Life & Style Weekend - - Escape - WORDS: CHANTAY LO­GAN

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.

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