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.