Queenstown, NZ May 2014, submitted by Cristina Buaas
This month, I had the amazing opportunity to journey with 4 other Virtuoso travel advisors all over New Zealand thanks to our amazing Virtuoso onsite partner, Seasonz Travel. Wow, what an exhilarating, beautiful destination. New Zealand is a perfect vacation spot for couples or a family that likes the outdoors, beautiful scenery, soft adventure activities such as fly fishing, bungee jumping, zip line, water activities, golf, and hunting and appreciates eating delicious food and tasting wine at impressive vineyards. Along with these fantastic activities and the astounding natural beauty, what truly makes New Zealand a magical destination is the kind-heartedness and sincerity of its inhabitants, the Kiwi people, and the fascinating Maori culture that is so deeply rooted there.
While it is no surprise that the flight to New Zealand from the US is unfortunately a long one, Air New Zealand makes up for the long hours with terrific service, food, and lie flat beds in business class on their twice daily flights from LAX to Auckland. It is one of the best airlines I have ever experienced! They also have a premium economy option and Skycouch seats in economy.
Our first stop on the trip was Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand and a must see. It is a true four season destination, offering skiing, snowboarding, golf, fishing, and more. With accommodations ranging from luxury lodges in incredible settings with amazing food and service to charming city hotels, Queenstown really has something for everyone. The first of the lodges that we toured was the Matakauri Lodge about 10 minutes from Queenstown by car. With remarkable views of the Remarkable Mountains and Cecil Peak on Lake Wakatipu, this property felt like the perfect place to relax after an adventure filled day in Queenstown. One such adventure was our helicopter tour over Milford Sound, where we saw the most amazing scenery including glacial lakes and snowy mountain tops, followed by a speedboat ride down the winding Dart River, a curvy, exciting ride that has been featured in many movies such as The Lord of the Rings! Additionally, for all those foodies out there, Matakauri features all local food and beverages which were absolutely delicious. Along with fabulous New Zealand wine paired perfectly with each course, we indulged in delicious pasta, scallops, chicken, venison, and dessert that showed just how top notch the food in New Zealand is. The Matakauri Lodge truly feels like a home rather than a hotel, and with its peaceful serenity and fantastic service, it would be great for an anniversary or romantic trip.
Next up on our Queenstown roster was the Blanket Bay Lodge, a rustic country style lodge about 45 minutes away from Queenstown. With its wide open spaces, its game room featuring a pool table and big screen TV, and its farm with horses available to ride at any time, this lodge would be great for a multi-generation gathering with children ages 10 and up. The Lodge is surrounded by soft adventure activities including hiking, jet boating, Funyaking, fly fishing, and more. During our time at Blanket Bay Lodge, we experienced a fantastic dinner in the beautiful dining room, but visitors and wine lovers can also have a private candle-lit dinner in the wine cave for a special occasion. For those wanting to stay in the heart of Queenstown, there are several options ranging from charming and historic boutique properties to full service hotels. CSB Travel clients receive complimentary amenities at all of these properties.
Finally, at one of our last stops in the Queenstown area, we journeyed through the streets, stores, and cafes of Arrowtown, a quaint gold mining town that has turned into a wonderful place to spend the afternoon. Other notable destinations from this portion of our trip were the numerous wineries such as Amisfield as well as the Thomas Brown Gallery, an art gallery housed in an old cheese factory! And no trip to New Zealand would be complete without trying, or in my case just watching, bungee jumping. The Kawarau Bridge is THE original home to bungee jumping since 1988.
After experiencing the magical and multifaceted Queenstown, I can truly say that I have fallen in love with this part of New Zealand! My next post will cover the Northern Island of New Zealand, so be on the lookout for that!