look out over the mountains and lake, we all sit comfortably around the fireplace and are welcomed by the manager before we’re escorted to our rooms. Views of the lake and mountains, deep baths with local day spa bath salts and amenities, fresh flowers and modern colours make our room very comfortable.
The afternoon is at leisure before enjoying a very special evening beginning in the Owners Cottage (Prince William, Kate and baby George stayed here during their visit to New Zealand). Moet and canapés are served in the large living room around the open fire. The Owners Cottage is simply divine, the style and finishing touches make the Cottage very special.
A degustation menu in the dining room at Matakauri Lodge follows where we experience an array of local produce – from kingfish sashimi, seared scallops and pork tenderloin, to one of my highlights of the entire holiday, bone marrow crusted beef tenderloin, forestier puree, puy lentils, savoy cabbage and red wine jus. Dessert is almost indescribable (and I am usually a savoury girl!) – peach and pistachio parfait, candied, crisp and peach sorbet.
Fluffy egg whites with heirloom tomatoes and feta, along with a double shot latte prepare me for this adventurous day, bungee jumping!!! Yes I did it! Exhilarating and fun, the 43-metre jump certainly was another highlight and achievement for me.
We make our way to Waitiri Creek for a light lunch of homely pumpkin soup and Southland sushi (tasty cheese wrapped in white bread and toasted) in the beautifully restored Wangaloa Presbyterian church, built in 1893. It’s now time to head to the airport with a quick stop at the recently opened Wet Jacket winery.
Queenstown, you have been magical!
Connect with Haydee Payer on Instagram @haydeepay