FEAST YOUR EYES
QUEENSTOWN SERVES UP A SCENIC SMORGASBORD. HERE’S HOW TO SCORE A WINDOW SEAT
Be it framed through five-star windows or a blurred impression as you bounce on the end of a bungie cord, New Zealand’s southern playground possesses a striking sense of place. Movie set tours are big business in Queenstown, but the scenery is more than just a support act. Whether on a mundane morning caffeine run or a tourist magnet like the luge, the white-fingered peaks of The Remarkables loom large. The snaking Shotover River is just as likely to steal your breath from the steamy sanctuary of an onsen hot tub as on-board the jetboats that carve a cliff-scraping path through powder-blue water. Prompted by an annual urge to swap sand for snow (sweetened by the fuss-free threehour flight), I’ve visited the city dozens of times and never fail to find a fresh perspective. On my latest trip, it’s dished up by one of Queenstown’s most-hyped new hotels. QT Queenstown is a chic collab between modern design and Mother Nature. Australian travellers familiar with the quirky hotel brand will find the same character faithfully translated. Mop-headed sheep replace the requisite rubber duckies in the knockout marble bathrooms, complete with gangster black hooded bathrobes, and DIY martinis remain in easy grasp. The chained-to-the-desk concierge is supplanted by “director of adventure” Olivia, who boasts a killer little black book and knows how to use it. But Queenstown isn’t content to play a supporting role to all that après attitude. From the bed, the lounge, the Juliet balcony, the snugly sheepskin-clad sling chair — the views of Lake Wakatipu are unescapable. Tucked into the hill, the hotel’s 69 boutique guest rooms (I stayed in a Lake King) feel suspended in the Southern Alps. Olivia’s tip to book a window-front table for breakfast in Bazaar pays dividends with an even better angle on this feast for the eyes. The morning sun slants through the glass- fronted culinary theatre as we tuck into custom smoothies, omelettes and pastries. Every meal in Queenstown becomes an opportunity to savour a new scenic spread. The legend of Fergburger has spawned lines stretching down Shotover Street and they seem to get longer every year. While burgers like The Codfather — featuring fresh blue cod in a crunchy beer batter — are fitting fuel for a lakeside picnic, it’s wise to seek a more peaceful path in peak season. Sprawling into a sunny courtyard between heritage buildings, Rata takes Queenstown’s sense of place and presents it on a plate. Operated by high-profile chef Josh Emett and well-regarded local restaurateur Fleur Caulton, reserve a table to graze on West Coast whitebait ceviche, Southland cheese
roll with Otago honeycomb and hearty Te Mana lamb rump. The biggest surprise of my most recent trip was closer to home. The crowds don’t seem to have found QT’S Reds … yet. I was booked into the hotel bar for warmup drinks but ended up cancelling my dinner plans. One of only a handful of people treated to box seats for a pastel sunset over The Remarkables while sipping on a Spiced Cloud (a campfire-worthy marshmallow-infused Kraken rum combo), I couldn’t bring myself to budge. The imaginative cocktail menu is one of the most beguiling I’ve seen, but it doesn’t have to be a blind date with the bartender. Fill out one of the “get to know you” cocktail cards and the team will whip up your dream drink. For an even more exclusive slice of scenery, book a private pool room at Onsen Hot Pools. Once the door is shut on your onehour session, you’re left to your own devices. Each steamy cliffside tub overlooks the Shotover River canyon with retractable picture windows and roof to create your own little world. Soak up the private panorama by day or, when the sun melts into the horizon, they’ll light up the night with a sea of Japanese lanterns.