Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Escape -

MANY EAST COAST AUS­TRALIANS, my­self in­cluded, have al­ways con­sid­ered New Zealand too close to bother with — its coun­try­side is too sim­i­lar to ours and our snow­fields are good enough, right? When it comes to hon­ey­moon des­ti­na­tions, we’re se­duced by ideas of the ‘real’ over­seas, but as I make the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jour­ney through Queen­stown from moun­tain-ringed air­port to ho­tel, I re­alise we have been naive. Its beauty is stag­ger­ing, even though there’s not a snowflake to be seen. Few places of­fer a huge serv­ing of moun­tain along­side a lake carved by glaciers into a Z-shape. Fewer still have a gol­drush­turned re­sort town sit­ting pretty amid it all.

Along the lake­front you’ll find QT ho­tel, with views over glassy Lake Wakatipu and the golden alpine-tus­sock-cov­ered Wal­ter Peak and The Re­mark­ables. In typ­i­cal QT fashion, the 69-suite ho­tel is decked out in de­signs spe­cific to its lo­cale. There’s a col­lage of snow­board­ers and skiers, and a hov­er­ing fire­place; and the mini­bar in­cludes a pair of NZ merino socks.as easy as it would be to stay in the room, soak­ing for hours in the free­stand­ing tub and toy­ing with the ra­tios of the make-yourown-mar­tini kit, ven­tur­ing out is a must.

There is so much to do in Queen­stown that a tour guide be­comes essen­tial if you don’t want to waste half a day lin­ing up at Ferg­burger (our guide’s tip: call ahead). When it comes to guides, there are lo­cals and there are lo­cals.you’ll want the ital­i­cised kind.they’ll take just the two of you and build an itin­er­ary based on your in­ter­ests, time­frame and bud­get.alpine Ad­ven­tures — owned by Lee Saunders and Emma Chisholm — is one such com­pany, and it runs cus­tomised tours for QT guests. Saunders and Chisholm sprin­kle tales of the area’s his­tory with those from their own multi­gen­er­a­tional New Zealand fam­i­lies. We pile into a Land Rover and head out to Ar­row­town, where I’m told the gold rush started in 1862 and, later, Saunders’s grand­mother opened the town’s first pot­tery shop. See? Lo­cals. An hour’s drive east teases you with the grandeur of the South Is­land, where beauty lies not only in the dra­matic moun­tain ranges, but also in the ves­tiges of Queen­stown’s pi­o­neer­ing his­tory (gold-rush huts still dot the rugged banks of Lake Dun­stan).we ar­rive at Am­is­field Es­tate win­ery, hud­dled at the base of the Pisa range, and meet wine­maker Dr Stephanie Lam­bert, a 10-harvest vet­eran, who takes us on a mem­bers-only tour that is worth sign­ing up for.we taste the wine at var­i­ous stages of fer­men­ta­tion/mat­u­ra­tion, drawn from tanks named after celebri­ties.

If pinot noir and Whit­taker’s choco­late are your favourites of the na­tion’s culi­nary of­fer­ings thus far, Am­is­field Bistro (a 40ish-minute drive from the vine­yard) will rec­tify that. Bluff oys­ters on a plate of rocks and ice; deer served on a dis­em­bod­ied antler; Otago mal­lard wrapped in a red elder­berry leaf and pre­sented among a con­fig­u­ra­tion of moss and twigs. There’s no menu here. Just let the staff know your di­etaries and over the next sev­eral cour­ses, put all your trust in ex­ec­u­tive chef Vaughan Mabee and his full-time for­ager, Peter Lang­lands.

Our evening ends with a night­cap at The Lodge Bar, an im­pres­sive lair of furs, antlers and wide arm­chairs. Sit­ting by the fire, it feels as if we’re deep in the wilder­ness.in fact,i’ve for­got­ten just how close to home we are. Queen­stown feels a world away.

Bazaar res­tau­rant at QT Queen­stown, New Zealand.

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